The Role of Philanthropy in the Trayvon Martin Case

Posted on 11 April 2012

As we mentioned in the past, the mission of this blog is to examine the intersection between philanthropy and society. Well, there hasn’t been a more publicized, polarizing story in our society recently than the Trayvon Martin shooting and, inevitably, philanthropy is now a significant aspect of the ongoing controversy.

Martin’s parents recently set up a foundation that raised $21,000 already “to support awareness of civil rights, social justice and the quality of life for young black men.”

The man who shot Martin, George Zimmerman, set up a website to communicate with his supporters and solicit funds for living expenses and legal fees.

Also, a Michigan teacher claims she was fired for organizing a student fundraiser in support of the Martin family.

So here, embedded in the nation’s most visible and polarizing story, we can see several different ways philanthropy impacts society. First, we have grieving parents using philanthropy to create an organization to combat what they feel is a social ill. On the other end of the spectrum, we have an individual using philanthropy as a means to support and legally defend himself. And caught up in the wake of it all, we have a teacher claiming she was fired for her philanthropic efforts related to the case.

The Martin case shows how we, as a society, use philanthropy to speak for us, to amplify our voices in a way few other methods can match. They say actions speak louder than words, but money bellows above both. Philanthropy brings like-minded people together, it strengthens the cause of each side of a debate, and – in one example – it can even lead to drastic repercussions. Philanthropy isn’t a right, and it’s not always altruistic. But it is a very powerful tool for people to express their views and impose their will on a situation.

In the Martin case, philanthropy is the means through which the principle players are galvanizing support and gaining strength for their goals. No other methods would have been as powerful.

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