Trayvon Martin symbolizes Patrisse’s belief that Black lives don’t matter (to policymakers, the criminal justice system, or fellow citizens) in the U.S. Trayvon was a 17-year-old young Black man from Florida whom a neighborhood watchman fatally shot in 2012 while Trayvon was walking home at night. For Patrisse, Trayvon’s death represents the unjust killing of Black people more generally, and she uses it to support her argument that Black lives historically haven’t mattered and still don’t matter in the U.S.
Patrisse suggests that Trayvon Martin’s case was not the first or the last time a Black American was unjustly killed, but that his story nevertheless represents this disturbing trend. The case gained traction because many people believed that Trayvon’s killer was clearly at fault based on the available evidence. Patrisse maintains that Trayvon is one of many examples of young Black men being wrongfully stereotyped as violent and dangerous, and that he was simply walking home with a hood on, carrying snacks he’d just bought, when he was killed. Furthermore, when Trayvon’s killer called the police to report Trayvon, he disobeyed the police dispatcher’s request to leave Trayvon alone.
Patrisse describes how Black community organizers across the U.S. raised awareness about Trayvon’s story via rallies and the media before the killer’s trial began. Still, it wasn’t until after Trayvon’s killer was found not guilty of all charges in July 2013 that Trayvon became a symbol for Black victims of violence whose lives did not matter to other people. In this way, his story became the impetus for Patrisse launching the Black Lives Matter movement.
Trayvon Martin Quotes in When They Call You a Terrorist
And then my friend Alicia writes a Facebook post. Alicia, who I’d known for seven years at this point, who I’d met at a political gathering in Rhode Island where at the end of the day our goal was to dance until we couldn’t dance anymore […] she writes these words in the wake of the acquittal:
btw stop saying that we are not surprised. that’s a damn shame in itself. I continue to be surprised at how little Black lives matter. And I will continue that. stop giving up on black life. black people, I will NEVER give up on us. NEVER.
And then I respond. I wrote back with a hashtag:
And then I ask the people there on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills to please just stop for a moment, to hold space for Trayvon Martin, to hold space for his parents left in grief and an unspeakable pain. And when I do that it seems like the police are going to pounce; they move in closer and closer and I am scared. But I ask again for a moment of remembrance for Trayvon, and as far as I can tell, every single person within reach of my voice, and all of them white as far as I can see, puts down their champagne glass and their silver fork and stops checking their phone or having their conversation and then every last one of them bows their head.