It happened a year ago today.
A young man named Trayvon Martin was walking home to watch the NBA All-Star Game that Sunday night when a man named George Zimmerman saw him and became suspicious. The details are fuzzy, but we at least know this: He called the police, was instructed not to follow Martin, and did so anyway. There was a confrontation. There was a gunshot. And Trayvon Martin lay dead.
I didn’t hear about the shooting for a few weeks, which was as long as it took for it to get national attention. President Obama’s subsequent statement, “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon,” resonated deeply with me. In my case, I could easily imagine someone I love being in Trayvon Martin’s situation. When he died, Martin was just 17 years old. He was 6 months younger than one of my brothers, and about a year older than my other brother. He was about a year younger than me. My brothers and I all look like Trayvon.
As a nation, we’ve had a year to reflect, and we’ve needed every minute of it. There are still things that don’t add up. Some of these things are related to the case itself: Why did George Zimmerman pursue Trayvon Martin over the police’s objection? Some are related to the ensuing legal procedures: Why did it take the appointment of a Special Prosecutor and about a month and a half of time before George Zimmerman was even charged? Why has George Zimmerman become a rallying point whose defense fund has been able to raise $314,099 by January 2?
None of these questions have simple answers. Their answers contain some ugly truths. But those are questions that, as a nation, we just can’t avoid.