Jonathan Capehart on why Trayvon Martin’s death affected him personally


This morning in the second half of the six a.m. hour, we continued our discussion on the shooting death of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin.

Yesterday, we had some really incredible dialogue with the Rev. Al Sharpton, who is in Florida this evening for a rally in Sanford.

Capehart also walked around his former home of Newark, NJ yesterday with the Rev. Al.

Today Joe, Mika and Willie talked with the Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart, who has written some essential reading on Martin’s shooting.

Joe began part of the discussion when he implored Tallahassee to “get on their toes.” “They better lean forward; they’d better move down to Sanford, Florida and demand that justice is had in this case…I say this as a father of two older boys, I cannot imagine the pain of losing a son, and I can’t imagine the outrage of losing a son in this despicable way,” Scarborough said.

And then Jonathan told us why the shooting of Martin had a profound impact on him.

The killing of Trayvon Martin has affected me personally in a way because…growing up as an African-American male one of the burdens of being a black male is carrying the heavy weight of other people’s suspicions. And so, the reason you’re seeing all these demonstrations…is because African-Americans, particularly African-American men have to comport themselves and live their lives in a way that doesn’t bring upon them undue, unwarranted attention by law enforcement or those who want to be law enforcement or pretend to be law enforcement. And, as a kid, I’m told at 16 – because now I’m older; I’m a young man – here are the things that you can’t do. As an American citizen, [I’m told] don’t run in public. Don’t run in public with anything in your hands. Don’t talk back to the police, which I know is a universal rule, but when you’re African-American and certainly an African-American male, to do that is to put your life in your own hands. And even though I’ve never had any experience or interaction with the police, I know, I feel, I’ve grown up with and been taught to be prepared for it.

Trayvon Martin was 17-years-old and ice tea and a bag of Skittles. A kid talking on the phone with his girlfriend. Just trying to get home to see the second half of the NBA All-Star game. And a guy who’s a hundred pounds heavier than he is, 11 years older than he is and carrying a 9 mm handgun, was able to be his judge, his jury, and his executioner. I know that’s strong language, but we’re talking about a man who took the life of a young boy. And if there’s any silver lining in all of this, it’s that it will focus people not just on the Stand Your Ground law – which is insane, and we’re seeing it in this aspect – but to focus people on the fact that even though this is 2012, even though we have an African-American president, an African-American attorney general, that there are still conversations that need to be had in this country so that there isn’t another Trayvon Martin.

And one last thing, when I was told those lessons, I was one year younger than Trayvon Martin. But I still live with the fact that I still could be Trayvon Martin. Simply because someone might find me suspicious…

Jonathan Capehart on why Trayvon Martin's death affected him personally