ANDERSON, Ind. —
The rallies come on the heels of the controversial verdict out of Sanford, Fla. Martin, a 17-year-old unarmed African American, was shot and killed by Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch coordinator, on Feb. 26, 2012. A six-member jury affirmed Zimmerman’s claim that he was acting in self-defense and found him not guilty of murder.
Brown said the outcome illuminated a gray area in self-defense laws, and has troubled the black community. He cited another Florida case of Marissa Alexander, a mother who is serving a 20-year sentence for firing a warning shot at her reportedly abusive husband.
“We just want equal justice, equal treatment, equal protection under the law. The value people place on the lives of African Americans is still a blatant problem in this country. And the problem is, a lot of people don’t realize they’re racist,” Brown said.
Brown said many people subconsciously place blacks in a different social class in many areas of life, an effective brainwashing that’s been reinforced throughout the years. He hopes the rally and others like it across the country bring attention to the issue.
“People don’t always realize it, but it happens,” Brown said.
Many Americans might think the days of prejudice are a thing of the past. Overt discrimination, perhaps, but Floyd Edwards fears it has given rise to a more subtle and sophisticated racism.
“We say we’re one nation and we’ve moved on, but [the Martin case] shows discrimination is still present, and we still have a lot to do,” said Edwards, the head of Anderson’s Human Relations Department, which investigates complaints of discrimination.
Edwards said he will not be able to attend most of the rally, but feels bringing attention to the issue and encouraging discourse is part of the solution. He said African Americans had to push to move forward in the Martin murder: the investigation, the charges and the trial. Young black men are especially being targeted and profiled, and without discussion, the stereotypes are likely to remain with more lives at risk, Edwards said.