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Response to the Killing of Trayvon Martin and Trial Verdict

FOR RELEASE: July 17, 2013                                                                              

CONTACT: Stephanie Niedringhaus, 202-347-9797 x224,

Washington DC: The initial shock after the killing of young Trayvon Martin has now been replaced by deep, abiding pain made only worse by the George Zimmerman trial and verdict.

First and foremost, our hearts break for Trayvon Martin’s family and loved ones. The agony of losing him in such a senseless, violent act is more than most of us can imagine. Our prayers go out for all.

We also grieve for too many others who have been touched by violence, especially at a time when fear and distrust become motivating factors in our legislative process. Lawmakers are complicit in our nation’s scourge of violence when they refuse to enact meaningful gun legislation because of fear of the NRA and of political consequences. It is beyond incomprehensible that they failed to act after the horror of the Newtown killings.

When they do act, too many focus on laws similar to Florida’s “Stand your Ground,” which makes it legal to shoot someone even when one can withdraw from a confrontation. These laws, rooted in fear rather than justice, are a travesty.

Anyone who disputes that racism is at the heart of what happened to Trayvon Martin should look again. And those who believe that such racism is confined only to Florida or the South are also wrong. New York’s “Stop and Frisk” policies are an open invitation to racial profiling, which exists across our land.

Here, New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow poses a question that should touch all of our souls:

As a parent, particularly a parent of black teenage boys, I am left with the question, “Now, what do I tell my boys?”

We used to say not to run in public because that might be seen as suspicious, like they’d stolen something. But according to Zimmerman, Martin drew his suspicion at least in part because he was walking too slowly.

So what do I tell my boys now? At what precise pace should a black man walk to avoid suspicion?

Racism and violence continue to be two of the deepest stains on our nation. Each of us should take a moment to pray and reflect—but, only a moment. In our hearts, we already know that a moral nation does all it can to eradicate both. The time to act is now.