In an emotional speech before members of Congress Wednesday, Tracy Martin, the father of slain Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, urged lawmakers to consider a "Trayvon Martin Act" to amend Florida's "stand your ground" law.
"Stand your ground" allows people to use physical force in self-defense without a duty to retreat and served as the backdrop in the recent "not guilty" verdict for George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Martin's son Trayvon, who was unarmed.
The "Trayvon Martin Act" would amend "stand your ground" to make it illegal for a person acting in self-defense if that person was the initial aggressor.
Martin said the act would help establish a future in which people "can't profile our children, shoot them in the heart and then say that you're defending yourself."
He received a standing ovation for his remarks from members of the Congressional Caucus on Black Men and Boys, which held a hearing Wednesday to examine the "status of black males" in America.
David Johns, executive director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans, argued to caucus members that the diminished status of black males in the U.S. depended in large part on the lack of access to early education.
But many others - both members of the caucus and those on the panel before them - argued that the problem for young black men in the U.S. was that they had their lives defined for them before they even got started.
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., a co-chair of the caucus, said that "black men today are clothed in stereotypes, as youth and finally as men." That sentiment was echoed by Michael Eric Dyson, the author of "Debating Race" and a sociology professor at Georgetown University, who argued that all black men live under suspicion, as evidenced by racial profiling, higher rates of incarceration and school expulsions for young black men.
"We are not here to have affirmative action for thugs," he said. "But we gotta stop demonizing our children."
Several lawmakers told Martin they would consider the "Trayvon Martin Act" or other ways of amending "stand your ground." Norton was among them, saying the law served as "a clear and present danger to black men."