In 1991, 15-year-old Latasha Harlins walked into a liquor store to buy a bottle of orange juice; she was fatally shot. Twenty years later, Trayvon Martin was killed on his way home from a 7-11 with an iced tea and a package of skittles. He was 17. The shooters in both cases were not dealt jail time. And that’s not where the similarities end.
The perceived vulnerability of a young victim like Harlins or Martin is part of what spurs public outrage, says UCLA History Professor Brenda Stevenson. In her new book “The Contested Murder of Latasha Harlins,” she makes the case that the 15-year-old’s death was just as important to triggering the 1992 LA Riots as the more infamous beating of Rodney King by the LAPD. Why do some tragic events live in infamy while others are relegated to a sidebar? How will we remember the Sanford, Florida shooting in 20 years?
Stevenson spoke with Warren Olney about researching the shooting of Latasha Harlins and about the significant, though largely unmentioned, role that women played in both the Latasha Harlins and Trayvon Martin cases.