Suppose George Zimmerman were arrested, tried and convicted of the murder of Trayvon Martin tomorrow. What would the legacy of Martin be on the following day? Would we all put away our hoodies and stop marching or would we take up a national repeal movement?
The right wing has a national movement to repeal Obamacare, thereby suppressing access to affordable health care for millions, especially poor people and people of color. Martin will not have to worry about the repeal of Obamacare or about staying on his parents’ health care plan until he is 26; he will never be 26.
Martin stood his ground. He faced hate and he faced fear. He could not repeal the bullet that took his life, but we can make sure that his death will stand for something bigger than just putting one man on trial. We can make sure that we repeal the hate that has spread across this country from one state house to the next with laws that prevent access to the ballot.
We can make sure that we repeal the fear that allows an unarmed teenager to be shot dead by a fearful man with a bullet. It was Malcolm X who coined the phrase “the ballot or the bullet” in 1964. He was expressing the anger the Black community was feeling back then and what actions could be taken. It was a warning and a prediction. We are at a similar juncture in the struggle once again in 2012.
That is why we need to channel the energy and the anger over the murder of Martin into action that has a lasting effect and recognizes the opportunity this moment presents us. We need to repeal two of the most heinous types of laws that have infected our political discourse in decades in the name of Martin’s life and death.
We need to repeal every single voter suppression ID law in the 30 states that have them on their books. We need to repeal every Stand Your Ground law in the 20 states that have them on their books. State by state and city by city, we have to pay tribute to Martin by making his life and death mean something.
Martin will never get to vote. Even if he were alive, when he would have turned 18, especially in the state of Florida, it would have been difficult for him to even register to vote. In many states across this country, he would not have been able to vote at all because of the draconian voter suppression ID laws that target minorities, young and first-time voters as well as the elderly. We must repeal these laws and mobilize the same people who are coming out to rallies and marches to demand that those laws be struck down by state legislatures.
The Stand Your Ground law in Florida, which may or may not be used as a defense in the Martin case, should be immediately repealed, and every other law that is in place that is similar to Stand Your Ground should be repealed.
The two repeal efforts go hand in hand. More of these pro-gun laws will proliferate in more states if the National Rifle Association (NRA) has its way. And the NRA will have its way with the help of groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council if millions of American citizens are prevented from voting in local and national elections. Presidential elections are fine and everyone is focused on what will happen in November, but all politics are local. It is in local elections where the rubber hits the road and where the bullet hits its mark.
We have to follow through with meaningful actions that will not only see to it that Martin has a lasting legacy, but also save other young lives that could be in the crosshairs of another George Zimmerman. Emmet Till’s death as a young man compelled the nation to pass civil rights legislation, including the Voting Rights Act. Back then, a young Black man made a difference in death. Let us ensure that Martin did not die in vain. Repeal all voter suppression laws and all Stand Your Ground laws NOW!