Students and faculty came together on Friday to discuss how a situation similar to the George Zimmerman-Trayvon Martin case could happen in La Verne.
The discussion was the first of the Critical Conversations series led by Joy Lei, chief diversity and inclusivity officer.
The topic of the discussion was derived from the Zimmerman verdict earlier this summer.
George Zimmerman shot unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin and the jury found him not guilty under Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law.
“This is an opportunity for the University to unite and talk about issues in the world,” Lei said.
The 2012 case happened in a gated community of homes in Florida and was protested throughout the United States.
The case was televised and publicized throughout America. Many were upset about the verdict and others agreed with the jury.
Lei encouraged the audience think about how the Zimmerman case reflects American racial issues.
“At the national level, how does the killing of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager, on the streets of a gated Florida community and Zimmerman, the shooter’s, ultimate acquittal based on self defense help us understand the politics of race and how they play out in the United States?” Lei asked.
The panel was comprised of African American speakers who began the forum by voicing their opinion on the case.
The panel of speakers included Darryl Goree, president and CEO and superintendent of non-profit organizations; Leeshawn Moore, Black Student Union adviser and director of institutional research; and Richard Rose, professor of religion and philosophy.
“We are all oppressed,” Moore said. “What is a black life worth?”
Moore spoke about her young son and how she deals with racism in his school and around him.
The media is not helpful in this by exhibiting African American characters negatively, Moore said.
Moore pointed out one of the characters in the children’s show “Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide.”
He is a smart African American and portrayed as Urkel. He can’t just be a smart kid, Moore said.
Students expressed their feelings and their own La Verne stories.
Rose spoke about his personal opinion about the case and how it relates to every African American.
“The entire case makes me sad on a number of levels,” Rose said.
Rose said he could be the next Trayvon Martin because he often walks around La Verne.
He could easily fall victim to a homeowner if he is perceived in the wrong way, Rose said.
“From walking to Starbucks in the morning or just walking in Claremont, I could be incorrectly profiled just for my skin color,” Rose said.
The audience expressed their own opinions and questions regarding how the case affects them.
Gage Henderson, junior social science major, spoke to the panel about a personal experience that affected him in the La Verne community.
He and his friends locked their keys in their car at Chipotle on Foothill.
They called AAA, and a young black man came to help them to unlock the vehicle.
The police were watching from across the street and proceeded toward them.
The police officer then said, “Wow that was fast, I wonder what you did in your past life.”
“We are supposed to be protected by the police department,” Henderson said.
“How am I supposed to trust you?”
The forum ended with discussion.
Students gave their opinions on the topic of future critical conversations by contacting Lei.
The event was co-sponsored by the office of diversity and inclusivity, the office of multicultural services, office of religious and spiritual life and the coalition for diversity.
Rachel Sandoval can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.