Following the death of her 17-year-old son, Trayvon Martin, many things came as a surprise to Sybrina Fulton. The overwhelming amount of support from the public surprised the grieving mother and the sheer pervasiveness of racism in America was startling. The Department of Justice’s recent decision not to press any charges against the man responsible for her unarmed son’s death, however, was sadly the most predictable part of the aftermath.
It has been three years since volunteer neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman fatally shot Martin as he made his way home from a Florida convenient store, yet emotions in the Black community still remain high over the string of high profile deaths of unarmed Black men.
Today, a hoodie has crossed the boundary from a simple piece of apparel to a symbolic statement of solidarity with Trayvon, in addition to a call for justice for the Black community.
It’s a fight that Martin’s mother was surprised to see happening, but she was even more surprised to realize it even needed to happen.
After receiving a special achievement award from Oakwood University Church, she took questions from the press and revealed that her son’s death served as a reminder that America wasn’t as equal and fair as its patriotic harmonies suggest.
“Sadly, I’ve learned…in my small mind I thought we’d come much further than we had,” she told reporters. “I thought we’d moved past a lot of this. I didn’t realize how deep-rooted profiling is and how rooted discrimination is. I was disappointed to find that out.”
As it turned out, the three years following Martin’s death would serve as a serious wake-up call for many Americans who believed that Black people had finally found equality and justice in the land that boasted a premature title of being “post racial.”
Even as some members of the Black community clung tightly to hopes that federal intervention would bring change and justice to the families of the slain Black citizens, Fulton said she already had an idea of what the outcome would be.
When reporters asked Fulton if she was surprised by the Department of Justice’s decision earlier this week not to bring any charges against Zimmerman, she explained that she was “disappointed” but not surprised.
“It was disappointing, not surprising,” she said. “It would be surprising if they filed charges.”
Fulton, like many others, had already witnessed the Department of Justice’s inability or unwillingness to make a difference in these local cases.
“Social media has brought a lot of people together,” she said at the press conference. “Two million people signed the Change.org petition for Trayvon. I had to get storage for all the cards and flowers people have sent. So much love has come out of this.”
Fulton added that dealing with her son’s death hasn’t gotten any easier, but now she is focusing on making a change.
She has since created a foundation in her son’s name that aims to “create awareness of how violent crime impacts the families of the victims and to provide support and advocacy for those families,” according to the foundation’s website.
She is also encouraging more young Black people to focus on their education and realize just how powerful a tool that really is.
“Education is so powerful,” she continued. “You don’t quite get it until you get into the real world. Education is so paramount.”
Even then, she realizes, it won’t be the solution to the type of deadly racial profiling that is stealing too many Black lives, but she is holding on to hope that change will happen soon.
“And I want you to have hope in this country,” she added. “There is going to be a change, where you won’t be afraid of getting shot for walking down the street, for wearing a hoodie or playing your music too loud. But we’re going to have to change people’s mindsets before we change the laws.”