History professor discusses Trayvon Martin case, end of civil rights movement
Published: Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Updated: Sunday, September 16, 2012 14:09
Dr. Vibert White offered nods and handshakes as he entered into a crowded room in the Student Union Tuesday for a lecture on the Trayvon Martin case. Students and faculty filled chairs while others stood along the back of the room to hear Dr. White compare how the handling of the case is contributing to the demise of the Civil Rights Movement.
Through a series of slideshows, videos and impassioned narratives, Dr. White compared the civil rights rallies that followed the death of 17-year-old Martin to those that composed U.S. neighborhoods throughout the 1960s.
Trailing his examination, Dr. White, an associate professor in UCF’s history department, found one consequential feature missing from the recent demonstrations in Sanford—momentum.
“I took my class to the rally…[and there were] 200 people in [Allen Chapel], but there were over 2,000 young people outside. They weren’t listening to what Al and Jessie and the newscasters had to say. They wanted momentum,” White said.
But according to Dr. White, they didn’t get that kind of protest. Similar to the peacemakers who interjected themselves in the Civil Rights demonstrations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, Sanford had its own peacemakers to teach leaders how to demonstrate.
“They developed the objective, the momentum and the direction of the movement,” White said. “But how can a movement be by the people if it’s being paid for by the oppressors?”
According to Dr. White, this paradigm only leaves room for what he calls a “milk toast” civil rights movement, or one that shuts down the comments made by adamant African-American leaders like Angela Davis and Louis Farrakhan.
“The Al Sharpton you saw [in the 1960s] was a young, fired-up minister-activist…who would take up any cause of plight in the African community,” White said. “That Al Sharpton is not the one that came [to Sanford]. The one that came is the one who works for MSNBC, the one who really is now no more than a spokesperson for the Democratic party, the one who MSNBC just recently made a millionaire. So he speaks on a moderate tone, a conditioned tone.”
This idea of former radical leaders retaining restrained voices appealed to freshman Jennelle Mendes.
“I’m always interested to hear what people have to say about the Trayvon Martin case because there’s always so many different views of it,” the event management major said. “Hearing some things that I haven’t personally thought of before such as Jesse Jackson and how he went from being more radical to simmering down…was nice to hear about.”
Junior psychology major Meghan Bejarano was shocked to hear about the Civil Rights leaders’ newly controlled approaches.
“[Dr. White] viewed them as being conditioned and being a product of capitalism rather than like true leaders,” Bejarano said. “I was surprised to hear about his perspective.”
Equipping students like Bejarano and Mendes with the information needed to examine the social underpinnings of the case and the accompanying protests is particularly why Dr. White led the lecture.
“I saw that the whole Trayvon Martin case has become a side issue now,” White said. “It is no longer on the front pages of the media, no longer discussed within black circles or white circles. Since there has not been any real resolution, it should be something that we should continue to talk about, debate and analyze because…this is a reflection of our own society and who we are as a people.”