Florida's Racist Past Helped Kill Trayvon

The state's black history provides clues to why George Zimmerman confronted the unarmed teen.

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Trayvon was a victim of a school system that compounds inefficiencies in their schools with hyper-testing. The exit exam for reading comprehension introduced in Florida's public schools was so inept that a student who earned Advanced Placement credit and a school board member with two master's degrees failed the exam, yet the exam was used to prevent countless black children from graduating. With these problems in education, it is no wonder that nearly 25 percent of black children in Florida are at least one grade level behind by the time they reach the ninth grade (the third worst state in the nation), which I derived from my original analysis of the American Community Survey using the Integrated Public Use Microdata Series.

Today, Florida has vestiges of racial hostility and racial inequalities produced by a legacy of opposition to black social advancement. However, Florida is an important state to black America. With its diverse population, historically black universities and high rates of civic engagement, Florida has the potential to advance a progressive black agenda.

Two hundred years ago black people built colonies in Florida, and the U.S. military came to kill them.  One hundred years ago black people built communities in Florida, and angry white mobs came to kill them. One year ago, a black teenager was just trying to live in Florida, and a hostile white vigilante came to kill him. The criminal case against George Zimmerman was not the first battle lost, nor the last battle we will fight in battleground Florida.

Ivory A. Toldson, Ph.D., is a tenured associate professor at Howard University, senior research analyst for the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, editor-in-chief of the Journal of Negro Education and contributing education editor at The Root. He can be contacted at itoldson@howard.edu. Follow him on Twitter. 

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Ivory A. Toldson, Ph.D., was appointed by President Barack Obama to be the deputy director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities. He is currently on leave from his position as associate professor at Howard University. He is also a contributing education editor for The Root. Follow him on Twitter.

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