Nothing to see here.
I’m not surprised one bit by last week’s verdict in the infamous George Zimmerman trial. Disappointed? Yes. Surprised? No. Anyone with even a modest understanding of the law could have predicted the outcome. The predominately white jury. The burden of proof being on the state. One of the two guys in the case being just dead enough to not tell his side of the story. These were all solid predictors of the outcome. Still there was a small part of me who thought Zimmerman would be found responsible in some way or another. But, the evidence submitted by the state simply wasn’t strong enough to convict. I suppose at least that aspect of our legal system should be commended.
But at the end of the day, while I find some solace in knowing that justice was carried out to an extent by giving him a trial in the first place, I’m still a little numbed by the idea that taking a life can get so casually dismissed in a square as public as a courtroom. The verdict doesn’t make Zimmerman innocent of wrongdoing. We all know he wouldn’t have profiled a white teenager in that same situation. We all know he should have stayed in his car and not engaged Martin in the first place. We all know that he pulled his trigger, resulting in a young man’s death. But America decided that none of that mattered.
If you’ve been following my blog over the years, been my friend on Facebook, or followed me on Twitter, you understand how I operate. As much as possible, I avoid being – what my blogging mate “The Field Negro” calls – a race chaser. I’m very reluctant to automatically make things about race. In fact, I usually take it a step further by putting my own people on trial; challenging us to take more responsibility for our actions without resorting to pulling the race card. However, this case is chalked full of race. The predominately white jury, including a juror who clearly demonstrated misguided racial assumptions. The barrage of mocking and ridiculing of Rachel Jeantel. Demonizing Trayvon Martin and typecasting him as a thug in an attempt to justify his killing. Race was ALL OVER this trial. And whether or not people choose to believe it, Zimmerman’s acquittal sent a message to black America: a message that our lives are insignificant and can be taken away at a moment’s notice without consequence. Trayvon Martin has now joined the ranks of Oscar Grant, Sean Bell, and Amadou Diallo. In each of their cases, their blackness is crime; punishable by death. As it’s been the case time and time again in the past, this verdict ultimately concluded that another black person was a threat who was unfortunately – but very necessarily – eliminated. The verdict created a frightening precedent giving
wannabe cops and overzealous gun owners neighborhood watchmen the legal authority to profile unarmed black men and shoot them without fear of reprisal; so long as they claim self-defense.
I don’t have any children, perhaps I will someday. But I do have a Floridian nephew whom I love like my own son (true, “Stand Your Ground” laws show up in over half the country, but Florida always seems to make the headlines). I’m sincerely afraid for him. I’m afraid for my brother, my cousins, my friends, me…hell, any number of black men who can easily be lined up in the crosshairs and shot dead simply for “looking the part.” At this particular moment, I’m thankful that I don’t have a son. I couldn’t imagine what I’d tell him if he ever asked me about this case. As a father, how could I ever protect my son from meeting the same fate as Trayvon Martin? What can I do to make sure my son is not lying dead in the grass just because he was profiled, stalked, and approached by a trigger-happy person who already held some animus toward black youth? Should I just teach my son to always comply, keep his hands in site, and avoid wearing certain types of clothes? How can I explain to him that even following those steps could still lead to his death? Should I tell my son about the very real possibility that his death could be chalked up to self-defense, allowing his killer to walk free?
Do I tell him that many people in this society consider his life worthless?
What’s most saddening to me is that my feeling of worthlessness didn’t start with Trayvon Martin, nor does it end here. With every person we lose in the streets of
Afghanistan Flint, with every home broken up by a man selfishly walking away from his family, with every moment we disrespect our women, with every person who robs or hurts innocent people, I see the same message being projected as I did in the Zimmerman trial. I don’t hear “Guilty or not guilty.” I hear “You and people who look like you are worthless.”
I’m not the one to wear my emotions on my sleeve. But that is an extremely painful message to hear.