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March 22nd, 2012
02:20 PM ET

A conversation on race and perception:’s Michael Skolnik on 'Million Hoodie March,' racial issues surrounding Trayvon Martin shooting

As the Trayvon Martin case continues to evolve, each day comes with more fallout in the story.

The latest: The Sanford community is turning on Police Chief Bill Lee, after 17-year-old Martin was killed by neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman. Overnight, after a rising tide of criticism, the Sanford City Commissioners voted 3 to 2 that they had no confidence in Lee, who has been on the job less than a year. At the same time, that national outcry of anger over the shooting is growing. Yesterday in Sanford, the NAACP held a forum for residents to complain about alleged abuse by the Sanford Police. Last night in New York City, Trayvon's parents joined a "Million Hoodie March" demanding that shooter George Zimmerman be arrested.

Today, Rev. Al Sharpton will lead a rally in Sanford, the Orlando suburb where Martin was shot. Later this afternoon, Justice Department officials will meet with the family of Trayvon Martin. And affiliate reports in Florida say school kids in Carroll City Senior High School in Miami have staged a walkout over the Trayvon Martin shooting.

This morning on Starting Point,'s Michael Skolnik talks about harnessing the power of social media to organize the 'Million Hoodie March.' He also had a frank discussion with our panelists Will Cain, Ryan Lizza and John Fugelsang about the racial issues surrounding the shooting.

"What's inspiring about our generation is that we now have the ability to organize ourselves," Skolnik says. "We can go to Twitter. We go to Facebook. We can go to YouTube. And we can start talking to each other and saying, look, we want to talk about this issue now. We don't have to wait for traditional media to talk about it. We don't have to wait for other folks to talk about it. We want to talk about it."

The conversation quickly turned to the racial issues surrounding the Trayvon Martin shooting, and whether it was a motivator behind Zimmerman's actions. Skolnik asserts that there's a perception problem in the U.S., where if an African-American male is seen in a hoodie, he may be immediately perceived as a threat.

Will Cain chimed in on the conversation, mentioning that another CNN contributor, Roland Martin, wondered off-air why white commentators aren't speaking out on the race issue in the Trayvon case. Cain asks, "I'm white. I'm a commentator, what do you want me to say right now?"

"What I want you to say is there is a problem in this country," Skolnik said. "It's an epidemic that young black men and young Latino men are being killed at a record rate. So, let's first recognize the problem. They say there is a problem."

In response to the conversation, CNN anchor Don Lemon wrote to the "Starting Point" staff, saying the message of the conversation resonated with him, and said it's not just young black men who are the subject of misperception.

"I'm 46 and it still happens to me," Lemon writes. "Headed to the gym now wearing sweats and a hoodie and people will flinch and grab their purses as I walk by. And that fear carries over into the workplace with perceived 'angry black man' syndrome. My frankness means I'm angry. Will Cain's frankness means he tells it like it is. It's real folks."

"Regardless of what happens with the Martin case, profiling is a very real, uncomfortable problem for America," Lemon adds. "Honestly many whites don't see it because they don't have to. They don't live it."

Join the conversation and share in the comments below.

Filed under: Race • Social media • Trayvon Martin
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