Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Thoughts on the Verdict of the George Zimmerman Trial

If you notice that black people are particularly solemn these days, it's not your imagination.

And yes...it is directly related to the trial of George Zimmerman. On July 13, a jury of six women acquitted him of the murder of Trayvon Martin. The verdict, while technically the correct one under Florida law, was affirmation of the deepest and most depressing suspicions of a great many African-Americans...that the even the lives of our children are not worthy of regard. Not even by the criminal justice system.

I wanted to document the thoughts I've had as our community has gone through this emotionally tumultuous weekend...

My initial reaction to the verdict was sadness. This, to me and for me, was a curious reaction and I tried to put my finger on the reason for my sadness. Then I realized why...I wasn't shocked.

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I have no problem with an attorney vigorously defending his or her client. If I were on trial for my freedom or my life, I'd want my lawyer to pull out all the stops. The Constitution says that such is my right as an American. But I get the impression that George Zimmerman's attorney's believed more in their client's innocence than the prosecution believed in his guilt. In many instances, they made the defense's job easy. 

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The verdict leaves us to draw two conclusions: 1) an unarmed boy, with no discernible history of violent behavior, quickly turned 'killer' within about four minutes, deciding to attack a man with gun. Or 2) Trayvon Martin committed suicide. 

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Robert Zimmerman says his brother George, had nothing to do with Trayvon Martin's death...does this now mean that George was acquitted because he wasn't there?

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One of Zimmerman's attorney's raised a question: 'Why wasn't Trayvon at home?' Trayvon didn't have to be at home. He had a Constitutional right to be where his parents gave him permission to go, to stay as long as they allowed him to stay and to come home when they expected him to come home. Does being 'at home' mean a black people have places where they 'don't belong'? Trayvon doesn't belong on the yard of a complex headed back to his father? A tenured Harvard Professor doesn't belong in his own house. The leader of the free world doesn't belong in the White House.

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The 'Stand Your Ground' defense used by the Zimmerman's attorneys suggested that he was defending himself out of fear of his life; is it 'reasonable' to assume that any 'harm' done to Zimmerman were the result of his standing his ground out of fear for his life?

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Marissa Alexander, a young black domestic violence victim who fired a warning shot to ward off her batterer...she got a 20 year sentence. Coupling this with the Zimmerman verdict, does this mean that black people can't defend themselves...even when their attacker is not harmed?

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We make historical comparisons all of the time: The Iraq War vs. the Viet Nam War; the Boston Bombing vs. the Oklahoma City Bombing; the Great Recession vs. the Great Depression. But when black people compare the murder of Trayvon Martin with the murder of Emmett Till, they are 'shushed'! Do whites consider racism dead because it is no longer publicly acceptable to wear hooded robes, burn crosses or block the doorways of universities? Do they really believe that racism is now relegated to impoliteness? Is it possible that they believe that some 350 years of chattel slavery, followed by 100 years of state sanctioned oppression and injustice has been wiped clean by 50-60 years of legislation and court ruling that they have spent at least 20 years trying to undo? How much longer will whites tell blacks that their comparisons don't matter? That their memories are to unpleasant to be visited on our more 'progressive' era. How long will blacks be told, 'Of course racism exists...it's just that nobody is racist. Only those who mention racism.'

How long will blacks be told that your cries for justice and equity, are too inconvenient? That calls for justice mean are the equivalent to calls for 'preference' or 'predetermined outcomes'? In other words, how can we reach a point of racial reconciliation, if whites don't even want to listen, unless the language and reflects only what makes them feel comfortable? Why is the history of racial injustice the only part of American history that we don't want to remember?

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The gun lobby and second amendment advocates who brought us the 'Stand Your Ground Laws' which are rippling throughout the states in our country, forget (or don't know), that rationale for the right to carry arms to defend themselves, is the exact same rationale that the original Black Panthers used to arm themselves, even to the point of providing citizen 'supervision' of police arrests. The response of the dominant culture then? Cries for gun control...

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I could go on. These are some of the thoughts I've had over the weekend. They're not new thoughts. Many I've expressed before. A year and half ago the cries among protesters was for an arrest, an investigation and, if warranted, a trial. Was the verdict reached in Sanford on July 13 the 'correct' one? Did the jury 'get it right'? Whites cling desperately to the need for 'law', 'order' and 'respect for authority', even to the point of tacitly investing some semblance of 'authority' in someone possessing absolutely no legal authority...if it keeps them 'safe'. Blacks are more suspicious of most of those, because within the memory of far too many of us, the systems which purportedly were meant to 'protect' us and our children, all too often left us more vulnerable and wounded. A 'correct' verdict in the Zimmerman trial may have been the right according to the letter of the law, but it may have done incalculable damage to the spirit of our nation. That's a sobering thought...



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