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Why the Trayvon Martin case isn't exclusively 'a black story'

Photo by werthmedia/Flickr (Creative Commons)

At a protest demanding justice for Trayvon Martin, March 19, 2012

The Atlantic's James Fallows has a short, incisive piece on why he's going to be writing about the case of Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old black teenager shot to death in Florida last month by a neighborhood watch captain in a Florida gated community.

The boy had been on his way back to a family friend's home after purchasing Skittles and iced tea from a nearby convenience store. A recently released 911 tape indicates that the admitted shooter, 28-year-old George Zimmerman, pursued the boy because he deemed him "real suspicious."

Fallows writes about how "since I have no special standing to talk about police activity, crime stories, or anything involving Florida, this is a subject I would normally leave alone." But:

Here's why I think it is worth making an exception and talking about something outside "my" realm. The Trayvon Martin case involves the shooting of a young black man by a young white man, and the failure of the white-run Southern police department to take any action against the killer. The more evidence comes out, the less defensible and more bigoted the police department's attitude seems. Ta-Nehisi Coates has done a very effective job of following this case -- but since he is the only black "Voice" on the Atlantic's site, and since many (though not all) of the leading writers about the case elsewhere also have been black, leaving it to him could give the impression that we think of this as a "black" story.

My feeling is the same as when I wrote about the Troy Davis execution last fall: this case is obviously about race, and is important on those grounds. Race relations are after all the original and ongoing tension in U.S. history.

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