Trayvon Martin is All of US!

This document was researched, written and produced by Kali Akuno and Arlene Eisen working on behalf of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, Black Left Unity Network, and US Human Rights Network. It was originally published on April 6, 2012. The authors have created a petition here.


Photo: Allison Joyce, Getty Images

Demand Obama institute a National Plan of Action for Racial Justice to end the epidemic of Black murders

The murder of Trayvon Martin is no isolated tragedy. The murder of Black men and women by police and other state officials and by self-appointed “keepers of the peace” is standard practice in the United States, and essential to the very fabric of the society. Since the European colonization of North America, Black life has been disposable. Despite the many proclamations that the society is color blind and moving into a post-racial phase, the summary execution of Trayvon Martin and at least 29[1] other Black women and men murdered by the Police, Security Guards or vigilantes in 2012 alone demonstrates that Black life continues to be regarded with short worth.

State sanctioned or justified murder of Black people in theUnited Statesis systemic, and more than just a set of random and isolated incidents. The solution to this pervasive crime against humanity cannot rely on local district attorneys for justice. We have to demand more than just investigations and individual prosecutions. We have to demand that the federal government take action and uphold its obligations under International Human Rights Law to protect historically discriminated groups such as Blacks.

Pattern of Murders by the Numbers since January 1, 2012

  • 30 cases of state sanctioned or justified murder of Black people in the first 3 months of 2012 alone have been found (due to under reporting and discriminatory methods of documentation, it is likely that there are more that our research has yet to uncover) [See this chart mid-way through the original post for details.]
  • Of the 30 killed people, 20 were definitely unarmed. 2 probably had firearms, 8 were alleged to have non-lethal weapons.
  • Of the 30 killed people:
    • 12 were innocent of any illegal behavior or behavior that involved a threat to anyone (although the killers claimed they looked “suspicious”);
    • 8 were emotionally disturbed and/or displaying strange behavior.
    • the remaining 10 were either engaged in illegal or potentially illegal activity, or there was too little info to determine circumstances of their killing. It appears that in all but two of these cases, illegal and/or harmful behavior could have been stopped without the use of lethal force.
  • In most cases, where planned, investigations of the deaths have not been completed.

Note: only seven of the 30 killed people were over 30 years old and two of the six were 31 years old. Two were women.

Implications for Action Needed

Almost every news story that reported these killings says something like, “another Black man dead.” Yet, perhaps to fight off despair, many people treat each case like Trayvon Martin as if it were the first, an exception, and hopefully the last, if only the perpetrator is arrested.

This gruesome list demonstrates that the US legacy of lynching and enforcement of Jim Crow apartheid persists. But today’s epidemic of murders of Black people thrives in a new deadly context. The myths of democracy and the election of a Black president hide the epidemic—make it harder to diagnose the pattern. And the hysteria of the War on Terror, building on the War on Drugs, has fueled the militarization of 17,000 local police departments. Nearly a trillion dollars in grants by Homeland Security and the promotion of a militarized culture has escalated the wars of racial domination and containment at home. InNew Orleans,Chicago,New York,Little Rockand hundreds of other towns and cities, police departments and white citizens are armed and ready to maintain “security”. The so-called drug and terror wars have become a war on Black people—even if some combatants on the aggressor side of the line in Homeland Security and Police departments are Black.

In many ways, today’s war on Black people resembles the hounding of escaped slaves or the persecution of Black people who dared appear in segregated “sundown towns” after dark. The record of lynching shows that demonization of Black people did not begin with hoodies. Black people have survived this war by resisting Klan terror in all its forms, by affirming their culture and building solidarity and community. Depending solely on a local district attorney for survival, let alone justice, has never worked and will not work today.

Within this context—and given the data—we suggest the campaign to end the war on Black people take the following steps:

  1. Currently, there is no national database that documents the killings of Black people by police, security guards and self-appointed peacekeepers. To understand the magnitude of the epidemic, we demand it be documented. To ensure that we hold the government accountable to this mandate, we call on all the organizations defending the human dignity and rights of Black people to collaborate on producing an independent database of these summary executions.
  2. We must demand that the priorities of Homeland Security be shifted. As a recent Salon.com article noted, “So much money has gone into armoring and arming local law-enforcement since 9/11 that the federal government could have rebuilt post-Katrina New Orleans five times over and had enough money left in the kitty to provide job training and housing for every one of the record 41,000-plus homeless people in New York City. It could have added in the growing population of 15,000 homeless in Philadelphia, my hometown, and still have had money to spare. Add disintegrating Detroit, Newark, and Camden to the list. Throw in some crumbling bridges and roads, too.”(March 5, 2012) The military industrial complex is no longer a sector of the state—it has become the state—a police state. We must use whatever political rights we have left to demand that the tremendous resources used to fortify this militarized stated be used for human development, such as education, health care, and the development of sustainable energy and technology, not hunt and kill people.
  3. At the same time, Homeland Security grants to police departments should be conditional on institutional overhaul that deprograms racist policies, rules of engagement, training and rewards.
    1. Recruitment, training of new recruits and on-going retraining must identify racist assumptions and uproot them. The concept of “suspicious behavior” must be deconstructed under the leadership of community representatives.
    2. When a cop has killed or wounded an unarmed “suspect” or used excessive force to subdue a “suspect”, that cops should be suspended without pay until the investigation is complete. If the cop is not cleared, he should be fired. (A number of killer cops are repeat offenders)
    3. Cultural and institutional support that allows police departments to lie, cover-up, spin, justify and remain unaccountable for killing Black people must be identified. All actions must be video recorded and made public.
    4. Community representatives responsible to community forum should be consulted on all these changes and approve them before implementation. Representatives of families whose loved ones have been killed should participate in these community bodies.
    5. Money from one homeland security tank could more than fund high quality training for the entire police force for decades.
  4. Redirect Homeland Security Funds to establish and institutionalize local community mental health programs. Jails and prisons are flooded with people who need support for emotional problems. Treatment, not punishment is needed. And there also should be community support for families—especially those with children who have emotional problems. A tragic number of children get killed by police when desperate parents call for help. This must end. Also, police must be trained, retrained and retrained on how to deal with people exhibiting erratic behavior. The policy of tasing for compliance must be ended.
  5. Overhaul policies that encourage and justify harassment, assault and murder by non-trained, non-accountable citizens, such as “stand your ground”. Eg. Security guards, self-appointed neighborhood watch coordinator and a man defending his “castle” were responsible for at least four murders in the last three months.
  6. Eliminate all the policies and procedures on all levels of government and in all state agencies that sanction the racial profiling of Black and other discriminated and targeted groups.
  7. Stop the War on Drugs and end the mass incarceration of Black people. Reform all of the drug enforcement, quality of life, and mandatory minimum sentencing laws that have resulted in the gross over incarceration of Black people and the largest penal system in the world.
  8. Challenge the cultural and legal climate that demonizes Black people and encourages racist attacks by security guards and vigilantes by instituting a massive public education campaign that addresses the historic legacy of white supremacy and institutional racism and educates the public about their fundamental human rights.
  9. Finally, the Obama administration must create and institute a “National Plan of Action for Racial Justice”[2] to fulfill the governments obligations under the Convention to Eliminate all forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD)[3] by creating a permanent Inter-Agency Working Group to implement all of the aforementioned demands to protect Black and other historically oppressed groups from racial discrimination, targeted violence, and summary executions. For more information on CERD visit the site here.

Please join us is pressing these demands to hold the United Statesgovernment accountable for its failure to fully address the systemic problem of institutionalized racism. You can help by endorsing these demands and raising them to the Obama administration and state and local governments in every venue possible. You can start by signing and distributing the petition [created by the authors.]

If you and your organization would like to officially endorse this initiative and work with the USHRN’s National CERD Implementation Task Force to directly engage the Obama administration regarding the implementation of a National Plan of Action for Racial Justice please e-mail Kali Akuno at kakuno@ushrnetwork.org.


[1] See the full list of victims in the diagram below. As of research completed on April 1, 201, 30 victims were identified.
[2] National Plans of Action to eliminate racism and racial discrimination originated within the World Conference Against Racism process from 2001 in Durban,South Africa. To date several close allies of the United States have created National Plans of Action to combat racial discrimination, including Canada, Brazil, Ireland, and Norway to name a few. The National Plan of Action for Racial Justice proposed would address the systemic issues confronting all racialized and historically oppressed peoples in the United States including Indigenous peoples, Chicano/Mexicanos, Puerto Ricans, Indigenous Hawaiians, and others.
[3] The United States government formerly ratified the ICERD treaty in 1994, making it officially the law of the land.
[4] This list of 30 names was collected between 3/28/2012 and 4/1//2012 by reviewing google search results to the question, “who have police killed in 2012.” Only the first 65 pages out of 712,000,000 were reviewed.
[5] News One.com reported Rodriguez was African American however other reports and family photos indicate he was Latino.
[6] Many written reports do not explicitly identify the race of the victim. Most, however, do show photographs. In the case of Warren, no photo was displayed.

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