Trayvon Martin: Can it happen here?


OPINION Like many others I have been captivated by the proceedings in the Trayvon Martin case. Personally, and as a member of the Board of Supervisors, it has inspired disappointment, outrage, frustration, and more questions about our criminal justice system than I have answers. But more than anything else this case prompts me to ask: Can this happen here?

However you feel about this particular case, we all like to think that in San Francisco we are more advanced than the rest of the country, and in most ways we are. From our Sanctuary City to our community policing strategies, we have always been conscious about race in our criminal justice system and City policies.

The neighborhoods I represent have 33 percent of the City's African American population, more than any other area of our City, and we also have the highest concentration of young people, nearly 23 percent. More than half of the individuals who are incarcerated in San Francisco are African American and last year District 10 had the City's highest number of youth on probation.

Regardless of their ethnicity, residents of areas that experience public safety challenges have a heightened sense of awareness or tension about what goes on in their neighborhoods. Unfortunately, sometimes seeing a young African American man is a trigger. It is a trigger to walk faster, be more alert, notify neighbors, or even call the police to report suspicious behavior.

This is the exact tension that a year ago led Mayor Lee to discuss implementing a version of New York City's controversial Stop and Frisk Policy. Under this policy, each year police officers stop hundreds of law abiding citizens, the vast majority of which are African American, Latino, and young men on the suspicion that they may be engaging in illegal behavior. I was proud to join with many residents, faith leaders, and even our Police Chief in outlining more productive ways that we can interrupt violent behavior without instituting a policy based on racial profiling.

Thankfully, Stop and Frisk was never implemented in San Francisco, but the debate we had about it demonstrated that we still struggle with the role race plays in our criminal justice system and crime in our neighborhoods.

This verdict serves as a call to action for all of us that if we don't want a similar tragedy to occur here, we must continue to do what San Francisco has always done best — lead the way. I will continue to push our City to have open dialogues about race in all of our public safety policies. I have spent the last year and will continue to do everything possible to strengthen our City's regulations on gun control and work collaboratively with all of our communities to develop real solutions to violence that are rooted in protecting and supporting our neighborhoods instead of racial profiling.

Malia Cohen represents southeast San Francisco on the Board of Supervisors.


Are you kidding me!!! It happens every day, only it's black people shooting other blacks or branching out into shooting whites. No one cares. THis is a joke....justice was served, let it go.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 17, 2013 @ 8:59 am

Less than 8% of San Francisco's population is black, yet over 50% of all violent crimes in SF are committed by blacks. When is the last time SF had a white drive by shooting??? 20 times more whites and Asians are attached by blacks than blacks are attacked by whites and Asian in SF.

I not only believe racial profiling is necessary I believe it needs to be expanded.

Facts do not lie,

Posted by Guest oldfart on Jul. 17, 2013 @ 10:36 am

epidemic. They are always the victim according to liberals but, in fact, the US would be largely peaceful, non-violent and crime-free but for blacks.

King, Grant and Martin all walked into trouble because they were trouble. Black nuns do not get shot.

Posted by anon on Jul. 17, 2013 @ 10:59 am

can we anon? Is your white hood back from the dry cleaners?

Posted by Guest on Jul. 17, 2013 @ 1:01 pm

Trayvon was a wannabe thug. He tried to buy a gun, boasted about fights, robbed houses. Don't buy Crumb's lie

Posted by Guest on Jul. 17, 2013 @ 1:14 pm

The KKK is alive and kicking in San Francisco. You all seriously believe that the sun shines out of your white butts and that you're better than black people. Institutionalized racism keeps black people and other minorities from being able to have adequate education, jobs, healthcare, housing, and other resources and opportunities, so it should come as no surprise that people turn to violence. That's what happens when you keep an entire group of people in poverty and then call them inherently ignorant and violent and spread racist lies. You people are so freaking stupid. And you're disgusting. Karma will get you.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 17, 2013 @ 5:21 pm

I don't call people inherently anything. I did say that Trayvon was a bad seed because he was one

Posted by Guest on Jul. 17, 2013 @ 6:04 pm

White men aren't going to jail for killing minorities, it was a struggle just to get GZ arrested in the first place? You can shoot a gun, kill a child and go home only to get "arrested" later... Facts can be misleading.. IF GZ was black then he would of been put in jail "just to figure out" what happened.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 17, 2013 @ 2:08 pm

being profiled is for them to stop committing all these crimes.

Until then, nobody is going to blame people from viewing that demographic as suspect. That's not racism - it is realism.

It's ridiculous to claim the jury's verdict was wrong. The evidence was conflicted and that means reasonable doubt.

Move on, Malia.

Posted by anon on Jul. 17, 2013 @ 9:38 am

Great article well said.

Posted by Guest Great article Malia..well said. on Jul. 17, 2013 @ 9:40 am

Zimmerman will have his judgment day! Common people! Everyone has there opinion and being a human being? Not an American? A living human being, everyone can voice there opinion. People's actions, destroying other people's property because of the verdict NOT GUILTY: We should be praying and comforting the family of Trayvon, And before people start to judge what had happened, look into your own homes. It could of been your kid....
But it wasn't, but it could have been! Or someone you knew.
The memory of this case will most definitely live on, but lets let his family and friends mourn in peace....
Enough hate, Violence, Racism has been spread.
Live a little, Spread Love, Smile all the time!
And always count your blessing! There's no doubt in my mind that this child of god is up there helping build that kingdom, but lets really LET HIM REST IN PEACE!

Posted by Bee Faataui on Jul. 17, 2013 @ 10:23 am

You just want the courts to give the result that you personally approve of?

Posted by anon on Jul. 17, 2013 @ 10:28 am

No it would not be my kid. I'd teach my kid not to jump someone because they may kill you. Duh!

Posted by Guest on Jul. 17, 2013 @ 2:37 pm

"Thankfully, Stop and Frisk was never implemented in San Francisco, but the debate we had about it demonstrated that we still struggle with the role race plays in our criminal justice system and crime in our neighborhoods."

Crime victimization surveys match up well with African American arrest and conviction rates. Studies indicate that African Americans are punished less heavily for crimes (when priors are taken into account). What is the role of race in the criminal justice system?

Posted by Guest on Jul. 17, 2013 @ 11:24 am

How can America exit the racialism conundrum while recognition politics incenses and incentivizes those subjected to its credo? The outcomes are evermore perplexing while it is reinterpreted, misinterpreted and opportunistic ne'er-do-wells utilize, for example, Trayvon Martin's violent demise as pretext to employ more violent mischief. Events may occur, in the particular and confluent with and not preconditioned on the premise, “can it happen here?”

Posted by Awayneramsey on Jul. 17, 2013 @ 12:22 pm

This argument is absolutely nonsensical. Trayvon Martin wasn't killed from being stopped by a peace officer. He was killed because of the crazy "stand your ground" laws in Florida. If those were not passed, maybe George Zimmerman wouldn't have followed Martin around that day. Maybe he would have stayed farther back and waited for police. We don't really know what happened, but we do know that it has absolutely nothing to do with racial discrimination in policing.

You should be ashamed of yourself for using the tragic death of a young man for more page views.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 17, 2013 @ 1:17 pm

Supervisor Cohen has done nothing concerning the violence in her district - I mean, when was the last time she reached out to a victim of crime? But yet she feels the need to write an editorial concerning a crime that happened way across the country?

Long story short, it doesn't matter to the victim what the color of the prepetrator's skin is ... and shame on Cohen for continually ignoring the needs of her district!

Posted by Kristin on Jul. 17, 2013 @ 3:35 pm

Not only that Malia has been a leader in the persecution of mobile dwellers.

She's typical slimy opportuinistic politico.

The sooner she moves to Sac or DC, the better.

Posted by pete moss on Jul. 20, 2013 @ 5:10 am

We are not talking about an innocent 12 year old Boy ,,

We are though talking about a Dangerous Young Man with this History ,,

3rd Suspension in just 4 months from School due to Anti Social and Dangerous Behavior.

He was Robbing Homes , he was caught with both Stolen Goods and Tools to Break in , but the System Failed to deal with this in October 2011 when he was caught.

He was trying to Secure Guns for Armed Robbery.

He had a History of Preying on Children much smaller then his 6'2" frame, Attacking, Bullying, and Robbing Them.

In Short He was a 17 year old Criminal who Attacked The Local Neighborhood Watch ! !

Posted by BeachdudeCa on Jul. 17, 2013 @ 4:13 pm

You're an idiot.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 17, 2013 @ 5:11 pm

Very interesting. Well, I'm a professional African American man in my 40's and yesterday I walked into a neighborhood corner store to pick up a quick cup of coffee and a white customer looked at me with fear in his eyes. I wanted to say "when was the last time you heard someone wearing a suit in the FiDi robbed someone?". The fact is, racism exists, and it exists everywhere. There is no Utopia, and people should just quit their weak justifications for any of their "isms". The Bay Area is just another place (did not Oscar Grant get shot in the back in the Bay Area?)...come on, wake up.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 17, 2013 @ 4:30 pm

I'll try to give the benefit of the doubt and acknowledge that hey- these people are simply not educated around matters of intergenerational and historical trauma.

But truly, I do wonder about these people that are saying "Trayvon Martin was a thug," and say "blacks are the ones committing crimes, and killing each other," etc. I wonder why it has never occurred to them to be curious as to why that is?

Rather than lumping a group of people into a category as "bad", why would people not want to understand more about this behavior and where it comes from?

I believe in peace and I believe in education.

We can all acknowledge that slavery is/ was real. We can all acknowledge some degree of inequality (I think). Now what comes after these things? Did the slaves receive therapy after they were freed? No. How did they cope with their trauma? If it wasn't coped with, what happened? Now, add on the experience of inequality, lack of opportunity, and of course racism. Makes for a very difficult environment to grow and live in. Crime is a natural reaction to the environment. And yes, there are outliers, those that able to endure such desolate conditions, and it is not easy.

I can only engage in this conversation if I am working toward peace. Sometimes this starts with education.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 18, 2013 @ 12:44 pm

Obama talks about Trayvon Martin but he claims the right to kill anyone anywhere in the world. The US government will not even provide any explanation why Abdulrahman was targeted for execution. When the country’s top leaders execute an official policy of killing people wherever they want why is it surprising that people feel a need to defend themselves?

As for waiting for the cops – ever tried that in Oakland – they simply do not come. And then what about all the people that are killed and abused by cops? It’s not a perfect world. People have a real reason to fear young black men in hoods with their pants half off. It’s not racism but practicality. Even Black people asses perceived risk.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 18, 2013 @ 2:44 pm

Now if you could show some leadership on police abuse issues locally, that would be even better.

It's good that this injustice has sparked the discussion that it has, but it's easy to speak out against an injustice that happened across the country. The fact is that there is police abuse right here in San Francisco, but we haven't heard you say a single word about that because you don't want to cross the powerful POA. Kenneth Harding was shot in the back by police and allowed to die, with officers not allowing anyone to help him until they watched him bleed to death. All we heard from your office was the sound of crickets chirping. You've been totally absent in the fight for police reform and civilian oversight. We've had a lot of "open dialogue" over the years to that end. It's time we had real leadership and action, and I don't see any coming from you.

Posted by Greg on Jul. 20, 2013 @ 8:03 am