So now it has come to this. We have reentered a period of 1950s overt institutionalized racism. You cannot walk down a street minding your own business without being shot to death – if you are a black male teenager. And the perpetrator can be assured of getting off scot-free.
Trayvon Martin, a black teenager, was walking back from a convenience store, with some Skittles and a soft drink, to the home of his father’s fiancée. A place he had the right to be. And down a street on which he had the right to walk. He had the right to remain unaccosted in that activity.
George Zimmerman, a Hispanic, the man who shot and killed Trayvon Martin, was a loser cop wannabe, but who never could make the grade as a police academy candidate. He was someone who desperately wanted to be a hero. And he was also someone who had needlessly bothered the police countless times with unjustifiable calls about black people being in the neighborhood. His worldview is clear.
George Zimmerman was told by the police dispatcher to stay in his car and NOT to physically encounter Trayvon Martin. But he did just the opposite. I am sure that Trayvon Martin must have been terrified by this lone vigilante who was stalking him by car and on foot, and who would not leave him alone. And who accosted him and harassed him when he was simply walking home minding his own business. (An activity that used to be regarded as a sacred right in this country, and which Supreme Court Louis Brandeis called “the right to be left alone.”)
We will never know exactly what happened, but it is not unlikely that Zimmerman tried to detain or put Martin under citizen’s arrest pending the arrival of the police, and Martin effectively resisted that attempt, which he had every right to do as, whatever Zimmerman actually did, it was an illegal effort to interfere with Martin’s perfectly legal and peaceable walk home.
But according to the lowlife, Geraldo Rivera (the man who betrayed the position of our troops during the war in Iraq), it was Martin’s fault. He was “wearing a hoodie” and was therefore correctly presumed to be a “thug” and was therefore “responsible” for his fate and deserved whatever he got. Apparently, wearing a hoodie is the new equivalent of whistling at a white woman.
The Republican blame-the-victim culture is in full flower in this country. Blame the pregnant women. Blame the rape victims. Blame the sick people who have the nerve to expect health care. Blame the poor people who never had the chance, biologically, culturally, educationally, personally historically, to make something of themselves. Blame the gays for their societal ostracism by not agreeing, in the face of all evidence, that their orientation is a choice.
As part of the effort to eliminate any recognition that there really are victims of racism, Rush Limbaugh’s takeaway from the trial was that it is okay for white people such as himself to use the word “nigga” because black people use that word. (Think here of the spirited defense of Paula Deen for repeatedly calling black people “niggers.” Apparently that word is still acceptable in some white circles and is trying to become mainstream again.) The Fox News line, repeated over and over, was that most murders of blacks were committed by other blacks. (Yes, and most murders of whites are committed by other whites.) These distracting tactics were a cynical attempt to ignore the real facts of one particular case. Not all murders were on trial here. Just one.
Apparently, the jurors (five whites and one Hispanic) thought that Zimmerman acted in self-defense and “stood his ground” under Florida law. Bravo to the defense lawyers, paid for by ultra-conservative Fox News show host, Sean Hannity. But there was no real evidence of self-defense. It was simply a fanciful and imaginary conclusion fed by racist stereotypes and blame-the-victim evidence that was allowed in by the judge at trial. The actual evidence showed that Martin never touched Zimmerman’s gun. It begs the question: where was Trayvon Martin’s right to stand his ground?
The facts – real facts – were that Trayvon was peaceably and legally walking home, that he had a right to be in the neighborhood, that he had the right to be left alone, and that George Zimmerman disobeyed police instructions and accosted Martin. If anyone got what they deserved, Geraldo, it was not Martin, it was Zimmerman.
The most one can hope for at this point is that both Zimmerman and the neighborhood association are subjected to enormous monetary judgments in a separate wrongful death lawsuit brought by Martin’s parents. A civil rights lawsuit brought by the Justice Department would appear to be a longshot.
When Emmett Till, a black teenager, was murdered in Mississippi for allegedly flirting with a white woman, the men who murdered him attached a large cotton gin fan to his neck to sink his body (while possibly still barely alive after being severely beaten, having an eye gouged out, and shot) in a river. They then laughed and laughed later after Till was found when they said, “Ain’t that just like a nigger, goin’ swimmin’ with a fan tied around his neck?” They were acquitted of all charges, and then, protected against double jeopardy, proudly admitted to Till’s murder in “Life” magazine.
Trayvon Martin’s crime was wearing a hoodie, and walking through a neighborhood where blacks were not welcome, and resisting the interference of those who sought to bring vigilante justice for such infractions. Trayvon Martin is the Emmett Till of our day.