The verdict on American racism: What the murder of Trayvon Martin & the trial say about our “post-racial” society
July 15, 2013
Shock, horror and then rage. These were the feelings experienced by tens of thousands of people across the country as they struggled to comprehend the meaning of George Zimmerman’s acquittal. How could Zimmerman be free? It was he who stalked Trayvon Martin, confronted him, pulled out a gun and ultimately murdered the unarmed teenage boy.
Before the verdict was even determined, the mainstream media did its best to both whip up hysteria about the potential for riots in the event of a not-guilty verdict, while simultaneously broadcasting appeals to “respect” the system and whatever outcome was announced. These media-generated appeals helped to provide law enforcement with a cover to harass and intimidate protesters—and they once again shifted the blame for racially inspired violence onto the victims and away from the perpetrators.
The media might have instead performed a public service to publicize the new warning that has issued forth as a result of the outcome of this trial: It is open season on young Black men.
Trayvon Martin was killed in February 2012 because George Zimmerman decided he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Instead of Zimmerman being held accountable for his deadly act of racial profiling, Martin, his family and friends were put on trial, first in the media and then in the courtroom—and they were ultimately found guilty of being Black in a country where Black lives get next-to-no value nor respect.
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The facts surrounding this case, from its beginning to its shocking end, show the depth of racism in the United States—and yes, that’s a United States presided over by an African American president.
It took more than six weeks for George Zimmerman to even be arrested and charged with any crime, despite the fact that he had murdered an unarmed teenager who was doing nothing more than carrying Skittles and iced tea back from a convenience store.
The police immediately and instinctively accepted Zimmerman’s version of events—that he acted in self-defense. His arrest only came after weeks of protests that brought thousands of ordinary people into the streets to demand justice. The outcry was so widespread that even President Barack Obama to compelled make a sympathetic public statement about Martin.
The Zimmerman trial was supposed to show that the system could work in achieving justice for African Americans. Instead, lazy prosecutors—who are used to railroading boys like Trayvon—proved not to have the same vigor in prosecuting someone like Zimmerman. Meanwhile, Zimmerman’s attorneys methodically employed every racist stereotype about young Black men they could conjure up.
By the end of the trial, someone who didn’t know the facts of the case might have guessed that Martin profiled, chased and killed Zimmerman—not the other way around.
There are those who insist the outcome of the Zimmerman trial isn’t about race, but the intricacies of the law—about what’s permissible in court and other legal mumbo jumbo. But the Trayvon Martin case has proved once again how racism is woven into every aspect of the justice system, including the courtroom.
If anyone doubts the answer to the often-asked hypothetical question—what would the outcome have been if Martin was white and his killer African American—consider the case of Marissa Alexander.
Alexander is an African American resident of Jacksonville, Fla., who was put on trial in Florida—by the very same state attorney in charge of Zimmerman’s prosecution, in fact—for aggravated assault because she fired a warning shot into a wall in order to scare off an abusive husband. Alexander even used the same Florida “Stand Your Ground” defense that allows someone fearing for their life or safety to use a weapon in self-defense.
So what happened? Zimmerman was acquitted of any responsibility in the death of Trayvon Martin. Alexander, who was accused of firing a single warning shot that didn’t cause the least harm to anyone, was found guilty by a jury that deliberated just 12 minutes, and was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Justice in Florida is never color-blind.
As if a guilty verdict wasn’t horrifying enough, President Obama made a statement saying, “We are a nation of laws, and a jury has spoken” and recommended “calm reflection” without any mention of race.
All photos are from last night’s Justice4Trayvon rally in Union Square & march to Times Square in New York City. Crowd estimates were up to 10,000 people. By The People’s Record
For more photos from yesterday’s march, visit our Facebook. Videos will be posted later today.