The implications and context of the Trayvon Martin tragedy are manifold, from the history of under-protection that black Americans have suffered, to issues of racial profiling, gun laws and appropriate responses of self defense.Randall Kennedy, the Michael R. Klein Professor at Harvard Law School, explored and reflected on the repercussions of the tragedy during a forum hosted by Lesley University on April 12, Tuesday evening about Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old who was shot and killed by a neighborhood watch volunteer in Sanford, Florida on February 26.
Kennedy declared that Trayvon’s Martin death has become a cause célèbre that prompts all of us to reevaluate our biases, intuitions, aspirations and fears - and he likened people’s reactions to a national Rorschach test on a wide variety of issues. The most vexing issue of the case, he said, has haunted Americans since the founding of this country: the race issue and the status of African Americans.
Kennedy said, "No matter what happens from hereon out, Trayvon Martin, a youngster with a future, is no longer with us. And that is a sobering fact that we need to recall as we proceed into the future and try to make our society a better place." “Could it be that people of all different backgrounds feel more upset when violence has been prompted or facilitated by prejudice?” Kennedy posed. “Is it the case that … people get more upset by that kind of violence than other types of violence? Then the question becomes, Is such a feeling wrong? Maybe that’s right; maybe that’s wrong. It seems to me that’s one of many issues generated by this terrible tragedy.”
During his talk, Kennedy speculated a range of points, which sparked a lively discussion and debate among members of a large audience that gathered in the University Hall Amphitheater.“This failure to protect African Americans against criminality is an issue that has come up time and time and time again,” said Kennedy, who asserted he strongly suspects that if the events on Feb. 26, 2012 has lead to a white dead body as opposed to a black dead body, things would have been different; and that without loud, militant, and sustained protest, there would have been no additional state and federal oversight to what occurred.
“There’s been a lot of talk about facts: what’s known; what’s not known. But that effort to know the facts will only take us so far,” he said. “First of all, you’re never going to know all the facts. It’s useful to know as much as you reasonably can. If we could not speak until we had complete mastery of the facts, we would not speak. We would simply be mute.”
Part of Kennedy’s overall message was to drive home this somber point: “We have suffered an irrevocable loss. No matter what happens from hereon out, Trayvon Martin, a youngster with a future, is no longer with us. And that is a sobering fact that we need to recall as we proceed into the future and try to make our society a better place,” Kennedy said.
Mary Coleman, the Dean of Lesley College, delivered opening remarks and welcomed Kennedy to the event, which was sponsored by the Office of the Dean of Lesley College and the Lesley University Diversity Council.
Randall L. Kennedy teaches courses on contracts, criminal law, and the regulation of race relations at Harvard Law School. He attended Princeton University, Oxford University, and Yale Law School, and he served as a law clerk for Judge J. Skelly Wright of the United States Court of Appeals and for Justice Thurgood Marshall of the United States Supreme Court. His most recent book is The Persistence of the Color Line: Racial Politics and the Obama Presidency (2011).
SOURCE: Lesley University Diversity Diversity; Helena Tonge at 617.349.8306, firstname.lastname@example.org