Narrations of the Shooting Death of Trayvon Martin and the Trial of George Zimmerman As Intersectional Challenge to the School-to-Prison Pipeline in the United States

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 4:26 PM
Room: 302
Oral Presentation
Marcia TEXLER SEGAL , Indiana University Southeast, Louisville, KY
Vasilikie DEMOS , Division of the Social Sciences, University of Minnesota, Morris, Salisbury, MD
Vicky DEMOS , Division of the Social Sciences, University of Minnesota, Morris, Salisbury, MD

Reactions to the shooting death of unarmed seventeen year-old Trayvon Martin in February 2012 and the not guilty verdict in the trial of George Zimmerman in July 2013 could be heard throughout the United States and around the world.  In Al Jazeera, Susan Abulhawa, a Palestinian writer, wrote, “The contempt, the disregard, and the disrespect for the black body runs through this whole case. It runs through this country and transforms itself to adapt to the times.”

On August 12, 2013, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Justice Department would work with the Department of Education, “to confront the ‘school-to-prison pipeline’ and those zero-tolerance school discipline policies that do not promote safety….”but instead lead to the criminal justice system.  Reactions to the death of Martin and the announcement of a new approach to the disciplining of youth are acknowledgements of the systemic use of violence to control people of color in the United States. 

While many accounts of the Martin/Zimmerman case have focused on race as a central theme, some have pointed to race as it intersects with gender and/or age.  A narration is constructed so that it resonates with an audience, thereby providing a kind of truth.  Intersectional analysis complicates a narrative, but it also provides a nuanced view of societal violence/power as well as a vantage point from which to exercise agency and bridge the research/practice gap.  

Using content analysis of media from around the world, we identify multiple ways in which the Martin/ Zimmerman case has been narrated, focusing on intersectionally-framed accounts that along with race point to gender--masculinities deployed--and/or age—youth/adult to make sense of the violence.   Statistical data on incarceration in the United States will be used to show the relevance of the narrations to the school- to- prison pipeline.