In the aftermath of George Zimmerman’s acquittal for the murder of Trayvon Martin, we find ourselves still heartbroken, but hardly surprised. Shame on a country that leaves no one accountable for the murder of an unarmed 17-year-old kid who was doing nothing more than buying snacks.
Beyond the fact that I, too, hug my 13-year-old son a bit tighter these days, I’m not sure there’s much I can add that hasn’t already been eloquently said. Given that, one of the best things I thought Bold As Love Magazine could do is to give you quick survey of some of the superb writing and thinking that’s occured post verdict. Let’s get started:
As usual The Atlantic’s Ta-Nehisi Coates brilliantly breaks things down:
It is painful to say this: Trayvon Martin is not a miscarriage of American justice, but American justice itself. This is not our system malfunctioning. It is our system working as intended. To expect our juries, our schools, our police to single-handedly correct for this, is to look at the final play in the final minute of the final quarter and wonder why we couldn’t come back from twenty-four down.
Charles Blow of The New York Times wonders what, given the systemic failure, should he tell his own teenage boys:
The idea of universal suspicion without individual evidence is what Americans find abhorrent and what black men in America must constantly fight. It is pervasive in policing policies — like stop-and-frisk, and in this case neighborhood watch — regardless of the collateral damage done to the majority of innocents. It’s like burning down a house to rid it of mice.
As a parent, particularly a parent of black teenage boys, I am left with the question, “Now, what do I tell my boys?”
We used to say not to run in public because that might be seen as suspicious, like they’d stolen something. But according to Zimmerman, Martin drew his suspicion at least in part because he was walking too slowly.
So what do I tell my boys now? At what precise pace should a black man walk to avoid suspicion?
And can they ever stop walking away, or running away, and simply stand their ground? Can they become righteously indignant without being fatally wounded?
Is there anyplace safe enough, or any cargo innocent enough, for a black man in this country? Martin was where he was supposed to be — in a gated community — carrying candy and a canned drink.
The whole system failed Martin. What prevents it from failing my children, or yours?
As if anticipating the conversation that’s only been ramped up upon Zimmerman’s acquittal, over a year ago, MSNBC’s Toure wrote shared what he was subtitled, “Eight talking points about the potentially fatal condition of being black.”
Penn professor of Africana and Religious Studies Anthea Butler, in the wake of Zimmerman’s assertion that everything happened according to “God’s plan”, offered this thought-provoking piece: “The Zimmerman Acquittal: America’s Racist God”. Spot on.
One of the more heartbreaking posts after the acquittal was Amy Davidson’s New Yorker post, “What Should Trayvon Martin Have Done?”:
There is an echo, in what people say Martin should and shouldn’t have done, of what people say to women when bad things happen to them in dark places. Why did you walk that way, why were you out in the rain? Why did you walk in the direction of the man instead of running? Why did you think you had the privilege to go out and get candy for a child? You didn’t; you should have known. It shouldn’t be that way. A woman should be able to walk on a dark street in Florida, or anywhere. That she might not be able to doesn’t make a similar restraint on Martin any more reasonable—one injustice doesn’t vindicate another—and, in a way, only adds to the pain. One of the answers, among the most mortifying, and rightly underlying the rage at the verdict, is that Trayvon Martin wasn’t supposed to act like a man.
He wasn’t quite one, yet. He was a child, who had just turned seventeen. He was learning how to be a man—and he had some reasonable guides in his parents, as we have learned through watching their utter dignity throughout the trial. That night, though, Martin was just guessing.
Guns and violence are a part of America’s cultural identity, writes The New Yorker’s Adam Gopnik:
. . .it’s part of the cultural foundation of the country. Stand Your Ground, as it’s called now, or “no duty to retreat,” as it was called back in the day, is irrational, because it’s meant to be. Attorney General Eric Holder’s blasting of Stand Your Ground strikes something deep seated, no matter how twisted. Those of us who are haunted by the sight of violence struggle to understand why, in the face of so much evidence, irrationality is allowed to rule. Lincoln’s answer was that it’s because the symbolic identity that guns provide matters more than the rational calculation of the harm that they do.
What we know now is that race matters a lot in “Stand Your Ground” cases. Check out this detailed article by urban studies theorist Richard Florida, where he writes:
Race also plays a role in Roman’s analysis, suggesting that the Zimmerman verdict is hardly unique. The data give credence to claims that such laws introduce bias against black victims and in favor of white shooters, as many have contended. In cases where the shooter was black and the victim white, there was hardly any difference between “Stand Your Ground” and other states: Only 1.4 percent of these homicides were deemed justified in “Stand Your Ground” states, in comparison to 1.1 percent in states without a statute. But, the situation is substantially different when the roles, and races, of shooter and victim are reversed. For murders with a white shooter and a black victim, 16.9 percent were ruled justified in “Stand Your Ground” states. Only 9.5 percent were in states that have no “Stand Your Ground” law on the books.
And for all the talk of black riots, there were none. After all, writes Salon’s Edward Wyckoff Williams, our real problem is white rage. Specifically:
The paradox of being implicitly excluded from the guarantee of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness has been reiterated and reinforced by public policy and social malaise for centuries. President Barack Obama is not immune — as he’s become the target of incessant “white rage”: race-baiting attacks, prejudice and bias even prior to his election. The Republican Party and its neo-Confederate Tea Party wing has been committed to invalidating his political and legislative legacy as much as the Zimmerman jury invalidated the civil rights of Trayvon. The disparate precedent set, therefore, becomes all the more insulting when we’re told to simply shut up and bear it.
Williams then goes onto write: “Yet white rage is never articulated by America’s law enforcement as a reason to fear or strategically organize against. White males aren’t stopped by police in disproportionate numbers nor frisked before entering movie theaters and first-grade classrooms. But there are many angry white people out there.”
As radio host Jay Smooth tweeted:
The fundamental danger of an acquittal is not more riots, it is more George ZImmermans.
— jay smooth (@jsmooth995) July 13, 2013
So the struggle for equality and justice continues. Thanks to this verdict, America, I’m a little less sure we’ll ever get there.