The much-anticipated and long awaited for verdict is in: George Zimmerman, who shot and killed Trayvon Martin, is not guilty.
Zimmerman’s attorney, Mark O’Mara, said that the case should never have gone to trial; Don West, also on the defense team, said that the verdict assured that the tragedy (of Zimmerman being charged with a crime) didn’t become a travesty. Noticeably, there was very little, if any, compassion on the part of the defense team for the Martin family. Trayvon was again blamed for his own death, and O’Mara said, when answering a question on the case, that if Zimmerman had been black and Martin, white, that Zimmerman would never have been arrested.
While law officials were preparing for riots as we all waited for the verdict, many, especially African-Americans, were hoping for justice, and were fighting the fear that, once again, the life of an African-American would not be deemed worthless.
There seem to be two sets of beliefs surrounding the case: on one side, there are the people who believe that Trayvon Martin was the one acting in self-defense, a frightened, unarmed teen who knew someone was following him. Then there is the other side that believes that it was Zimmerman who acted in self-defense after Trayvon attacked him.
On the one side, people think it is perfectly understandable, if Trayvon attacked Zimmerman, because Zimmerman was following this young man, even though police told him not to do it, and was out of his car. Did Trayvon attack him while he was in his car, forcing him out to defend himself, or did Trayvon attack him once he was out of his car, because he felt threatened by Zimmerman? On the other side, the only thing that seemed to matter is that Trayvon attacked Zimmerman, banging his head against the concrete. That made Zimmerman’s actions justifiable. The jury has said it. It is so.
But it isn’t. There is something terribly wrong with the fact that there is this breach between the capacity of still too many whites to understand the rage that so many African-Americans feel in general, a rage that is massaged from its ever dormant state to active state when something like this happens. The all-too-familiar pain of having justice denied, historically, on the basis of skin color comes roaring back to the surface of the souls of people who have been beating the rage back for literally decades.
In 2012, the same year Zimmerman shot and killed Martin, a young African-American woman, Marissa Alexander was sentenced to 20 years in prison for shooting warning shots into the air to ward off her alleged abusive husband. A Jacksonville, Florida resident, Alexander cited the “Stand Your Ground” law because, she said, she was in fear for her life. (http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-201_162-57433184/fla-mom-gets-20-years-for-firing-warning-shots/) As Zimmerman was citing self-defense and that same law as the reason he shot Martin, Alexander’s plea for lenience on the basis of that same law was ignored.
It seemed inconsistent, unfair …wrong. If self-defense is the basis for using violence, and Alexander was defending herself against a person who was threatening to hurt her, then why is she in prison …and why is Zimmerman free? In other words, why does justice seem to apply more to white people than to African-Americans? And why don’t people understand that as that has been the case for African-Americans in this country historically that African-Americans have a yearning for justice that has consistently eluded them?
That cities were preparing for violence in the aftermath of the verdict shows that everyone knows that there is anger amongst African-Americans. A friend of mine tweeted last night that police helicopters were hovering all over Baltimore last night following the verdict. White people are aware that there is rage, but do they understand the reason for the rage, and if they do, do they care? Does O’Mara understand how absolutely horrid it was to hear him essentially blame Trayvon for his own death? Does he realize how insulting it was to hear him ask Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon’s mother, if it was possible that her son caused his own death? Zimmerman’s defense team all seemed to be blaming Trayvon for his own death.
Does the initial fear of Trayvon matter to them?
Apparently it does not and did not…and Trayvon’s life didn’t mean much, either. In the end, this kid was painted as some kind of trouble-maker, who should have just gone on home in spite of being followed. The fact that he was frightened because he was being followed didn’t matter! The fact that Zimmerman pegged him as a would-be criminal when he first saw him, based on, what …Trayvon’s appearance, or the fact that Trayvon’s appearance fed into Zimmerman’s biases – didn’t matter.
What it feels like is that it is still open season on black men in America. Zimmerman, acquitted, got the gun back that he used to kill Martin, and went home. Martin’s parents are left to deal with their pain at the apparent unfairness of the American judicial system.
And yes, that is a seedbed that produces anger, resentment, and a sense of hopelessness. Too often in our history, all-white juries have decided against freedom and justice for African-Americans. That is a fact.
And it is a painful,candid observation …