Transformative Darkness: Fear, Vigilantism and the Death of Trayvon Martin
On 26 February 2012, seventeen-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot by neighbourhood watchman George Zimmerman. Zimmerman spotted Martin on a late evening walk through the gated Sanford, Florida, community in which his father lived. Martin was wearing a dark hooded sweatshirt and had recently purchased a pack of Skittles and an Arizona iced tea from a local store. Zimmerman was convinced that the black teen looked suspicious and called the police after trailing Martin through the area. Minutes later Zimmerman approached Martin and shot him. Martin’s death led to national outrage about the flagrant policing of black males in the USA. It also sparked endless questions about race, vigilantism and Zimmerman’s intentions when he encountered Martin that dusky evening. This chapter examines emcee Chosan’s song “Hoodie On” (2013). Chosan eulogizes Martin and critiques the perception of black youth as threatening and dangerous figures in suburban settings. Moreover, Chosan demonstrates the heightened sense of fear surrounding night-time encounters with black males. He emphasizes that a transformative darkness occurs where darkness is metaphorically converted into light. The darkness that Chosan refers to represents negative assumptions about black males, ensuing fright, and the violence emerging as a consequence. I will use lyrical analyses, musical analyses and personal communication with Chosan to explore the depiction of Martin in this nocturnal context. Additionally, I will address how documentation from the Trayvon Martin case illuminates how such ideas contribute to fatal incidents triggered by unwarranted policing and increased incidences of racial profiling.
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