The Feb. 26 fatal shooting of a 17-year-old black male in Florida ignited a national debate on racial profiling that found its way a month later into classes and chapel at ORU.
Trayvon Martin died at the hands of George Zimmerman, a volunteer neighborhood watchman in Sanford, Fla., as he was walking from a convenience store to a house where he planned to watch a televised basketball game with his father. Zimmerman told police he was acting in self-defense and has not been charged with any crime under Florida’s Stand Your Ground law.
While the case remains under investigation, protesters all over the country claim justice has not been served. They argue that Zimmerman, who is half Hispanic and half Caucasian, instigated the matter by singling out Martin as “suspicious” because he was black and was wearing a hooded sweatshirt, leading to the altercation and eventual shooting.
ORU junior Christopher Michael Miller invited other students to show their support by donning hoodies during chapel March 30.
“I was heartbroken to see such injustice,” Miller said. “I was further heartbroken to see that many students on campus were completely oblivious that this was even happening.
“Searching for a way to raise awareness on campus, I found many examples of other schools wearing hoodies by the masses in videos, pictures and other media. We all go to chapel, so I figured that would be the best way for this event to get noticed.”
Junior Stephanie McKain was among dozens of students who wore hoodies to chapel, although many of them didn’t cover their heads.
“Many people don’t understand racial profiling,” McKain said. “Racial profiling is the consideration of race when developing a profile of suspected criminals; by extension, a form of racism involving police focus on people of certain racial groups when seeking suspected criminals.
“When one thinks that all Middle Eastern people on a plane are terrorists, or all Hispanics are illegal or an African American male wearing a hoodie is suspicious that all pertains to racial profiling. This is what we are standing against.”
Overall, the outcome Miller desired was simple: raising awareness. He didn’t want any violent arguments. He just wanted people to understand that this happens.
“Just because a person has never experienced racial profiling does not give them the privilege to ignore it,” Miller said. “This campus should understand that. Whether they do or not, today is a step in the right direction.
“In the end, I hope to hear about lots of discussions in classes and debates among floors, etc.”
The topic did find its way into several media, government and communication classes, including American Jurisprudence, taught by Dr. Winston Frost. He urged his students to not rush to judgment in the case.
“I think it is a tragedy, but I think we need to let the judicial system work before we jump to conclusions,” Frost said. “The media is presenting evidence and information in a skewed fashion.”
While he welcomed debate on the issue, he added that he didn’t want it to divide the ORU campus.
“When it’s all said and done, an innocent teenager was murdered on Feb. 26,” Miller said. “Anyone indifferent to that fact should definitely check his or her spirit.”