Bill Thompson delivers speech on race relations after Trayvon Martin verdict

Credit: Getty Images
Credit: Getty Images

Saying the city has institutionalized George Zimmerman’s profiling of Trayvon Martin through stop-and-frisk, former city comptroller Bill Thompson gave a speech on race relations Sunday.

“Here in New York City, we have institutionalized Mr. Zimmerman’s suspicion with a policy that all but requires our police officers to treat young black and Latino men with suspicion, to stop them and frisk them because of the color of their skin,” Thompson said during a speech a non-denonminational black church in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.

“If our government profiles people because of skin color and treats them as potential criminals, how can we expect citizens to do any less?” Thompson said.

The only black candidate for mayor, Thompson spoke about race in the city two weeks after Zimmerman was found not guilty of murdering 17-year-old Martin in Florida. In the hours following the jury’s decision, Thompson tweeted Martin was killed because he was black. Though he was criticized by some politicians and pundits for the remark, Thompson reaffirmed that thought during the speech.

“George Zimmerman was suspicious of Trayvon because he was young and he was black,” Thompson said, adding the system “failed” his son, Martin and America.

Thompson said he was moved to speak after President Barack Obama’s speech. Thompson said he, like the president, will always be a black man.

Thompson rallied with the Rev. Al Sharpton and Martin’s mother at One Police Plaza last weekend, but said he’s also had “quiet conversations” with his family, including his son and two daughters, about the verdict.

While Thompson said he doesn’t think the government can stop racism, he thinks it can enable it “unintentionally.”

“The verdict in Florida was a verdict—but it was not the verdict,” Thompson said.

“Let the verdict of these days instead be this: that in protest on our streets, in quiet conversation with our families, or in the halls and chambers of our government, we will ask the hard questions, face the hard truths, and honor our fathers’ and mothers’ dreams,” he said.

Follow Anna Sanders on Twitter: @AnnaESanders


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