Many of the students in hooded sweatshirts on April 11 were not wearing them because of the cold. Instead, they wore them as a memorial to the life of Florida teen Trayvon Martin.
While the facts of his death are highly disputed, what is certain is that Martin, 17, was shot and killed by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch member. Zimmerman claimed self-defense. However, there are some people who say they believe that it was an act of racial profiling.
Wednesday marked the 44th day since the shooting and members of the Student Union on Black Awareness held a presentation to raise awareness of racial profiling.
Freshman SUBA member, Ty Manning, began the presentation.
“We stand here today for Trayvon Martin,” she said. “That night, apparently, that hoodie was his death sentence…We are here to let you know that while our voices are alive, Trayvon is not. Rest in peace, Trayvon Martin.”
Members of SUBA stood in two groups, with a projector screen showing images of protesters in between them. They all wore hoodies with cardboard signs draped over their chests.
“We do not stand for racial profiling,” read one of the signs. “I am Trayvon Martin,” proclaimed another.
Jon Powers, the University Chaplain, also stood in solidarity with the SUBA members. Powers said he was very aware of the Martin case and the possibility of racial profiling. He said he was very disturbed by it, calling racial profiling “a cultural crisis.”
After Manning’s speech, the SUBA members and others knelt in silent remembrance.
Freshman Garrison Davis, SUBA’s parliamentarian, said he wanted to see Zimmerman prosecuted.
“Let people know it’s a new day,” Davis said. “You can’t do whatever you want based off suspicion (and) off racism.”
Manning said that, while the presentation was not limited to the Martin case, it was a main focus.
Both Manning and Davis said they had been victims of racial profiling at a young age. Davis said police accused him of throwing a bottle at a football game when he was six.
“(A white friend of mine) was actually closer to where the bottle was thrown (from) but the cop still pulled me aside,” Davis said.
Manning described a field trip when she was eight. White parents of one of her classmates tried to keep their children away from her.
“I think that’s when I started learning the difference between being white and black,” Manning said.
Powers said racial profiling happens every day in America, even in Delaware.
“(When) Black students from Ohio Wesleyan go downtown to stores, they’re more likely to be followed by clerks than a white student would be,” Powers said.
“It’s in our culture, it’s just everywhere.”
Still, he hoped shedding light on the issue would be helpful and would instruct students on the realities of racial profiling.