Trayvon Martin’s death should spark new discussion about race

07/17/2013 5:36 PM

07/17/2013 5:36 PM

In an address to the 104th NAACP Convention on Tuesday in Orlando, Fla., U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said the Justice Department’s investigation is continuing in the February 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin.

Seventeen-year-old Martin, who was unarmed, was shot to death by George Zimmerman, 29, in Sanford, Fla. Zimmerman was acquitted last week of second-degree murder in the killing, claiming self-defense in the use of Florida’s “stand your ground” gun law.

“Now while that inquiry is ongoing, I can promise that the Department of Justice will consider all available information before determining what action to take,” Holder said.

Meanwhile, singer Stevie Wonder said in Quebec City that the Martin killing has caused him to not perform in any state with a “stand your ground” law. As many as 22 states have “stand your ground” laws. Other performers and organizations should follow Stevie Wonder’s lead in boycotting such states.

Holder told the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People that he hopes Martin’s death gives people in this country a new opportunity talk about race. “Today, starting here and starting now, it's time to commit ourselves to a respectful, responsible dialogue about issues of justice and equality so we can meet division and confusion with understanding, with compassion and ultimately with truth, however hard that is,” Holder said.

Reality for African-Americans and other people of color remains harsh.

“Yet, for all the progress that we've seen, recent events demonstrate that we still have much more work to do and much further to go,” said Holder, explaining that his dad had to have “the talk” with him about how to respond if stopped by police. Martin’s death caused Holder to also have the same talk with his 15-year-old son.

“I am his father, and it is my responsibility, not to burden him with the baggage of eras long gone, but to make him aware of the world that he must still confront,” Holder said. “This is a sad reality in a nation that is changing for the better in so many ways.”

Holder called for efforts to combat gun violence and blasted “stand your ground laws” saying they encouraged encouraged violence and “undermined public safety.”

“These laws try to fix something that was never broken,” Holder said.

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