I could not help myself. I kept listening to the pundits, both last night and this morning.
I need to say that I do not respect the decision of the jury any more than the jury that acquitted the killers of Emmett Till should have had their decision respected. I realize that some lawyers need to say that they will respect the decision, but let us be clear that the decision was not only wrong, but was a travesty.
The other piece that has been repeatedly argued is that this was a case of self-defense and that the jury had to let Zimmerman off. So, just to get this straight, an unarmed, 17 year old young man is approached by an adult who is carrying a hand gun. Who should feel threatened?
We do not know what actually transpired in the moments prior to the murder of Martin, but every and any Black person in the USA knows the fury that is felt when we are harassed by whites and when our guilt is presumed. Whether this happens as a result of being profiled by the police or stopped in a department store, we know and feel the humiliation. We all know the anger that rises in us, and may literally rise in our throats in the form of bile. We know the impulse to strike out, whether verbally or physically, when we are the recipient of a major or minor form of racial aggression.
Whether Trayvon Martin hit Zimmerman first or not is actually irrelevant. That is the point that the jury ignored, and the TV commentators are walking around. What is relevant is that Martin had every right to be where he was and Zimmerman actually had no right to be infringing on Martin’s space, journey and rights.
Thus, when we hear this rubbish about self-defense we have to ask ourselves some powerful and pointed questions. For instance, if a black person is being approached by an angry white person, do they have the right to shoot and kill that angry white person because we have hundreds of years of experiences with what angry white people can do to Black people? Is that the implication of “Stand Your Ground?” I would guess not.
A friend reminded me this morning about the case of Marissa Alexander from Florida who fired a warning shot to hold off her alleged abusive husband. She tried to invoke the Stand Your Ground law only to be told that it did not apply. The jury convicted her and she was subject to mandatory sentencing, receiving 20 years.
Anyone who tries to suggest that the Zimmerman jury carefully and objectively weighed the evidence and could do nothing more than convict is living in a dream. The fact that this outrageous law can be applied arbitrarily and that the fundamental question of why an armed adult was approaching an unarmed 17 year old (after having been told to stay home by the police) were not together the deciding factors in this case demonstrates the depth of the injustice we have witnessed.
The Zimmerman acquittal should remind us that what we are experiencing at this moment in history is a 21st century version of the dispossession and disenfranchisement that African Americans received beginning in the late 19th century. It is not just the Zimmerman case. It is the attack on affirmative action along with the voter suppression efforts and the weakening of the Voting Rights Act. In the late 19th century the Southern ruling elite was desperately afraid of Black power and the potential for the Black and white poor to unite. Today, the political Right shares similar fears. They also fear the future. They fear the change in the demographics of the USA. They wish to turn back the clock and paralyze the movements for social justice that have been percolating in this country.
The Zimmerman acquittal, and the nonsensical efforts by pundits to justify it, is only part of a larger picture of what we should truly understand as an attempt at Jim Crow 2.0
We cannot let it happen and I know that we won’t.