Internet / News / Politics / Race / TV

Heroes and Villains of the Trayvon Martin Trial

People are tired of talking about this. I’m not. The Internet once again reared its ugly neckbeard at the George Zimmerman ruling. What is most interesting to me are how specific communities responded. White communities were resigned to treat this case as an isolated incident, shrugging their shoulders and concluding that we will never know what truly happened the day Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin. Lots of people used the letter of the law as proof of Zimmerman’s innocence, using the term “legal” to mean “good,” when actually “legal” means “untouchable.”

So in a situation where a man follows a kid (not illegal), confronts and questions said kid (again not illegal), is assaulted by said kid (not illegal), and fears for his life because he is clearly losing this fight and acts in his own self defense (not illegal), what was the man's crime? It was his fault to follow and question this kid (putting himself in a dangerous, but not illegal position), but it was not his fault that the kid decided to assault him following said questioning.

It weirds me out that what matters in court is supposed to be the end all and be all for what actually matters. Like anyone can just point at the courts and say, “He was ruled innocent, end of discussion.” When you look at the numbers, what matters in court is inherently discriminatory. So sure, you can point to a single case and say this, but when you look at it as one of many similar cases, that’s not the way it appears. Which brings me to minority community reactions:

protests in NYC, LA, and Oakland

To most people who look at the ruling as a single case, the strong reactions from communities like Oakland, LA, NYC, and others look like overreactions. If you don’t understand, it’s because your history isn’t their history. We do not have shared experiences. There is a long list of cases just like Trayvon Martin’s which have led to a legitimate distrust with law enforcement in minority communities. Even today, Oakland spends more money on settling lawsuits caused by questionable and unconstitutional policing than any other city in the US. Laws that specifically harm minority communities are put in place all the time. One of the most notable being the Three-strikes law, which California and 25 other states have adopted, and which create a disproportionate number of minorities in prisons for petty crimes, leading to overcrowding and roughly $20,000 a year per incarcerated inmate. The law may not have been drafted with racist intent, but it led to a discriminatory outcome.

It’s not an over-exaggeration to say that the distrust of the American justice system is justified. But of the two groups of people I outlined, the first group that shrugs their shoulders at the ruling is the calm, rational group that lets the evidence decide the outcome in the court of law. The second group is the angry, emotional group that defends the other side simply because the other side was one of their own, and only knows how to express their dissatisfaction through violence and rioting.

Candlelight vigil for Martin

Or candlelight vigils.

This is how to turn a dead boy into a thug

Find a picture of him flipping off the camera. Maybe with both hands. Find a picture of him wearing a grill, or smoking weed. Ignore the fact that you know a dozen white girls from college who have pictures that look exactly like this all over Facebook. Find pictures that he took of himself doing any dumb thing a boy his age would do, and forget that you’ve seen them before in other contexts of non-thuggery. Focus on the “racism” that appears in the utterance of the word “cracker,” but not in the overt profiling of the victim, and be offended in the name of your oppressed cracker ancestors. Cite his not calling the police as reason to believe he is a criminal. Spread a false rumor that he assaulted a homeless man. Smear and denigrate his only witness with racially charged media coverage. Use totally unrelated information and anecdotes to paint a portrait of a dead kid who can’t even testify in defense of himself.

This is how to turn a murderer into a saint

Let everyone know that Zimmerman identifies as Latino, and so he can’t possibly be racist because everyone knows race relations are black and white. He voted for Obama and tutored black kids for Christ’s sake. Say the words “race bait” over and over until anyone who wants to have an honest conversation about racism in the justice system and law enforcement is just a race baiting anarchist trying to stir things up. Look to famous assholes on Twitter who also happen to be black, like Lupe Fiasco, to reinforce your opinion. Finally, a black man who gets that black people are outraged because they’re cowards. Talk about misleading statistics about black-on-black violence in America. Take note that Zimmerman once accused FL police of corruption, and therefore could not possibly be corrupt, himself. Defend Zimmerman’s racial profiling with the fact that there was a string of robberies in the neighborhood, so it was only natural to assume this kid was a thug instead of one of the 40% of black people who live in Sanford, FL. Insist that he had no other choice but to use self-defense, and ignore the half a dozen things he could have done differently. Find him lawfully innocent of second-degree murder and manslaughter.

Trayvon B. Martin: February 5, 1995 - February 26, 2012. Rest my son / Job well done

People are saying that this story should have never been reported on. I’m not sure how I feel about this. Is it worse that stories like this get swept under the rug every day, and that a number of people are still so trusting of the state? Or is it worse to report maliciously, divisively, and with intent to create a sensationalized image of these people? I want to say it’s better that we know. The more privileged America will not see “what the big deal is.” A good number of them will remember Trayvon Martin, after his death, only as a gangster in training, while holding Zimmerman in high esteem and feeling relief for his freedom and his family. But the rest of us will feel pain and anger for Martin’s family, whose son was killed by a bullet to the heart, from a man with a gun, and who will never get the closure, or the justice they so desire.

The ruling in the Trayvon Martin trial is not standalone for the people who are upset about it. It is another tick on a list of injustices where the law did not stand up for them, and even actively worked against them. It echoes the injustices against Rodney King, Sean Bell, Oscar Grant, Amadou Diallo, Timothy Thomas, Kathryn Johnston, and others who are unnamed. It convinces people that the law is not a public service to protect them, but a service to protect the state. However you approach Zimmerman’s innocence, pointing to the ruling itself and saying the law found him innocent is like telling everyone else OJ’s glove didn’t fit. We can discuss ad nauseum whether Martin’s murder was racially-motivated and never come up with an answer. But the jury system, the trial system, and law enforcement are all historically and incredibly bigoted, and it would be foolish of us to think the media, with its powers of manipulation, would not also take part.


4 thoughts on “Heroes and Villains of the Trayvon Martin Trial

  1. Pingback: Fruitvale Station: A Film About a Black Man | Be Young & Shut Up

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  3. Pingback: Hands Up, Don’t Shoot: Essential Reading on Mike Brown and Ferguson, Missouri | Be Young & Shut Up

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