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Columbia Missourian

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Trayvon Martin, the media and blaming the victim

By James Robnett
April 2, 2012 | 6:34 p.m. CDT

Trayvon Martin was gunned down Feb. 26 after being stalked and confronted by self-appointed neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman.

Despite being instructed not to follow Trayvon by a 911 operator, George Zimmerman proceeded to confront and then fatally shoot Trayvon in the chest.

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The Sanford, Fla., police department has a history of not prosecuting when the victim is black. In 2010, the white son of a Sanford police lieutenant was let go by police after assaulting a homeless black man outside a downtown bar.

Blaming Trayvon Martin or his attire for George Zimmerman's actions, as Geraldo Rivera and other conservative commentators have done, is dangerous and feeds into racial stereotypes.

Members of the media must avoid victim-blaming and attempting to assassinate Trayvon's character. Trayvon was killed because he was a young black male in a neighborhood where George Zimmerman did not believe the boy belonged. Trayvon was not killed because he was wearing a hoodie or because he was suspicious, dangerous or armed with a weapon.

Many parents of black boys are wondering, "Is my son the next Trayvon Martin?" Traditionally, these parents have felt obligated to give their sons "the talk" on how to conduct themselves in public as to avoid being racially profiled.

James Robnett III is a Columbia resident.