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View Diary: Trayvon Martin: A teachable moment about institutional racism and subjectivity? (82 comments)

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  •  thank you (26+ / 0-)

    the hatred and fear of young black males is deeply pervasive in our media and society, and that seems to go unnoticed but it's an important distinction.

    •  Zimmerman stalked (10+ / 0-)

      this kid, confronted him with a gun in his hand. That's looking for trouble, not having trouble find you.

      And whether or not you might cross the street to avoid a group of people (black, white, green, purple) that seem "threatening" to you, the question is whether this shooter can claim self defense when he did the confronting and he - NOT the kid - had the gun.

      •  HamdenRice can correct me if I'm wrong (23+ / 0-)

        but I think you just made his/her point.  Because of institutionalized racism, there is no such thing as legal neutrality in the question of whether the shooter can claim self defense.  

        When you say: "[Whether] or not you might cross the street to avoid a group of people (black, white, green, purple)," you are effectively relativizing the race factor.  People of different ethnicities are not treated equally under the law.  We know what the legal principle guiding the investigation and trial (if even one is held) of Trayvon Martin's death should be.  HamdenRice argues that an ingrained perception about young AA men alters what is supposed to be a neutral set of principles regarding what constitutes self-defense and what constitutes an act of criminal aggression.

      •  You're right he has a weak case (19+ / 0-)

        I'll concede that.

        But so did the officers who beat Rodney King.  The defense lawyers slowed the tape down and kept asking the jury something like, "OK at this point, Mr. King seems to have raised his hand -- was it reasonable for the police to think he might still be resisting?"  That's not the exact phrasing, but the overall strategy.  

        In other words, even a black male being beaten to a pulp on the ground surrounded by officers, may be thought of as still a "threat" to a reasonable person as judged by average Americans.  I'm just pointing out that if the situation were the same and the victim was a 65 year old white woman, not even a Simi Valley jury would say that the officers' fears were reasonable.

        But I agree that Zimmerman probably blew his defense by following Martin.

        On the other hand, there's nothing illegal about following him.  The defense will probably try to "break" the whole chain of events into tiny events, and make everything that happened up to the point of confrontation irrelevant.

        Then when Zimmerman confronted Martin they'll say "Martin reached for his belt -- was Zimmerman's fear reasonable?"

        I'm not saying I agree with it or it will work -- just how perceptions of race and threat play into the viability of the defense.

        •  Zimmerman isn't a PO. (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          StrayCat, Avila, oldpunk, splintersawry

          Police officers routinely get away with abuses and murders because they're police officers. There's an entire system behind them, and they are indeed treated far differently in our justice system than civilians are. It's the nature of the system of police power delegated by governments. Which also enjoy quite a different set of 'rules' than we mere peons. I do not believe I've ever heard of a governmental system - even from way back in city-state days - that didn't designate to itself 'special' powers and privileges, conferable onto its surrogates and agents.

          I don't see that as necessarily "institutionalized racism," but as "institutionalized status." Above the law, so to speak, because laws are for the little people. At THAT point the prevailing prejudices of the culture in which the government operates take the fore. Hence "institutionalized racism" in our racist culture.

          This means any sub-group of the relatively powerless can be targeted. And history demonstrates that this is just what happens. I see the problem as much deeper than just that the specially privileged elites are racist. This whole "reasonable person" legal argument is a direct appeal to the racism of the jury.

          Other than that, yeah. Zimmerman doesn't have much of a defense.

        •  Re: a 65 year old white woman vs. Trayvon Martin (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          You have three factors in play there in your reasonableness test: racism, sexism, and ageism. Compare Trayvon Martin to a young white man wearing a hoodie and you have a more equivalent comparison. Is the young Black man likely to "be more suspicious" to a juror than the young Black man? If so, there's your racism right there. Is the young Black man likely to "be more suspicious" to a juror than a 65 year old Black man? That's ageism. And is a 17 year old Black man in a hoodie likely to "be more suspicious" than a 17 year old Black woman in the same garb? That's sexism. If the young Black woman is more likely to seem suspect, that too is sexism.

          My gut on this: to most jurors, the younger Black man is more likely to be someone they feel a "reasonable" person would be suspicious of than any of the alternates, which is racism, sexism, and ageism rolled up into one.

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          by Kitsap River on Thu Mar 22, 2012 at 04:30:19 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Nice one. This part, in particular, (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      orestes1963, Avila

      is very important:

      The jurors don't have to be bad people or individually prejudiced.  They don't even have to be white -- because the mainstream culture and media have scared black people of black people almost as much as they've scared white people of black people.  

      They simply have to be American -- to know what the typical American would think of a particular situation.  To know what the typical reasonable American would fear in the presence of a black male at night.  

      This is what some of us have tried to get across about institutional racism -- how nice white people can be a cog in it, how nice black people can be a cog in it.

      In another thread, some people have brought up the issue of Zimmerman's ethnicity, claiming that because he is said to be Hispanic, however that is defined, that this puts him in some kind of complicated relationship to white racism: that it couldn't "really" be about white-on-black racism as a consequence.

      But as you note, it isn't about the specific ethnicity or skin credentials of the individual perpetrating the violence. It is about their participation in, and derivation of authority from, a larger systemic mechanism of white privilege and institutionalized racism.

      The figure of the "reasonable" person here is crucial: Zimmerman is ultimately counting on the jury's complicity with a racialized conception of the "reasonable." This is made all the more relevant by the fact that the suburban gated community -- whatever its concrete racial demographics -- is an institution that, by its very definition, holds a siege mentality towards those deemed socially deviant or "other." There is a component of race- and class-based antagonism built into the very structure of the gated community, and its residents give tacit endorsement to that antagonism, through their very decision to reside there.

      I imagine that claim might annoy a lot of people. But we need to understand that the gated community, as an institution, follows in the wake of a long history of suburban segregation: the racial covenants that prevented many people of color (or even of Jewish ancestry) from purchasing property in particular neighborhoods; the history of white flight to the suburbs during the postwar era; the proliferation of private security systems in tandem with the growth of a conservative "law and order" discourse, following from Richard Nixon and finding its apotheosis in the War on Drugs.

      Nothing requires a greater effort of thought than arguments to justify the rule of non-thought. -- Milan Kundera

      by Dale on Thu Mar 22, 2012 at 12:00:07 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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