Emmett Till at Christmas 1954 taken by Mamie Till Bradley (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
Emmett Till at Christmas 1954 taken by Mamie Till Bradley (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

BY ERIC G. CZAJKA, Staff Columnist

The results of a recent CNN/ORC International poll released on Mar. 26, 2012, show that nearly 75% of Americans believe that George Zimmerman should be arrested – a truly staggering number.

Even with the overwhelming public outcry for justice, it’s hard to tell if the man who shot Trayvon Martin to death will be charged with a crime. And even if he is, will justice have been served? The slain 17-year-old high school junior was guilty of nothing besides being in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was not a major criminal. He was not a gang member or a drug dealer. By all reports he was a good, wholesome teenager – and yet, his life was cut short.

The tragedy is that Martin will never be able to learn, love, or live again.

The death of Trayvon Martin draws many parallels to a racially motivated killing that occurred in Mississippi in 1955 – the murder of Emmett Till. Till was just a boy when he reportedly whistled at a white woman in a local Mississippi market. The outrage from this led to the 14-year-old being kidnapped, beaten and shot to death by a group of white men.

Till had violated a de facto law in that existed in the South in 1955. Black men were not to flirt with white woman. Outrage over the murder created national publicity that forever made the name Emmett Till synonymous with racial injustice. It was a dark period in American history.

Flash forward 57 years and America is once again experiencing a death that in many ways is equivalent to Till’s.

(AP Photo/HO, Martin Family Photos)

Trayvon Martin also broke a social code. It may not be as acknowledged as the de facto laws of the 1950s and 1960s, but it is as widely recognized. Martin was a black male who was dressed in a black hoodie, walking in a predominately white neighborhood. Stereotypes may have overtaken the shooter, Zimmerman, who viewed him as suspicious.

Zimmerman was a self-appointed neighborhood watch captain. He did not have the training or experience that police officers have. It was most likely was a combination of inexperience, stereotyping, and other factors that led to Zimmerman shooting Martin.

Maybe Zimmerman is arrested and charged with a crime – or maybe he isn’t. I don’t see it mattering either way. The issue will remain with either outcome. There is a stereotyping of black men in this country.

Racism and prejudice is far from being abolished. Fear and ignorance lead to hate and violence; racism is alive and thriving in this nation. The big question is how to teach tolerance and suppress bigotry. Diversity is what gives this nation its strength, and we must continue to teach tolerance of it.

The term ‘melting pot’ seems to be thrown around a lot. In school children are taught that America is a place where people of any creed or ethnicity can come to escape oppression and live their lives without fear. We are taught that we all have universal rights that can’t be taken away. Yet, with every injustice committed against minorities, I find myself watching that great pot strain – its metal cracking and rusting away.