Michael Dunn, George Zimmerman, and Fear

I wonder if any black person has ever had the benefit of  having a trial with an impartial jury.

The Sixth Amendment of the Constitution says that American citizens are entitled to a trial with an “impartial jury.” That  phrase has been interpreted as one having the right to a trial with a jury “by one’s peers.” That’s not exactly what the Constitution says. It says we’re supposed to have trials with an “impartial jury.”

I have long struggled with trials for black people that have had juries which were nearly all white. Because I thought the Constitution said we have a right to a jury of our peers, I have long thought that something was very wrong. Well, there’s a lot wrong, but for this moment, I just want to concentrate on the one thing I felt was wrong: Black people were NOT having trials with juries “of their peers.”

But along those same lines, black people have not had many trials with impartial juries, either. In the Dunn trial, there were four white men, four white women, two black women …one Asian woman and one Hispanic American. Were these jurors impartial? I don’t think so. Out of the total of 12 jurors, 8 were white. Impartial?  I cannot believe that they were.

Chris Cuomo of CNN interviewed George Zimmerman, who was acquitted of killing Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman, in spite of being free, is pouting. He says HE is a victim and was made a scapegoat by the government, naming the president and the attorney in general. Michael Dunn is amazed that he was convicted even of attempted second degree murder. He said from jail that he was attacked. Apparently, the juries believed both these men, that THEY were victims. I cannot believe that that the jurors who saw him as victim …are impartial.

White people are so often afraid of black people…just because they are black and because the media has been very effective in portraying black people as criminals.  Almost every black person I know has experienced a white person gripping her bag more tightly when she has seen a black person, primarily a black man, approaching her. It is a fact that one can be (and is) stopped just because he is black.  Statistics show that while blacks commit a large number of violent crimes, most of their victims tend to be black. A report done by CNN indicated that the most likely victim of black crime is a black male, 12-19 years old, and the least likely victim, a white male, ages 35-64.  Blacks, in relation to being only 12.5 percent of the population, commit “a disproportionate number of crimes,” but, the report said, “whites commit more crimes.” (http://money.cnn.com/magazines/moneymag/moneymag_archive/1994/06/01/88911/)

Blacks have been criminalized historically, something that began after Reconstruction, when white people in the South needed a way to get blacks back on the farms to do the work that would improve the South’s economy. Blacks could be arrested for the most petty things – like being outside too late, or walking on the wrong side of the railroad tracks, for loitering (even as they waited in line to get a job!) The message was being given that black people were bad, unworthy of freedom. That sentiment has persisted…

The overarching feeling of many whites, then, is that black people are bad and are to be feared, and fear drives white emotions, beliefs and actions. Why did the man in Dearborn, Michigan, shoot 19-year-old Renisha McBride in the face as she banged on his door in the wee hours of the morning seeking help? Because he was afraid. Why did the police officer shoot injured and unarmed Jonathan Ferrell as he ran toward police, seeking help? Because he was afraid.

Both Michael Dunn and George Zimmerman are murderers; they both shot unarmed black teens …but their actions were driven by fear and they had jurors who were ALSO afraid, or who know the fear of which they spoke, and in the cradle of that fear, acquitted these men of their crimes. The juries were NOT impartial. Fear prevented that.

When I hear Dunn and Zimmerman say they were victims, my blood boils. They were not victims of anything other than their own fear.  Fear leads people to insecurity and irrational actions…which is what we saw in the case of both these men.

Somebody on the Dunn jury was connecting with his/her own fear…and that’s what drove them. Dunn is still shocked that he was convicted of anything, given the scenario as he feels it happened. He was afraid of Jordan Davis, afraid of what he believes to be true of all black people. His fear, probably fed a bit by machismo, increased as Davis offered him an angry challenge to Dunn’s request that the teens turn down their money. Dunn  rode into that gas station with contempt for and fear of black people in his heart. He acted on both…and contrary to his sorry claim, he was NOT the victim; he was NOT attacked. That 17-year- old kid was the victim and was attacked and killed.

I get that. But the jury, which was NOT impartial, did not.

It’s a sorry and tragic shame, what has happened.

A candid observation …

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