The extent of America’s racial prejudice against black people knows no bounds. A black teenager going home in the darkness of a rainy night, minding his own business, is attacked by a vigilante neighborhood watch commander with a loaded gun. And in the process of the teenager defending himself he is murdered by the man who admitted to police that he was stalking the teenager. The police that arrived on the scene interviewed the murderer and then allowed him to go home with his murder weapon citing no evidence to contradict his story that he was attacked and had to defend himself from an unarmed teenager who never had any encounter with the law. It wasn’t until people protested en masse the obvious travesty of injustice that the prosecutors in Florida got off their duff and investigated this murder for the crime it truly was. It took weeks, more than a month even, for the murderer to be held accountable and face a court of his peers for his reckless actions the night he killed an unarmed teenager.
Yesterday George Zimmerman was found not guilty for the murder of Trayvon Martin. Really, who’s surprised?
Court pundits are brushing off the verdict with the excuse that the state prosecutors failed to meet the bar necessary to prove their case. There wasn’t enough evidence. The smoking gun in Mr. Zimmerman’s hands that night simply wasn’t smoking enough. The lies and inconsistent stories told by Mr. Zimmerman in all the interviews he gave after the shooting did nothing to damage the credibility of his claims. And the fact that an unarmed black teenager was shot in the dark by a white man who admitted on the phone to police that he was following the boy for no other reason than he looked like he was up to no good walking home the way he was walking in his black skin. There just wasn’t enough evidence to convict.
The fact remains that George Zimmerman made assumptions of Trayvon Martin and the black teenager paid for those assumptions with his life. George Zimmerman made the choice to call police to report a suspicious person in his neighborhood and give recorded testimony over the phone about his actions in the past, present, and evidence of his intent in the near future. We heard Mr. Zimmerman on tape indicating his intent to stop another asshole from getting away as he was running after the boy. We know that when he was running after the boy he had a loaded gun. George Zimmerman created the series of events that led to the death of Trayvon Martin. It didn’t matter to any of the jurors that a grown man with a loaded weapon was following an unarmed black teenager in the dark going home after a nonchalant trip to the store for Skittles and iced tea.
Regardless of all the things that we all know as fact, the Zimmerman defense was the belief that there’s enough reasonable doubt to suspect that it was Trayvon Martin who attacked George Zimmerman and created the series of events that led to his death. The only evidence they had on their side to support this theory was the fact that Trayvon Martin was black. He had photos on the internet showing him with his shirt off, both middle fingers up with a grill in his teeth being stupid. A Facebook post is all it takes to give people enough reasonable doubt that a black kid did not deserve to be murdered while minding his own business.
The fact of the matter is that in our society a grown man packing a gun and hunting black people is a lot more acceptable than a black unarmed teenager in a hooded jacket minding his own business. Today, this morning, the simple truth we know is true has been reinforced one again. Just being black in these United States is a crime punishable by death. Black people need to realize the fact that we are unwitting and unwilling collaborators in a culture that demeans and devalues black people. A murdered black teenager has far less of a chance for justice in the United States than a fucking dog. Just go ask Michael Vick.
This morning, I am made even more aware that my son is no safer today than if he was born a hundred years ago in the Jim Crow south. We have a twenty first century real life reenactment of the court scene from To Kill a Mockingbird when the white prosecutor drives home the point that the defendant was black and therefore guilty of his crime despite the overwhelming amount of evidence that proved he was innocent. That evidence could not overcome people’s prejudice that black people are not trustworthy and black people are criminals no matter what.
This morning there are a plenty of comments going back and forth over the verdict. Many people recognize this injustice for what it is. Many people celebrate the verdict as an affirmation that our justice system works. Some people are truly jubilant of the outcome. I suspect that the celebration is for no other reason than the verdict reaffirms their racial identity of cultural superiority. If Trayvon Martin has simply gone home that night he would have lived another day. Let’s not forget that he was going home until George Zimmerman stopped him. He shouldn’t have worn a hooded jacket, the way many kids these days where hooded outfits especially when it’s raining. The clothing he wore didn’t matter because his skin would remain black. If Trayvon wore a tuxedo he would have been just as suspicious. The point is that the excuses don’t matter because the only thing that matters is that Trayvon was black.
Trayvon Martin was lynched that night. Somebody saw a black kid and that kid became a symbol of everything that had ever gone wrong in their neighborhood. In an instant, he became a symbol of all the crime that had gone unsolved in the area. There was no obvious explanation for him being there, so he didn’t belong and had to be stopped at all cost. And after he was stopped and it was revealed that he did belong there and he wasn’t a threat, people refused to acknowledge that he was a victim of somebody’s racism. There is no racism. If he had only behaved in a way that would have been less threatening. If only he had submitted. If only he had stayed in his place and answered the man’s questions with a yes sir or a no sir or a sir at the end of every answer demanded of him. And when a black person doesn’t submit, the consequences rest squarely on their shoulders no matter the outcome.