This Trayvon Martin PSA Uses Real 911 Recordings, But Hits Off-Target


The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence's latest public service announcement argues against Stand Your Ground laws by recreating the events of the Trayvon Martin murder, including using parts of the now infamous 911 recording made that night.

Unfortunately, the video misses the symbolism of Martin's death by associating it with Florida's Stand Your Ground laws. If we are going to use the death of Trayvon Martin to advance the conversation on gun violence in general, but specifically among African-American male youth, then we need to have an honest conversation that includes why Martin was profiled, why he was out of school, and how all of those seemingly-isolated incidents led to his likely volatile reaction to being followed by a white Hispanic man and why that man reacted with suspicion to seeing a black boy in a hood during a rainy night.

See the video below:

The video misses the mark because black boys are primarily at a high risk of gun homicides not because of Stand Your Ground laws but because of the hyper-masculinity that results from crime, specifically the drug trade and poverty, further driven by a lack of jobs and an education system that fails to motivate and inspire paths to excellence and would rather expel to maintain order than teach discipline and inspire results. These are the conditions that have young men roaming the streets at all hours of the day and night, and this terrible situation is what leads to unconstitutional policing and legal practices such as New York's reviled stop and frisk policy.

Along with using Martin's image as a symbolic gesture to highlight the states with Stand Your Ground laws, the video should have included statistics that show when the victim is black, there is a greater likelihood of a successful Stand Your Ground defense regardless of the race of the assailant. Additionally, the PSA should have included some reference to racial profiling and how that led to the untimely and unfortunate death of Martin.

The short, well-produced, and somber video opens with the 911 tape, playing as we see an audio witness on the phone with authorities describing the events immediately following the fatal shooting. The video then pans along a row of presumably dead African-American boys in hoodies as it displays the various states, 26 in all, that have enacted Stand Your Ground laws.

It is a visually captivating video. It is just slightly off message.