The murder of Trayvon Martin, the six weeks it took to arrest and charge his killer, George Zimmerman, and now the not guilty verdict, together paint a disgusting picture of the violently racist society we live in.
For those of us who never sympathized with Zimmerman, who see our child in Trayvon, or ourselves or our brother or our friends – sadly, this verdict was not surprising. We may have been hoping for a conviction, and felt a little shocked when it didn’t come. But we weren’t surprised when he got away with it because Zimmerman was let off the hook from beginning to end.
In his 911 call to the police, Zimmerman called Trayvon “a real suspicious guy.” He said “these fucking punks…these assholes – they always get away.” What made him suspicious, a fucking punk, an asshole who always gets away? Because he was black, with his hood up, walking home in the rain with a bag of Skittles. The Sanford, Florida cops, after repeatedly telling Zimmerman not to follow Trayvon and to stay in his car, didn’t even charge Zimmerman with a crime for six weeks. For Zimmerman, Trayvon was already guilty and shouldn’t get away, and the cops agreed with him.
Zimmerman – the racist, self-appointed neighborhood watch, cop wannabe – followed Trayvon, loaded gun on his belt, forced a confrontation, and then killed him, shooting him at point blank range. He claimed self-defense, and the police believed every word of it and he was able to go home only a few hours later.
There’s no question what the verdict would have been if Zimmerman were black and Trayvon were white. If Zimmerman is able to get off on self-defense then what did Trayvon do wrong? A stranger was following him all through the neighborhood in the dark. And then he got out of his car and walked towards him, with a loaded gun. At that point, Trayvon’s life was already being threatened. It’s safe to assume Trayvon was well aware of the racists in Sanford and thought this one was coming after him. So whether he fought back or not – he was justified in fighting Zimmerman off of him. Clearly the way it turned out, the only thing Trayvon could have done to stay alive would have been to kill Zimmerman. But if that were to have happened, Zimmerman would be dead and Trayvon would be alive but we can be sure no jury would have found him not guilty.
This verdict says to all of us, loud and clear: if you are a young black male in this society, then you are suspicious, guilty until proven otherwise, don’t have the right to be out of your neighborhood, and can be gunned down for walking down the wrong street. This is the violent racism that this verdict supports and reinforces.
And it’s not surprising when the jury was six women, all but one white, with the requirement to be on the jury that they had never heard of the case. What kind of secluded world did these women have to live in to be in Florida for over one year and never even hear of this case? A world where they must never even speak to anyone who is black, let alone see Trayvon as someone who could have been their son. They identified with Zimmerman. And Juror B37 even admitted this. She said: “I think all of us thought race did not play a role…We never had that discussion.” She thought “Zimmerman was a man who’s heart was in the right place…but Trayvon got mad and attacked him.”
Of course the jury didn’t think race played a role, of course they didn’t discuss it at all. These are women who are apparently oblivious to the racism in this society, women who see a young black male as suspicious, as someone who got angry and attacked a man who was innocently following him. If this is supposed to be justice, then there is no justice for young black men in this racist society.
The same racism was flaunted in our faces when Trayvon’s friend, Rachel Jeantel, who was on the phone with him before he was killed, had to testify. By the media and the defense attorneys, she was ridiculed and humiliated, her education made fun of, her language called broken English, her lifestyle called ghetto. This blatant display of racism was blasted all over the media, rubbed in our faces like a sick comedy show.
And now the case is over. The Obama administration and government spokespersons have repeatedly said, “the jury has spoken.” In other words, we’re supposed to get over it, get out of the streets, go home and move on. Well that’s exactly what we aren’t doing and won’t do. Over the weekend and in the past week, there have been protests in over one hundred cities across the country for people to demonstrate their outrage. We have a right to be angry – we should be angry.
And in the words of Trayvon Martin’s mother, Sabrina Fulton: “The verdict won’t stop here. This is another chapter on a different movement. Of course we’re hurting. Of course we’re shocked and disappointed. But that just means we have to roll up our sleeves and continue to fight.”