#Trayvon

By Luke Visconti


* UPDATE: Zimmerman was charged with second-degree murder on April 11,2012.

In case you missed it, Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by George Zimmerman as he walked down a street to a friend’s home in Sanford, Fla. Zimmerman, on a “neighborhood watch” patrol, called the police to report Trayvon as a “real suspicious guy” and “up to no good, or he’s on drugs or something.” Trayvon was wearing a hoodie; it was raining. The dispatcher asked, “Are you following him” When Zimmerman said “Yeah,” the dispatcher said, “OK, we don’t need you doing that.” Zimmerman was armed with a Kel-Tec 9mm pistol. It took one shot to kill Trayvon.

When I first read of the news, Trayvon’s picture was in the story, and I was struck by how handsome and open he looked—in contrast to his murderer.

But chances are you’ve heard of Trayvon. As of this morning, there are almost 1 million electronic signatures on the change.org petition demanding that Zimmerman be arrested. Spike Lee and Wyclef Jean started the ball rolling with tweets. The press picked it up. Anderson Cooper was all about Trayvon last night. Because of the Internet, you can hear the 911 tapes, see Trayvon’s pictures and hear his mom say that he was killed because of “the color of his skin.”

As hard as it is to imagine, George Zimmerman has not been arrested. The law in Florida, a “Shall Issue” state where one is entitled to carry a concealed weapon, does not call for people to back down from confrontations because Gov. Jeb Bush signed the “Stand Your Ground” law in 2005. Prosecutors in Florida have apparently decided that prosecuting shootings in this case is not worth it as judges can dismiss the case before the trial begins under the concept of “true immunity” based on a “Stand Your Ground” assertion.

But there’s a lot of pressure on Sanford, a place that ran Jackie Robinson out of town during spring training. The city commissioners voted to demand that the police chief resign. If you do a little digging on the Sanford police, you’ll see that there’s been a history; the NAACP is collecting stories to deliver to the Department of Justice. In a larger context, this “Stand Your Ground” law, which has been passed in 21 states, needs very close examination. I am a fan of the Second Amendment, but this reads a little to me like “Shoot the Black guy first, ask questions later” law.

What can we learn here from a business context History matters. Having a trajectory of good practices—or bad—is public knowledge these days, especially when something goes wrong and people have a little time to dig around the web. Many companies I visit still have a policy of being “modest.” It’s old fashioned and doesn’t serve your customers, employees or shareholders. Websites should have clarity and focus; today, hundreds of millions of people tell their own story on Facebook and Twitter. Your company must tell its own story on its website, yet most corporate websites are soulless (many look like they’re designed by soulless ad agencies and vetted by attorneys who don’t get out much).

I’ve been discussing strategic philanthropy with several companies, a program that has a theme, reflects the company’s values and can be integrated with the general business. There is nothing self-serving about building a pipeline of educated professionals and talented technicians by serving poor and underrepresented young people in a nationwide education mentoring program (the Rutgers Future Scholars program could be adopted nationwide, and Rutgers is an AAU research institution, so it is doing the research to understand how).

The kind of pressure that took years to create during the civil-rights era now takes days. What I’ve observed is that furtive and hateful things burrow underground, while the opposite struggles for sunlight. But what I’ve also found is that, although evil is not sustainable, it is well organized—while forces for the good often devolve their conversations into arguments over jargon. (Is it “I&D” “D&I” “DNI” Just “I”) Trayvon was murdered by a man with a troubled background who was empowered by a law that needs to be repealed. The force of the social media has taken the lead and traditional media is following. The lessons here for business are clear.

Ask the White Guy: Decision Making, Clarity of Values & What to Do When It Goes Horribly Wrong

Are you violating your values If you are, you can’t hide from the repercussions.

Is This the End of Rush Limbaugh Advertisers Flee Show

Rush Limbaugh learns the hard way after his “slut” comment that in today’s social-media world, negative reactions are swift.

Lessons on Values From Ellen & JCPenney

JCPenney’s support of Ellen DeGeneres after an attack by an anti-gay organization is a case study in clarity of values and CEO support.

Why Julie Goodridge Might Be the Scariest Person in Investment Banking

With an all-woman socially responsible investment firm, the head of NorthStar Asset Management is a force to be reckoned with in corporate America. What does she look for when assessing companies’ values—and who is under her microscope

Rutgers Future Scholars Enhances Talent Pipelines With Corporate-Student Outreach

An event with Ernst & Young served to inspire students from low-income families to become the next generation of accounting professionals.

Latest News

woke politics

Republicans Launch a War on ‘Woke’ Politics in Hopes of Big Legislative Wins in 2022

In 2020, former President Barack Obama warned that the phrase “Defund the Police” could become a dangerous rallying cry for the conservative right. But now, Republicans have apparently taken that warning one step further, declaring war on all things “woke.” Allan Smith and Sahil Kapur of NBC News wrote that…

women in politics

Women Remain Vastly Underrepresented in Local Government, Despite Conventional Wisdom Suggesting Otherwise

Vice President Kamala Harris and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi sat behind President Biden during his first speech to a joint session of Congress on April 28 — representing the first time two women held such important and high-ranking political offices. Even after such a historic moment, the reality…

voter restriction

Florida Follows Georgia’s Lead, Approves Racist Anti-Voter Restrictions Aimed Primarily at Democrats and People of Color

Not content with letting Georgia be the only state in the South demonized for its bigoted and racist attacks on voter rights, Florida has jumped into the fray in issuing its own series of new and highly controversial “Jim Crow-esque” anti-voting restrictions aimed specifically at disenfranchising Democrats and voters of…

Kentucky Derby

Inspired by Protests Over Breonna Taylor’s Death, Humana and Kentucky Derby Festival Launch Diversity and Inclusion Initiative in Louisville

Ahead of the 147th Kentucky Derby on Saturday, May 1, Kentucky Derby officials and Humana (No. 25 on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2020) have announced a new equity initiative meant to make the race more accessible and welcoming to everyone, regardless of race, gender, age…

crimes against human ity

‘Crime Against Humanity’; Global Report Says the US Should Be Prosecuted in International Criminal Court for Ongoing Police Murders of Black Americans

In what has been described as a “devastating” report, human rights experts and lawyers have investigated and released a 188-page analysis of the ongoing police brutality and killing of Black Americans in the U.S. Their verdict: the country is guilty of “crimes against humanity” and should be prosecuted for its…

Tokyo, Olympics

Tokyo Olympics to Encourage Significant Increase in Gender Equality Among Event’s Corporate Sponsors

Besides simply being a showcase for some of the most talented and athletic men and women on the planet, the organizers of the Tokyo Olympics are hoping their event this summer can also help promote significant change in corporate culture, both in Japan and around the globe. Bloomberg’s Ayai Tomisawa…