[I have received some very kind emails in response to my series of pieces on the George Zimmerman trials and his killing of Trayvon Martin. I have been following this case since the beginning and will continue to offer my thoughts and observations on it through to the duration.
Those essays here and on the Daily Kos have brought quite a few new readers to We Are Respectable Negroes. As I do during such moments, I inaugurate an informal fundraising drive.
I do not advertise or monetize my work here on WARN. I also choose not to run advertisements or sponsorship because I want to remain independent. Random monies thrown into the tip jar Paypal bucket are however always appreciated. My work here and elsewhere are labors of love. However, I never refuse encouragement.]
Is George Zimmerman innocent of murdering Trayvon Martin? Of course not. But do not forget that justice has little to do with matters of the law.
The yammering talking heads on TV, radio, and online, who are offering up commentary on the case, have for the most part, missed one essential and obvious fact about it.
There is not one "justice" system in the United States of America. There are multiple ones which reflect a given person's race and class. Poor people do not get rich people's justice. Black and brown folks do not get white folks' justice. The data on incarceration rates and disparate sentencing offers overwhelming support for those claims.
The prosecution has to prove "beyond a reasonable doubt" and a "preponderance of the evidence" that Zimmerman broke the law and murdered Trayvon Martin. In their pursuit of a conviction for second degree murder, the prosecution also has to demonstrate that Zimmerman acted with prejudice and a depraved mindset in his actions that rainy night.
The commentariat class have ignored an additional burden of proof for the prosecution's case.
In the (white) American psyche and collective consciousness black men are intimately linked to assumptions about criminality. Despite what the law would suggest, black men (and women) are assumed to be guilty until proven innocent. Moreover, black and brown folks received stiffer and more severe sentences than whites charged with the same crimes. Juries are also more likely to give the death penalty to people of color.
It also does not matter that aggregate crime statistics tell us almost nothing about a given person's propensity to commit a crime: in all, white racial "common sense" is made the rule of law despite how empirical data would suggest otherwise.
The assumption of existential criminality is a mountain and a burden which has historically proven so very difficult to surpass and overcome for black Americans. Save for a few voices who have pointed out the obvious, i.e. that Trayvon Martin had every right to stand his ground against a "creepy cracker" and stalker with a gun, such logic does not hold for Middle America, and those others drunken on the white racial frame, because their standing prior is that black men are vicious hoodlum thugs and giant Negroes who are "naturally" criminal and violent.
The thin blue line, both formal with a badge, and informal through vigilante killers like George Zimmerman, is not race neutral. Throughout American history, both have been cogs in the engine of power and white authority that have been used by the racial state to oppress, control, kill, and brutalize non-whites. A majority white jury faced with conflicting testimony, and where a black teenager was killed by a wannabe cop, will most certainly hedge their bets and follow their own deeply taught and acculturated fear of black men to its "logical conclusion."
Why? Better safe than sorry when it comes to policing and killing black folks lest he or she who pulls the trigger make a mistake, and "one of those fucking punks" gets away.
In keeping with the law, the jury will also ask themselves if George Zimmerman was "in fear of his life?" Of course he was. Black men, black women, black children, and black teenagers are lethal killers from birth.
What "reasonable" person wouldn't be afraid of them?
If cops routinely decide that black Americans who are holding harmless objects such as cell phones, house keys, and wallets as people are in fact armed with deadly objects, and thus as existential threat to be shot and killed, why would the jury in the Zimmerman trial not assume that Trayon Martin was in the wrong because he dared to defend himself?
You tell me.
If Trayvon Martin had surrender his human dignity and Constitutional rights to white authority and laid spread eagle on the ground and said "yes, boss" to George Zimmerman perhaps he would be alive today. What a bargain to choose. I for one am tempted to always choose resistance and perhaps death if it means maintaining my dignity. Because black Americans and other people of color have only "contingent citizenship" in these United States, we are forced to make such bargains. Dignity has its price.
What do you think the verdict in the George Zimmerman case will be? Sitting here, things looking mighty grim for Trayvon Martin.