Sybrina Fulton says that the murder of her son, Trayvon Martin, indicates injustices and racial profiling are still alive in American society.
Fulton came to Salt Lake City on Jan. 16 as part of the celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. at the University of Utah’s Olpin Student Union Ballroom.
“I didn’t come with notes on paper – I’m speaking to you from my heart,” said Fulton.
On Feb. 26, 2012, Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old African-American was shot to death by a man in Sanford, Florida.
Martin was visiting a friend in a residential complex when he was spotted by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer who mistook him as an intruder. Moments later, Zimmerman was calling the police, saying Martin looked suspicious.
Neither identifying himself as a watchman, nor inquiring about why Martin was in the residential complex, Zimmerman confronted the unarmed Martin and fatally shot him in a matter of minutes.
“It is something that should make you feel uncomfortable,” says Fulton.
Fulton mentioned that nobody should feel at ease when watching on the news unjust events like this.
Zimmerman was later acquitted and set free. The controversial verdict stirred a nationwide discontent and raised doubts about the judicial system.
Following Martin’s death, the national community organized rallies and marches to protest against the controversial verdict.
Fulton expressed that fatal incidents involving racial issues are not happening only in other countries.
“Many of you have heard about atrocities that are happening in other countries,” says Fulton. “Here in the U.S. we have similar issues.”
A great controversy is ongoing about whether the hoodie Martin was wearing the day he was shot could have contributed to his death, as some people relate it to criminal profiles.
“Is it the hoodie that really made the difference or was [it] the color of his skin?” asked Fulton. “If it is, then there is something wrong in America.”
Fulton is convinced that it was more than a simple piece of cloth that contributed to the death of her son. It is Fulton’s opinion that this is not about the hoodie itself – it’s all about racial profiling.
“It’s not about Treyvon. It’s about the person that felt he was suspicious,” says Fulton.
The verdict acquitting Zimmerman convinced Fulton that there is actually something wrong in the American judicial system.
“I told the attorney when I heard the verdict that I don’t believe in the American justice system anymore,” Fulton says.
Fulton pointed out some facts that may have caused her son’s death to be unjustified.
“He was on the phone minutes before he was shot,” said Fulton. “Does it look like a burglary to you? Children like this don’t have intentions to do something bad.”
Adding insult to injury, when Fulton was told that her son was found dead police were not forthcoming with information about Martin’s death.
“You are telling me that my son is lying dead on the grass, and you don’t have information for me?” Fulton asked officers.
Fulton remembers the loss of her son as the worst experience of her life.
“The worst thing I’ve seen in my life was when I see my son all dressed in white in the funeral casket,” says an emotional Fulton. “That is something hard for any mother [who has lost her child].”
Fulton said that her expectations were to see her son grow, go to college, get married and start his own family, but she is trying to live her life despite the hardship of losing her son and the dreams she had for him.
“Although I lost my son, I am still living,” says Fulton.
Fulton made her message clear, asserting that racial issues are still present in our nation. She says that it is erroneous to think that racial profiling is non-existent in America anymore.
“Racial profiling is still happening in all communities,” Fulton says. “Injustices and racial profiling are still alive. We need to talk about it. We cannot wait until something bad happens.”
Trials aside, Fulton is hopeful and longs for change in American society. She urges active involvement from communities; people promoting tolerance and peace.
“You have the right to walk in peace without someone chasing you and shoot[ing] you,” says Fulton. “You cannot shoot a person and get away with it.”
Fulton advocates peaceful means to fight against injustices and racial profiling.
“Do not fight violence with violence,” says Fulton. “Put that disappointment into something positive.”
According to Fulton, we can create consensus and find peaceful ways to negotiate differences based on mutual respect and increasing self-esteem.
“With respect for yourself you can respect others,” said Fulton. “We have to plant the seed.”