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McDonald '14: Who cares about Trayvon Martin?


Nearly two months ago, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was killed in Sanford, FL when self-appointed neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman shot the youth - who was black and wearing a hoodie the night he was killed - for looking suspicious in a gated community. This incident has opened the door to conversations about racial violence in the United States, and several rallies have been held across the nation to call for the arrest of Zimmerman, who is currently in hiding. Interestingly enough, Brown has not held any rallies, demonstrations or even any meetings in the months since Martin was shot. 

Well, the explanation for the lack of meetings is really quite simple: Trayvon Martin was a young black man. The colleges that would organize the most to rally for justice would be historically black colleges and universities like Howard University and Clark Atlanta University, right? While Howard and Clark did have rallies in March, other colleges like Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Texas, the College of Charleston, Western Michigan University and many others held protests as well. Students have collectively flooded the Internet with support for the Martin family through YouTube videos, Twitter trending topics and Tumblr posts. So, I suppose the Trayvon Martin shooting is not just a black college priority.

The important thing to note about all of the aforementioned colleges and universities is that they are not in Rhode Island. We're so far away from Florida, and New England is quite progressive relative to other states, so racial violence isn't a reality for us, right? Surely, it's a regional thing. Perhaps that argument would make sense if at least two rallies had not taken place in Providence at the end of March. 

The city's "Justice for Trayvon Martin" rally took place March 27 at Father Lennon Park. Later that week, about 50 to 70 people gathered March 30 at Central High School for a march in honor of Trayvon Martin. Supporters, many of them men, congregated in black attire, with their hoods up and mouths covered in black bandanas, to form a cohesive group standing up for Trayvon Martin. Carrying signs with proclamations like "RACISM KILLS," "R.I.P. TRAYVON MARTIN" and "NO JUSTICE, NO PEACE," protestors marched around downtown Providence for an hour and a half. A discussion and film screening followed the march. Community members met April 8 to continue conversations about the slaughtered youth, with an open invitation to students at Rhode Island College and Brown.

I have run out of excuses for the University's lack of response to Trayvon Martin's death. We can have protests about the University financially supporting Providence, and about sweatshop workers and the bookstore's clothes, but we don't want to talk about the very real issue of racial violence. It is hard to wonder if the University as a whole - not just the administration but also the student body - cares about "black people problems." We did not talk enough about the execution of Troy Davis in September, and we have barely discussed the Kony 2012 campaign, among other issues. 

Why don't we march, protest and organize in the face of Trayvon Martin's death? This question is not my attempt to rally because the lack of a specific protest is not our problem. And, I use "our" as an inclusive pronoun because this problem does not belong exclusively to the black community. We as a student community, regardless but not unaware of race, need to think about why we are not enraged about Trayvon Martin's death. We are black, or people of color or friends with people of color who could have been Trayvon Martin. We are citizens of or residents in a country where people are still murdered for the color of their skin. We all are currently living in a state that is struggling to pass a bill to prevent racial profiling by police officers, in an attempt to decrease incidents of racial violence. Why don't we care?

It is fairly simple to read a book about racial violence or racial justice and decide that you are angry. It is also fairly simple to close that book and return to the "Brown bubble" where everyone - presumably - has equal rights. As a black student, I ask myself quite often if the University cares about my experience as a person of color. Furthermore, I am saddened when I hear people of color decidedly announce that the University doesn't care about [insert racial group]. If you have reached the end of this column and you still don't find the University's silence a problem, I think you can safely say you don't care about any of the Trayvon Martins who live in your country, work in businesses with you or your family and sit in your classes.



Helen McDonald '14 is ready to talk about Trayvon Martin and can be reached at



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