During the height of the Civil Rights movement, Ella Josephine Baker said, “Until the killing of black men, black mothers’ sons, becomes as important to the rest of the country as the killing of a white mother’s son, we who believe in freedom cannot rest until this happens.”
That was in 1964.
Surely, Ms. Baker would be reminding us of that thought as the alleged killer of a 17-year old, unarmed African-American teen has still not been arrested.
George Zimmerman, who has said he shot young Trayvon Martin in self-defense, is free, and despite how difficult it is to believe how this tragedy could in any way have been self-defense, the authorities have chosen to believe him, saying there is “no probable cause” to arrest him.
It’s this sort of thing that taps into the rage of African-Americans, who for too long have been exploited and mistreated by the justice system. In fact, when it comes to African-Americans, historically there has been little real justice.
The foundation of America is one that was built on racism, and on the belief that African-Americans were not really human. It is documented history that African-Americans could be and were accused of crimes with very little to no evidence, and jailed and or executed for the same. No justice system, local, state, or national, seriously intervened to protect the rights of African-Americans.
The accused killers of young Emmet Till, Roy Bryant and John Milam, were acquitted by an all-white jury after only 67 minutes deliberation. It is recorded that one of the jurors said they would have announced the verdict sooner had they not stopped to drink a pop.
And then there are the countless numbers of unknown African-American youths and men who get swallowed up in the “justice” system on a daily basis, challenging the ability of the African-American community to believe in justice in this country.
In the case of Trayvon Martin, the claim that his murder was done in self-defense is as insulting as it is angering. The young man was walking to his house; Mr. Zimmerman obviously had to approach him. Because the 911 tapes have not been released, nobody can talk about what really happened, but it seems very clear that Mr. Zimmerman provoked an encounter with this young man.
So, why the hold up in arresting Zimmerman? Is it because, as Ella Baker and so many others have noted, that the life of an African-American, and the loss of that life, just isn’t a big deal to the powers that be? There is no overt racism, or not like there used to be, but this is racism, clearly and surely. What’s going on is saying to those who think that way that it is all right to kill someone who “looks suspicious.”
What is really being said is that it is still free season on the killing of African-Americans. Make up a reason, any reason, and go for it.
As I study the history of justice in this country for African-Americans, I just get sadder and sadder. This is a country that would not even declare lynching to be wrong. The lynching era in this country lasted from 1865 to 1920, and the United StatesCongress would not pass a law outlawing it.
Over and over, all-white juries convicted African-Americans with little to no proof, and crimes committed by white people toward blacks were pretty much ignored.
And so here we now sit, in the 21st century, with more of the same. An unarmed African-American male youth, who carried only Skittles and a can of iced tea, is dead, and nobody, I mean in the justice system, seems to care.
It is hard to watch, and even harder to admit that America still has a long way to go…Ella Baker’s words still ring true. We cannot rest; the killing of black men and black mothers’ sons is still not as important to the rest of the country is the killing of a white mother’s son.
A candid observation…