WASHINGTON – There were calls to abolish “stand your ground” laws at a Congressional hearing Wednesday featuring remarks by the father of Trayvon Martin, as well as tough talk about race in America.
Tracy Martin gave opening comments at the first hearing of the recently formed Congressional Caucus on Black Men and Boys.
“I always say that Trayvon was my hero. He saved my life, and not to be there in his time of need is real troublesome. Not to be able to save my son’s life,” Martin said.
Martin says he’s glad the death of his son has people talking and asking questions.
“What can we do as parents, what can we do as men, what can we do as fathers, what can we do as mentors to stop this from happening to your child?” asked Martin.
The caucus was formed in March, and Wednesday’s hearing was scheduled before the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial came down.
Speakers at the hearing were asked to discuss the challenges facing today’s African American boys, teenagers and men.
“Access to high quality early education for African American boys especially can be the difference between a pathway that leads to the White House and one that leads to the jailhouse,” said David Johns, Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans.
Michael Eric Dyson is an author and professor of sociology at Georgetown University.
“What do teens who are black and male face in our culture? Well, let’s be honest. There’s a cultural backdrop. All black people live under suspicion,” Dyson said.
Former congressman and NAACP President Kweisi Mfume recalled the first time he heard a particular racial slur directed at him.
“I fear one day that even my grandsons will be called the same thing, not because they’ve done anything at all but because unfortunately people still, some people, harbor these sort of feelings.”
Tracy Martin says 50 years from now, he wants his son’s name to live on as the name of a law aimed at preventing deaths like his son’s.
“You can’t simply profile our children, shoot them in the heart, kill them, and say that you were defending yourself,” Martin said.
“Some of us believe that “stand your ground” laws are such a clear and present danger to African American boys and men that the only remedy should be to roll back these laws, beginning with the state of Florida,” said D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, who is a co-chair of the caucus.
Dyson wants to hear more from the commander in chief.
“My plea and prayer, is that as we craft social and public policy, we ask the White House to once again be a bully pulpit. Mr. Obama wrote one of the most brilliant memoirs on race we have. It would be like if Michael Jordan was in the White House but couldn’t talk about basketball,” Dyson said.
“I’m hoping today when we leave this room, we leave with a commitment that these boys are not to be feared. They are to be loved,” said Rep. Frederica Wilson, a Florida Democrat.