Before we begin, let me tell you something. I am not going to pretty up what I have to say with political correctness or blanks. This is because I want to properly express my impression of the mindset behind the violent criminal act I am speculating about. If this bothers you, go elsewhere, please.
Publicised trials are a funny thing. In spits and spats, the public are doused in grim, puzzling, or even stupid details from the trial’s progress. And after months or even years, a verdict is handed down that is pored over for years afterwards, with people speculating on what led to the result.
George Zimmerman was acquitted within the last forty-eight hours of murdering a black seventeen year old male named Trayvon Martin. And already, people are up in arms. With good reason. Much like the case in the trial and acquittal of O.J. Simpson for a pair of rather gruesome murders, I fully expect there will be a statement from at least one legal expert that death sentences have been handed out with less evidence.
In fact, evidence was hardly needed. Zimmerman made no attempt to deny that he had shot Martin dead. None at all. Instead, he appealled for an acquittal on the basis of what are referred to as Stand Your Ground laws. I am no legal expert nor am I an American, so I can only state that Stand Your Ground sounds to me like a law allowing people to shoot and kill each other and proclaim self-defense on the flimsiest of pretexts. Indeed, people are already speculating that if you want to kill someone in America and get away with it, all you need do is start a fight with them, start to lose, shoot them, and proclaim that you were defending yourself.
There is no reason why Zimmerman even needed to shoot Martin. None at all. Zimmerman simply stalked Martin and shot him when Martin tried to object to being physically assaulted by Zimmerman. But after much chicanery by the defense, a jury consisting only of six women acquitted Zimmerman.
Right away, I have problems digesting that. It was my understanding that a jury was meant to consist of twelve people. So why were there only six in this one? Granted, I understand very little of the reasoning for either number, but I am also pretty certain that twelve being a greater number result in less “not guilty, let’s golf” verdicts like this one.
But that is not what I want to focus on here and now. It is my firm belief that Zimmerman won an acquittal simply by appealing to the racism of the jurors and the Florida legal system. Nothing can change that nor my view of what happened.
Instead, I would like you to take a look at this Fudgebook status post by Brian Shaughnessy that speaks of the verdict, its implications, and what they mean to him.
This verdict must be quite frightening to black folk in America of all ages and creeds. Six women have effectively told the America judicial system that a black boy’s life is worth less than that of a gentleman whom a number of idiots have mistaken for being white. Trust me, I know white. I am so white that if you put me at the bottom of a deep hole, I will glow. I am so white that I have had at least two distinct cases of skin cancer torn out before my 35th birthday. And whilst this might sound a lot like a line from O Brother, Where Art Thou?, next to my good self, George Zimmerman is about as white as Trayvon Martin.
This has a few implications, none of them good. First, if the predicted lynching of Zimmerman does occur, and I have exchanged words with a number of black folk who can testify to the long memory of their people, Zimmerman will simply be forgotten about. There might be a token trial or investigation, but he will simply be dismissed as another Hispanic man who stuck his nose where it was unwanted. Much like the jurors have done to Martin.
But this carries the even more disturbing implication that Zimmerman is simply a tool in a larger strategy. It is not a secret anymore that black folk are held to be of less value in American society. I doubt it ever really was to anyone who has seen enough of the world. But if a person of, shall we say, less than ubervolk status can stalk a black adolescent and gun him down without punishment, that means a person who is even only half as white as I am can do the same.
This has worrying implications when you consider how in the grip of the Heinleinian fantasy that an armed society is a polite one America truly is. Not only is America the most violent First World society in existence, it is that by quite some margin. In America, when adolescents gun down other adolescents in a school environment, it barely makes the news and just gets dismissed as yet another link in a long chain of senseless deaths from gun availability. To date, the society called Finland has had a total of two school shootings. That is right, two. Count them. One in 1989, the other in 2007.
The idea that a majority race could declare open season on a minority one anywhere in the First World but in America is absurd. But Florida has basically sent every racist organisation in its territory a message that it is perfectly okay to shoot black adolescents dead so long as a certain pattern of chicanery is followed.
As Brian writes in his post, every minority group’s parental units must at some point have to have a talk with their children about a most unpleasant subject. Namely, why they can expect to be treated at least in part as a second-class citizen, no matter how high up the ladder they get. Think about it. If a has-been, talentless, pissheadity-promoting asshole of a celebrity had called for people to arm themselves and wage a violent rebellion if Clinton, either Bush, or Reagan got elected for a second term, where do you think he would be now? Continuing to write music about his penis that nobody with a brain cares about? Or sitting in a cell somewhere nobody knows about with his penis ripped off and stuffed into his mouth?
So when that talk comes, the only modifier that Obama‘s presence in the White House really brings is
“Yes, son, you too could become President one day, but you will have to put up with a ton of obstructive bullshit and threats from people whose IQs match their shoe sizes”.
Leaving aside speculation or stories about what kind of President Obama has been, let us imagine for a moment what The Talk would be like for talker and talkee alike.
In fact, I do not need to imagine it, because in a very different and possibly more disheartening way, I have been through it. The way I got The Talk goes something like this. After twenty-five years of being treated like a piece of shit near a stop sign for reasons I could not figure, a rehabilitation consultant sat down and told me something that essentially amounted to my brain varying from the expected norm. After being told there were wonderful support options and hope out there for me now that I knew (a flat-out lie), learning more truthful things from people online, and learning about the enemy, I truly knew what it was like to feel like a second-class citizen. Sure, as I mentioned, I am white enough to look like just one of the guys to police officers and firemen alike. But as sites like this one prove, you do not need to be a different skin colour to have flat-out lies that might harm or kill you told about you every hour of every day.
So from that, I can imagine both how different and how similar The Talk would be between a black man and his little boy. The little boy must feel utterly horrified to know that because of the way his skin was designed to resist ultra-violet radiation, there are people in the world who will look upon him as inferior and unworthy. The father must feel upset, despaired, possibly even enraged that in spite of all the effort that was put up in the past sixty or so years, he has had to have this talk with his son.
Imagine having to tell your child that because of a characteristic neither of you can help, someone may be able to murder you and get let off with little more than a pat on the head. Not only that, but because of same characteristic, people who might be your best friends can expect to receive better treatment as a matter of course.
Based on that, Brian‘s memory of being told by his friend that calling said friend a nigger was an instant way to end the friendship is a damned powerful and sad reminder of how it is the attitude behind the words, not the words themselves, that do the harm. As Kruma Steward points out, the word is as much a reflection of the outsider’s attitude towards the black individual as it is a reflection of the black individual’s attitude towards themselves. No less a man than Richard Pryor, who had used the word with great frequency as part of his act, got up on stage towards the end of his life and said he was no longer going to use it because he went to Africa and realised after a while that he had not used it there because he had not seen one person there who fit its meaning.
As I have touched upon, Zimmerman is hardly white himself. Yet he, in his speculated ambitions to be a policeman, stalked and killed a teenage boy who just happens to be black. I have no idea what he was expecting to happen at the time. It is not as if the Hispanic population of America exactly have it easy, either. If they are not getting harassed by immigration officers, made to work for substandard wages, or being treated as if their ancestry makes them criminals by default, then they usually are either celebrities or not living in America. Zimmerman‘s belief that he is going to be allowed to sit at the table with the white and/or law enforcement folk for having shot a black teenage boy dead, if that is what drove this murder, could not be more mistaken.
In fact, the message from the white community in Florida probably will run something like
good job, spic, you wasted that little nigger, now go back to your corner and stick with your own kind
Which brings us to what would have happened if Trayvon Martin had been white. Or better yet, a white woman. Would Zimmerman be a free person today, going back to the gated community he believes he deserves a medal for defending? I doubt it. More likely he would have been in court for about two weeks before being thrown into a chair and a switch being flipped. As Jello Biafra once sang, go and trash a bank if you want to prove you have balls. In fact, given the manner in which O.J. Simpson proved that the American legal system is more biased toward money than race, we do not even need to say “imagine he was white”. This image on Derrick Jaxn‘s Fudgebook page says it best. Had Zimmerman killed Jaxn in 2007, he would be let off with a pat on the back. Had the same thing happened in 2012, Zimmerman would doubtless be begging for a life sentence.
That, friends and neighbours, is the problem. Money talks, and has been doing so both too much and too loudly during my lifetime.
To the Martin family, I would just like to say the following. I cannot understand your pain, only that it must be terrible beyond words. But if it is your hope that we live to see a day when justice is done for Trayvon and no more seventeen year olds are shot dead for being in someone’s neighbourhood with the “wrong” skin colour, then we have that much in common.
My faith in the Human species is gone.