Feb. 26 marks seven years since George Zimmerman went on what feels like a Liam Neeson-esque mission to take out the first Black person he could find. It was then that he shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, who by all accounts was minding his own business walking from a convenience store. Martin’s death – magnified by social media outrage and a perpetual news cycle – changed the tapestry of how America looks at race relations, and especially our interactions with police. Even as Zimmerman still walks the street a free man, the social and political ripples of Martin’s death are evident in a number of events since his untimely passing.
The Birth of Black Lives Matter
Black Lives Matter might not exist at all without Martin’s death: It started as a Twitter hashtag in its wake and morphed into a movement following the death-by-cops of Michael Brown and Eric Garner in 2014. With Black Lives Matter protests in major cities all over the country, the movement has done a great job at staying atop of the political and social consciousness.
The Streets are Watching Everything Now
Sadly, writing details of all the Black people killed by officers of the law since Martin’s death would result in an entirely separate article. However, the deaths of Martin, Brown and Garner helped create a culture in which folks automatically pull out their cell phones if they see police acting even slightly strange. We’re now capturing all the horrible shit that went unseen, forcing an unprecedented level of accountability.
The Charlottesville Protest
The public response to Martin’s death doubtlessly aided in the rise of the “Alt-right,” which is a genteel title for Neo-Nazi scum. Their little movement had its apex in the August 2017 “Unite the Right” rally, which was one of the most visible and naked organization of white supremacist hate in the United States this generation has witnessed. The movement and its counter-protest resulted in tragedy when Neo-Nazi James Fields Jr. plowed his vehicle in a crowd, killing one and injuring dozens.
Kaepernick’s NFL Protest
When San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started sitting during pre-game performances of the National Anthem in 2016, he became the name and face of a movement that continues to this day. Kaep has been blackballed from the NFL, which seems perfectly content to demonstrate that it’s unrepentant in its trash bag behavior. He may not be making league dollars anymore, but he means so much more to so many more people now than he ever did as a quarterback
Reexamining the Confederate Flag
Dylann Roof claimed he was motivated in part by Martin when he stormed into a Black church in Charleston, N.C. and murdered nine people during prayer service in 2015. Pictures of Roof posing with the rebel flag kicked off a national conversation regarding the anachronistic symbol of chattel slavery preservation that should’ve been buried eons ago. The flag was removed from numerous public areas following the Charleston massacre, but we’re still working to kill it altogether, as is evidenced most recently by the cancellation of an event in Detroit involving the General Lee from Smokey and the Bandit.
The Election of Donald Trump
Anyone paying attention to the amount of general white outrage that came as a result of Barack Obama’s presidency and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement wouldn’t think twice about acknowleding a knee-jerk reaction from Trump supporters. White folks simply couldn’t tolerate the idea of being complicit in white supremacy or – *gasp!* – that they would be made to feel guilty in any way. So they went 100 miles in the wrong damn direction and helped elect a lobotomy patient to run the free world. How lovely.
Dustin J. Seibert is a native Detroiter living in Chicago. Miraculously, people have paid him to be aggressively light-skinned via a computer keyboard for nearly two decades. He loves his own mama slightly more than he loves music and exercises every day only so his French fry intake doesn’t catch up to him. Find him at his own site, wafflecolored.com.