Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin recognized the wider role their son’s death has had in exposing the justice system’s racial biases:
Is this the intent for the justice system to have for victims? It’s sending a terrible message to other little black and brown boys that, you can’t walk fast, you can’t walk slow. So what do they do? I mean, how do you get home without people assuming that you’re doing something wrong? Trayvon wasn’t doing anything wrong.
Shortly after Trayvon’s death, his parents started the Trayvon Martin Foundation to give black communities educational and legal support while spreading awareness about racial profiling. Martin concluded, “Even though nothing we can say or do will get Trayvon back, maybe we can help someone else not lose their child.”
This common bias is used to justify the fact that young black men make up 80 percent of drug arrests in the country, even though they use drugs at the same rates as whites. Black defendants also receive far harsher sentences than white defendants convicted of the same crime, and are much more likely to be wrongfully convicted for crimes against white victims. The New York Police Department also argues that officers target mostly African Americans because black men have a higher crime rate.
As a result, a black male teenager has a 32 percent chance of serving time in prison at some point in his life, while the rest of the community lives under a constant cloud of suspicion. Nor is this suspicion restricted to low-income communities. On Tuesday, Attorney General Eric Holder recounted how frequently he has been stopped by police — once when he was running to catch a movie in Georgetown, even though he was a federal prosecutor at the time.