OK. What is self-defense?
In the George Zimmerman trial, the defense is that George shot Trayvon Martin in self-defense. One witness last week said that Trayvon was on top of George Zimmerman. Proof, they say, that the horrific outcome of their encounter was self-defense.
But this is where I get stuck.
How can the incident have been self defense for George Zimmerman when it is HE who apparently followed Trayvon, in spite of being told by police not to do that? Did he get out of his car and approach Trayvon, or did Trayvon go over to his car and confront him? If Trayvon did that, then maybe we can say George was acting in self-defense.
But, unless I’ve missed it, nobody has said that. In fact, nobody has said how it is that George and Trayvon got into their encounter! Trayvon wasn’t shot and found at the side of George’s car. The pair was found on the grass. If Trayvon was on top, couldn’t that be indicative of Trayvon having had to fight for his life?
Though the criticism of Rachel Jeantel has been met with mixed reviews, and though her appearance in court was unpolished and unsophisticated, her testimony was consistent and honest. This young woman, it seems, would have had no problem saying that Trayvon encountered George, at his car. Her testimony, to the contrary, has her saying to Trayvon, “run!” From what I’ve read and heard so far, it just seems that George and Trayvon were fighting because George continued to follow Trayvon and finally, got out of his car. One wonders if that happened if Trayvon turned toward what was his father’s apartment, and George, fearing the teen was going to do something wrong, decided to stop him.
That some of the television defense attorneys seem so confident about this self-defense claim of Zimmerman is upsetting. There seems to be a great deal of disdain that the case became “political.” But the case begged closer examination from the start. In the history of law enforcement officers and black people, there have been far too many suspicious deaths and questionable arrests with no accountability from law enforcement. That ongoing reality in black, brown and poor neighborhoods has created a spirit of distrust of law enforcement …but in this case, it was law enforcement that told Zimmerman not to follow Trayvon, and it was a detective who wanted to arrest Zimmerman at the outset for manslaughter. In spite of the complaints that the case became “political,” it was a politicization that needed to happen. Zimmerman needed to be held accountable.
In the history of black people and the law, the latter has been woefully unjust. If one reads Michelle Alexander‘s The New Jim Crow, or reads the story of how Emmet Till‘s mother pressed for the world to see what the men who killed her son did, one gets a snippet of what has been a painful reality for black people. Historically, it didn’t matter that facts may have clearly indicated that a black person was innocent, or a law enforcement officer had clearly been wrong; blacks were declared guilty and sentenced to long prison terms or death; law enforcement officers went on doing what they had been doing. The system protected them, in a way no less heinous that the Catholic Church has protected priests who molested little boys. That is a hard reality, but a reality nonetheless. If one reads Slavery by Another Name it is again fascinating to see how black people were systematically criminalized as the Convict Lease System sought to have blacks continue to be available for hard labor, in spite of the fact that what was being done by law enforcement – in cahoots with industrial and agricultural enterprises – was illegal. Blacks do not cry salt-less tears; the pain wrought by being treated as criminals by a system which is supposed to mete out justice, is and has been, very real.
So, this case, in spite of the complaint of things being “political” needed to come to be. Trayvon’s parents demanded, rightfully so, that there be an arrest so that their son just didn’t disappear and be categorized as just another troubled, trouble-making black kid. Now, if this thing about self-defense can be clarified. Did Trayvon confront George at his car, or did Zimmerman get out of his car and confront Trayvon on the grass?
It is a small point, but one that will help some, like me, understand what really happened that evening. Without that, if Zimmerman is acquitted, there will be just another layer of hurt added to the already present history of hurt that black people have carried because of the injustice of the justice system when it comes to blacks.
That kind of hurt doesn’t go away. It represents a dream,deferred. The dream is that, in spite of racism, there can be justice for black people. Who was acting in self-defense, really? If we can get that cleared up, then maybe some of us who are not understanding how anyone can say that what has been described is or was a case of self-defense, can relax…and wait for justice.
A candid observation …