On July 13th 2013 in America, George Zimmerman was found “not guilty” of both murder and manslaughter in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman, a neighbourhood watchman in Sanford, Florida, shot Martin dead on the night of February 26th 2012. Martin was 17, black and unarmed. Zimmerman got a bloody nose and some scratches on his head and said it was self-defence.
Zimmerman, the son of a White American judge and a Peruvian American law clerk, was found not guilty by a jury of five white women and one mixed-race woman. It took them 16 hours and 20 minutes to come to a decision. From questions they asked the judge, it seems they were unsure whether the shooting was manslaughter or self-defence.
The defence lawyers who defended Zimmerman were happy, smiling, making jokes, ha-ha. They thought it was terrible that Zimmerman should have even been tried. They blamed the press for making Zimmerman into a “monster”, for making his life a living hell.
The prosecution lawyers, who lost the case, seemed happy that it was over. One was smiling. Another said that America has the best justice system in the world.
Geraldo Rivera on Fox News said the case should have never been tried, that Zimmerman was right to be suspicious of Martin, who was going home from 7-Eleven at seven at night armed with a bag of Skittles and Arizona Iced Tea. Oh, right, and the sidewalk.
Meanwhile Melissa Harris-Perry on MSNBC looked ashen. All the regular cheer had drained from her face. Her words followed each other like bits of glass.
On Twitter was anger and sadness and bitterness, at least among those I follow.
It seemed like every white person was saying, “Race had nothing to do with it!” and “The jury has decided!”
And it seemed like every black person was turning his clock back to 1955. Post-racial was dead for good – if it was ever alive.
I have warned my sons long ago about the police. But what do I tell them (and myself) now about white men?
Black people in America are alone. Completely. All. Alone. The term “Black American” or “African American” is no longer a description but a cruel joke. Not “American” but, at best, “historically American”, meaning that America has been where they have lived for the past 395 years, but not home. Like how Trayvon was not home. Home free.
I thought Zimmerman would get off. I am on record on this blog saying that. So it came as no shock, no surprise. But still my bitterness got a little bit deeper. Just as it did after Troy Davis, after Katrina – and on and on all the way back to Eleanor Bumpurs, an old, unarmed black woman shot dead by the police in Harlem nearly 30 years ago. Each one a little knife in my heart, twisting, twisting, twisting. By twisted people.
I know, I know, this is supposed to be a Teaching Moment About Race. Fuck teaching moments. Fuck that.
- Read the first reactions to the verdict by commenters on this blog.
- Voting Rights Act of 1965 – this verdict comes right on top of the gutting of the VRA, one of the main pieces of the civil rights reforms of the 1950s and 1960s
- Emmett Till
- Trayvon Martin
- George Zimmerman
- Troy Davis