Ta-Nehisi Coates in The Atlantic best describes the underlying societal attitudes and narratives that resulted in the acquittal of George Zimmerman. My own response is one of impotence and sadness. I’m so sorry for the parents of Trayvon Martin. They had to fight to get this trial, endure the criminalization of their 17-year-old son and then not only watch Zimmerman get away with murder, but the preening of his legal team and their “spiking the ball” after the trial, as though the death of Trayvon was completely irrelevant. I’m sickened to the point of incoherence – there simply are no words.
The injustice inherent in the killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman was not authored by a jury given a weak case. The jury’s performance may be the least disturbing aspect of this entire affair. The injustice was authored by a country which has taken as its policy, for the lion share of its history, to erect a pariah class. The killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman is not an error in programming. It is the correct result of forces we set in motion years ago and have done very little to arrest.
One need only look the criminalization of Martin across the country. Perhaps you have been lucky enough to not receive the above “portrait” of Trayvon Martin and its accompanying text. The portrait is actually of a 32-year old man. Perhaps you were lucky enough to not see the Trayvon Martin imagery used for target practice (by law enforcement, no less.) Perhaps you did not see the iPhone games. Or maybe you missed the theory presently being floated by Zimmerman’s family that Martin was a gun-runner and drug-dealer in training, that texts and tweets he sent mark him as a criminal in waiting. Or the theory floated that the mere donning of a hoodie marks you a thug, leaving one wondering why this guy is a criminal and this one is not.
We have spent much of this year outlining the ways in which American policy has placed black people outside of the law. We are now being told that after having pursued such policies for 200 years, after codifying violence in slavery, after a people conceived in mass rape, after permitting the disenfranchisement of black people through violence, after Draft riots, after white-lines, white leagues, andred shirts, after terrorism, after standing aside for the better reduction ofRosewood and the improvement of Tulsa, after the coup d’etat in Wilmington, after Airport Homes and Cicero, after Ossian Sweet, after Arthur Lee McDuffie, after Anthony Baez, Amadou Diallo and Eleanor Bumpers, after Kathryn Johnston and the Danziger Bridge, that there are no ill effects, that we are pure, that we are just, that we are clean. Our sense of self is incredible. We believe ourselves to have inherited all of Jefferson’s love of freedom, but none of his affection for white supremacy.
You should not be troubled that George Zimmerman “got away” with the killing of Trayvon Martin, you should be troubled that you live in a country that ensures that Trayvon Martin will happen.
A glimpse at those forces (SYG – Stand Your Ground):
When you have a society that takes at its founding the hatred and degradation of a people, when that society inscribes that degradation in its most hallowed document, and continues to inscribe hatred in its laws and policies, it is fantastic to believe that its citizens will derive no ill messaging. 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. To paraphrase a great man: We are what our record says we are. How can we sensibly expect different?