The Zimmerman Verdict and Black Anger

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 …

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10 thoughts on “The Zimmerman Verdict and Black Anger

  1. When I heard the verdict…I got a knot in my stomach. A flood of feeling of anger and rage hit me like a blizzard….This is outrageous and this verdict should be placed in a dictionary right next to the word…Injustice!!
    I agree with your candid observation. The way I read the facts…it was Trayvon who was in imminent danger!! How can someone who followed a so called “suspicious” person, start a confrontation, kill the person they followed, and successfully claim they acted in self defense!! It is often said that justice is blind…in this case justice did not put in an appearance.
    The prosecution did an inadequate job, did not prove the elements of the crime, and basically gutted the teeth out of their own case!
    This will join the list of infamous verdicts!

  2. It most certainly will be on that list. It remains to be seen its impact on our American life as concerns race and justice.

  3. I’ve seen the misconception around the Alexander case so much, and it keeps getting corrected, yet it still keeps cropping up.

    First, Zimmerman’s attornies never used the SYG law. They didn’t even have one hearing about it. It was mentioned in the pretrial but never amounted to anything. It’s a common misconception but widespread.

    Second, Alexander’s ‘warning shots’ were not warning shots. According to the 911 call (from her estranged husband) you can hear her say something to the effect ‘I have something for you’ or ‘Here is something for you’ before pulling the trigger. The children, according to the police reports, corraborate the story.

    Moreover, as is corroborated by the children, she went to a jointly held house that was currently being inhabited (per the mutual restraining orders) by her husband. She was there to drop off the kids. Yet, somehow, she argues that she went into this house she legally couldn’t enter (obvi, she knew he was in the house) and, somehow, locked herself into the bathroom because she was so frightened of her husband. Then her husband attacked her because, well, he just was really angry. Why? Who knows. There were no injuries on her according to the police report but no matter. She left the house to the garage, claims that she could not open the garage door (why she parked her car in a house she couldn’t enter, and how she got it in there in the first place is better not considered), grabbed a gun, and went back into the house after this heated argument.

    Then, after firing these so-called ‘warning shots,’ went back to her house and when the police arrived (Gray, her husband, had called the police when she was searching for her weapon) claimed that she had no idea why they were there.

    A peculiar statement as she had attacked her husband several times before this instance. She gave, needless to say, as good as she got.

    Frankly, these were not warning shots. They were the near misses of an estranged, angry woman who had not been trained in firearm usuage. The justice system worked.

  4. Thank you for your input. Everything I have read has said these warning shots. At the end of the day, even if she was using a firearm that she didn’t know how to use, she didn’t kill anyone. Unless and until I learn differently, I have to go with the stories and accounts I have read that say she was defending herself.
    Thank you again for your input! I appreciate it.

  5. The only reason the “Blacks” are upset with the verdict is because the majority are still in that “We were slaves” mentality. They do not care if a black kills another black but if a person who is not black kills a black well all hell breaks loose. The blacks of today have been taught by their elders that the white man used them as slaves and owes them for being treated so poorly. The slaves were treated poorly, but the whites of today do not have anything to do with the slavery that happened beginning in the 16th century. The Chinese were used as slaves as well and I don’t see them carrying on like the blacks. The blacks of today need to get that through their heads and quit blaming the whites and anybody else they can for everything that happens to them. Once they do that things will begin to change for them. Blacks need to quit being the victims and start being victors, then maybe there will be peace amongst all of the races.

    1. While I appreciate your input, I respectfully disagree with your assertion that the “only” reason black people are mad is because they are still in the “we were slaves” mentality. There is some truth to your observation that blacks are far too silent when it comes to blacks killing blacks, but when it comes to blacks seeking justice, the record has been dismal. The justice system didn’t even allow blacks to bring charges against white people, even when white people were clearly guilty of some crime against blacks. The record shows that there has been little justice for black people. That’s why there’s the anger. It’s documented. In spite of that, blacks on the whole have not succumbed to “victim” status; blacks have pushed through oppression and injustice and have made great strides. The fact that Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon’s mother, pushed for George Zimmerman to be arrested and tried for a crime speaks to the fact that she and so many others like her not being “victims” but fierce fighters. That’s the only way black people have been able to survive.
      On there needing to be more blacks helping to stem the tide of black-on-black crime, however, you are right. So much needs to be done to stop that reality.
      Thank you for sharing.

  6. This verdict was INFURIATING, INSULTING, and proof of the IGNORANCE of the six white jurors and the defense attorneys who now get to go back and live in their white privilege while the ‘angry black people’ cry out against this injustice. The fact that anyone could blame Trayvon for his own death when HE WAS BEING FOLLOWED is maddening. If George Zimmerman had never followed Trayvon Martin, there would’ve NEVER been an altercation, and Trayvon would be alive, period. Apparently, it is not alright for our black men to walk down the street in affluent areas OF WHICH THEY RESIDE, because there might be more George Zimmermans out there who think they look suspicious…why?? Because they are black men. America has always been threatened by their mere existence, and this is just proof that perhaps the days of the 1930s, 40s, and 50s are not so far behind us when a black man walking the street MINDING HIS OWN BUSINESS had to fear for his life because a white man shot, lynched, or otherwise harmed him simply because he was a black man. It is unbelievable that this country who wants to boast of being ‘post racial’, has succumb to its old ways.

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