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NEWS

Trayvon Martin case is a black eye for Sanford

As public scrutiny mounts, the city of Sanford struggles with its reputation

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Jackson was raised in Sanford, and she says that, growing up, there was an ingrained sense of subtle racial separatism that permeated everything. She says she had friends who had Confederate flags on their cars and who thought it was normal for a city to be segregated not by law, but by habit.

“It's something that has always been there, and it's still there,” she says. “You have the black people living on their side of town and the white people live on their side. You have the black high school, Seminole, and the white high school, Lake Mary. And this was not during segregation time, this was in the 1980s, when I came up.”

There's also a sense, she says, not just in Sanford but in the media and the world in general, that there are two types of black people.

“My best friend in seventh grade was this white girl, and I remember we were talking about these other black girls, and she would say ‘oh, those niggers – but not you, you're not like that,'” Jackson says. “There's ‘this type' of black in some people's minds, and then there is the professional black. I'm an acceptable black.”

Martin's case has, so far, exposed both the best and the worst of race relations in the country. On one hand, it has unified thousands under a banner of demanding equal justice at the hands of law enforcement for all races. On the other, she says, it has brought out some divisive blame-the-victim tactics – those who rally around Trayvon's parents in demanding justice for their son are being accused of playing the race card, and those who resent the family's effort to get a fair shake for their son are slandering the teen in every venue possible. He's been the subject of Facebook memes that portray him – using a phony photo swiped from the Facebook album of a different kid named Trayvon Martin – as a wannabe gangsta. His high school discipline record, which documents typical teenage nonsense like writing on lockers and having an empty baggie containing marijuana residue – has been dissected as if it were the rap sheet of a career criminal. Despite the fact that he has no police record, haters are trying to paint him as a volatile kid deserving of the suspicion that Zimmerman had for him and that ultimately led to his death.

“They have a child who was a good child,” Jackson says. “He was not Jesus, but he was a good, average 17-year-old kid who was going to college, who had never been arrested, never been in jail, and he's turned into the face for every teenage thug out there, and it's not right. That's not the child that they raised.”

Martin's parents have come under attack as well, accused of playing the race card and of being opportunistic because they trademarked his name, which Jackson says was to prevent unscrupulous organizations or people who want to co-opt their son's killing to make money or spread hate or political messages. Justice for Trayvon, Jackson says, means just that.

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