Trayvon Martin: the marketing of the victim

In the rush to jump on the Trayvon Martin bandwagon, we may be losing sight of the real issues in the tragic story. Photo: Tronorris Owns in a I Am Trayvon T-shirt AP

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla., March 30, 2012 — A little over a month after George Zimmerman shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida, the Trayvon Martin machine has hit full tilt. So many people are piling on the bandwagon that it is close to collapse.

Earlier this week, Illinois Representative Bobby Rush staged a high profile stunt to boost his embattled career. Rush, while speaking in the well of the House of Representatives, took off his suit coat to reveal a hoodie. He then flagrantly ignored House rules, which prohibit wearing a hood, and put the hood over his head. Rush said he took the action to demonstrate that wearing a hoodie does not make a black man a hoodlum. 

Unfortunately for Rush, simply wearing a suit also does not make a man respectable. Before Trayvon Martin, Rush’s accomplishments in the areas of sickle cell anemia and civil rights were eclipsed by press about his affiliation with the Black Panthers, his prison term for a weapons charge, his failure to pay taxes or child support, and allegations of inappropriate actions during Civil Rights protests in the 1960s.

Congressman Allen West of Florida succinctly called Rush’s hoodie move “immature gimmickry.”

Rush’s theatrical move is far from the only attempt to profit from the tragedy. Every public and note-yet-public figure has something to say about the case. From the New Black Panthers to those who oppose the New Black Panthers, Anderson Cooper to Rush Limbaugh, President Obama to Mitt Romney. High school students, convenience store clerks, neighbors, CEOs, and uninformed and informed observers comment on Trayvon Martin. Media outlets are working over time to cover the case as are our websites and blogs. Race is again on the front pages of U.S. papers. 

Even Trayvon’s grief-stricken parents are branding Trayvon. Trayvon Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, filed trademark applications for the words, “Justice for ,” and “I Am Trayvon.”  The trademark applications specifically say digital media can use the slogans.

Trayvon Martin’s parents AP

Although an attorney for the family says the purpose of the applications are to prevent people from exploiting Trayvon’s image and to raise money for families struck by tragedy, some observers are skeptical.

Discussion boards are exploding with comments questioning the motivation of Ms. Fulton. One anonymous commenter echoed other posters, saying, “What’s next, Trayvon coffee mugs and T-shirts with the slogans, paid directly to Fulton’s pockets?” 

Those items are not next. They are now.  Hawkers already have hit the streets with Trayvon merchandise. Street vendors in Sanford and on the websites are selling key chains, T-shirts, hoodies, bumper stickers, buttons, posters, decals, and even coffee mugs with pictures of Trayvon and Trayvon slogans.

With all the hype, it is easy to lose sight of the true meaning of this case. 

Trayvon Martin is a sad and tragic example not only of paranoid vigilantism at its worst but also an example of a horribly misused and misinterpreted law. Unfortunately, poor interpretations have clouded the meaning of Stand Your Ground, the law Zimmerman hides behind regarding his killing of Trayvon. 

Just Say No T-shirt

Zimmerman is not alone. In January, Greyston Garcia saw Pedro Roteta trying to steal a radio from his truck. Garcia grabbed a large knife, chased Roteta from his car, down the block, where Garcia caught Roteta and stabbed him to death.

A bystander taped the entire incident.  Roteta was unarmed. Last week, a Miami Dade Judge dismissed second-degree murder charges against Garcia based on the Stand Your Ground Law.

Stand Your Ground does not, should not, give leave to violent perpetrators attack anyone. It does not give Zimmerman the right to pursue and shoot an unarmed Trayvon nor does it give Garcia the right to chase and stab Roteta. 

Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin. Martin was unarmed. No law should in any way protect a murderer who aggressively attacks an unarmed man.

The U.S. criminal justice system needs to strive for something more than legality. It needs to strive for justice.

And justice, not grandstanding or coffee mugs or race, is what the Trayvon Martin case is really about.

Read more on Trayvon Martin at the Communities

Trayvon Martin: Between life and death, a hoodie and a sweat shirt

Exposing racism on the House floor; Rep. Bobby Rush should apologize

Hoodie on the House floor: an outrage or a legitimate protest? (Video)

Hunger Games in Florida: Fear made Trayvon Martin’s death a certainty

Miami Heat tweet support for Trayvon Martin (Hoodies Up video)

Trayvon Martin: the marketing of the victim


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Lisa M. Ruth

Lisa M. Ruth started her career at the CIA, where she won several distinguished awards for her service and analysis.  After leaving the government, she joined a private intelligence firm in South Florida as President, where she oversaw all research, analysis and reporting.

Lisa joined CDN as a journalist in 2009 and writes extensively on intelligence, world affairs, and breaking news. She also provides investigative reporting and news analysis. Lisa continues to write both for her own columns and as a guest writer on a wide variety of subjects, and is now Executive Editor for CDN and edits the Global, Family and Health sections.  She is also a regular contributor to Newsmax and other publications.

Contact Lisa M. Ruth


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