No Justice for Black Slain

Sybrina Fulton the mother of Trayvon Martin speaks at Peace Fest in Forest Park on August 24 2014 in St Louis Missouri Fulton's teenage son was shot...    Sybrina Fulton, the mother of the late Trayvon Martin, will not see or taste justice for the murder of her son.

Her last hope for justice was wiped out today when she got news that federal prosecutors will not charge George Zimmerman with a hate crime. The case is closed. There will be no justice for Trayvon.

The families of Chris Kyle, the man on whose life the movie “American Sniper” was based, and his friend, Chad Littlefield, were elated after Eddie Ray Routh was found guilty of their murders and was sentenced to life without parole.

They praised the system. They praised God. They praised the reality of justice.

But Sybrina cannot praise the system. She and the parents of so many African-American people who have been slain by police have not gotten justice.

Black people slain by other black people are usually found guilty of their crimes. When people talk about black-on-black crime, they lift up an important and sad reality, but they also miss the point of those who protest about their family members slain by police.

Blacks who kill other blacks …go to jail. Police, be they white or black, seldom do. In fact, their actions are found to be justified far too often. In the case of Trayvon, his killer was not a police officer; George Zimmerman was and is a wanna-be, a vigilante of the worst sort. The fact is, however, is that he didn’t pay for what he did to Trayvon. Darren Wilson didn’t pay for what he did to Michael Brown. Daniel Pantaleo did not pay for what he did to Eric Garner.

The list of unpunished crimes against black people is long.

And the result is a whole lot of families who are living not only with the pain of losing their loved ones, but also with the heartbreak of not having gotten justice.

Everyone wants justice. Every human being, every mother, every family member …wants justice when their loved one is taken away by an act of violence or negligence or barbaric cruelty. Theologian James Cone shared his inability to understand how black people, lynched by hate-filled whites, could have survived. Not only were black people killed by mobs, but law enforcement officers were often part of those same mobs, or they looked the other way while the victims of lynching endured horrible deaths.

There was no justice. Nobody had to answer for those who were lynched. There were mock trials of whites accused of killing black people, and they were almost never found guilty. If they were found guilty they received paltry sentences. The idea of there being a need for justice for the killing of black people was a joke, and those who were actually accused of lynchable offenses knew it.

Not even the killers of Emmett Till were found guilty, in spite of overwhelming evidence that they had committed that horrific crime.

So, back then, during the heyday of obvious lynching …and now, as we witness more subtle lynching …the families left behind have lived and do live with a yearning for justice that just did not happen and will not happen.

The lack of justice says that black lives do not matter. They never have, not in this country and not in the world. People all over the world with black skin are objects of hatred and brutality …and there is seldom justice when they are killed.

Can a nation survive forever with a whole population base besieged by unhealed grief and growing anger? Does anyone doubt that these parents and family members have real reason to be angry and bitter? They are often are not …angry and bitter …but they are sad. Their spirits are forever weighed down by the grief that comes with not only a loved one murdered …but also with the frustration and disappointment that comes when the murderers of their loved ones stay free, walking the streets, doing what they want.

That has to be an unbearable pain. I cannot imagine how I would exist if one of my children – or any family member – were killed by someone and the justice system didn’t hold him or her accountable. The doling out of justice would be my only source of peace – and that peace would be tenuous …but at least with a conviction of the one who had taken my loved one out I would be able to breathe.

I don’t think the mothers of Trayvon and Eric and Michael …can breathe, not easily.

No justice, no peace. An irritated white friend of mine once challenged me when I said that. “Are you an anarchist?” he asked. “Is that a threat?”

No, I said. It’s a statement of fact. When there is no justice …there is no peace.

A candid observation …

God Bless the Parents Who Will Not Faint

God bless the parents.

God bless the parents of children who have been wronged, misunderstood, who have disappeared…and who have been murdered.

God bless them because they will not give up.

Their quest for justice is Biblical in its tenacity.  It is so powerful to watch, but it is a space, a place, that no parent wants.

Their quest for justice is driven by their love for their children, which will not be crushed by injustice and those who feed them paltry stories that they are supposed to take lying down.

It is Biblical.

In the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 18:1, the  “parable of  the persistent widow,” it reads, “Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. 2He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. 3And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.”

The parents of Kendrick Johnson have been praying and working for justice since their son died.  The story of Kendrick squeezing his body into a rolled up wrestling mat just did not make sense.  Authorities told them he had died accidentally and the case was closed. The authorities “neither feared God nor what people thought.” People in power are sometimes, perhaps often,  like that, and in America, as concerns black people dying, authorities have been able to stonewall those who have sought justice and get away with it for years. “We the people” are really supposed to sit down and shut up and just take what we’re given, and many times, we acquiesce, probably most often because we do not have the financial resources to proceed.

But sometimes, no matter the cost, acquiescence is not an option. Sometimes, a situation screams for someone to fight for justice and truth. Sometimes, a crazy faith has to kick in that “the Lord will make a way” some way…and “we the people,” aka, “the persistent widow,” put ourselves out there and do what we must as we plead,”Grant me justice against my adversary.”

The parents of Kendrick Johnson have been sitting outside the state house in Valdosta, Georgia for months, “bothering” their adversary, the justice system of Lowndes County, for …justice.  In a story which appeared on the CNN blog, reporters noted:

For months, the family’s quest for answers went nowhere. It took until May for autopsy results to be issued, and then the sheriff’s office said the investigation had been closed.

The sheriff’s office and school officials resisted the family’s request to obtain school surveillance images and other records, citing state law that exempts the release of “education records of a minor child.”

After months of pursuing official answers and getting nowhere, they began staging daily rallies. (http://www.cnn.com/2013/10/31/justice/georgia-gym-mat-death/)

Even as the Johnson parents seek justice, Sybrina Fulton is still seeking justice in the death of her son, Trayvon Martin. She, too, faced her adversary, a non-sympathetic House panel, asking that something be done about “stand your ground” laws. In what feels like a slap in the face to an outside observer, I can only wonder how Ms. Fulton “held on” as she listened to Sen. Cruz defend “stand your ground,” saying that the law protects black people, too. (http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2013/10/29/ted-cruz-explains-to-trayvon-martins-mother-how-stand-your-ground-laws-help-protect-the-black-community-at-senate-hearing/)

I guess he doesn’t know, or hasn’t heard, about Marissa Alexander. She is the African-American woman who got sentenced to 20 years in prison for “standing her ground” and firing a shot into the air to protect herself.  That law did nothing to protect her.

But back to Sybrina Fulton, a mother whose heart must still burst with pain on a daily basis as she mourns the loss of her son, God bless her …God bless her because she will not stop. She is seeking justice.

There are other parents who have fought like gladiators for their children.  Consider Beth Holloway, who fought for justice in the disappearance of her daughter, Natalie.

Their stories remind us, as Jesus said, that “we ought to always pray and not give up.” Prayer becomes not an isolated mumbling of words to a deity in these cases; prayer becomes dynamic action, driven by love and fueled by a faith that can only be called crazy.

Yes…I am referring to “crazy faith,” that which I wrote about in my last book, Crazy Faith: Ordinary People; Extraordinary Lives. I am seeing it more and more.  “Crazy faith” means we “pray and not give up,” prayer that moves and causes others to move.

That’s what I am seeing in the parents of Kendrick Johnson and Trayvon Martin. I am sure there are others, many others. They are praying and not giving up. They will not faint.  The prophet Isaiah wrote, “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up on wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”

That is Biblical.  That is powerfully Biblical.

A candid observation …

Zimmerman’s Attorney has Offensive Strategy

 There are several things which are troubling about the George Zimmerman trial, but the most recent include blaming Trayvon Martin for his own death,  and making the case that because a toxicology report showed that he had marijuana in his system that he might have been behaving in such a way that may have forced Zimmerman to act in self-defense.

When Mark  O’Mara, Zimmerman’s attorney, said to Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon’s mother, that Trayvon may have caused his own death, it reminded me of countless trials where women, raped, were blamed in court, for their assault.  Because of what a woman wore, or how she carried herself, or her sexual history, defenders of rapists were quick to suggest – and, apparently, juries were just as quick to agree – that the woman brought about her attack. It has always been offensive to hear that in rape trials; it is equally as offensive to hear in this second-degree murder trial. Because Martin may have defended himself against a man whom he did not know who was following him, O’Mara is suggesting that Martin was the aggressor. His death, if the reasoning is followed, was his own fault.

It is a totally offensive premise and suggestion.

The second issue is the suggestion that the presence of marijuana in Martin’s blood somehow contributed to behavior which was suspicious. It is a ludicrous argument. If the presence of marijuana in one’s bloodstream made people act “suspicious” to the degree that he or she had to be followed and observed for possible criminal behavior, there would be few students in high schools or college. O’Mara is a brilliant attorney and is doing a good job for his client, but at what cost?

In an article that appeared on U.S. News on NBCNews.com in March, 2012, it was stated that an empty baggie that contained residue of marijuana was found in Martin’s locker at his high school. (http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/03/26/10872124-trayvon-martin-was-suspended-three-times-from-school?lite)  In that article, a family spokesman said that there was no substance found. Toxicology reports, however,  have apparently showed that the teen had marijuana in his system the day he was killed by Zimmerman.

In spite of research that shows that marijuana use does not make one aggressive – or indeed, has little effect on behavior at all, it is clear that O’Mara is going to make the case that young Martin was a “drug user,” lumping him in with those who use drugs that do in fact cause violent and aggressive behavior. It is no secret that young black youth are searched and punished for severely for marijuana possession, but that fact will be glossed over. It is also a fact that many teens use marijuana on a fairly regular basis.  In an article which came out in December, 2012, it was stated that :Marijuana use is holding steady among eighth, 10th- and 12th-graders in the United States.”  ( http://thechart.blogs.cnn.com/2012/12/19/marijuana-use-holds-steady-among-u-s-teens/) .It’s not just teens, the article stated; it’s kids as young as 8th grade! The article said that statistics proving marijuana use increase was gotten from studying 45,000 8th, 9th and 10th graders. In other words, a whole lot of kids smoke marijuana.

But O’Mara’s job is to get his client off, and it feels like there will be no justice for Martin. The young man will be made out to be a “druggie” who was probably, as Zimmerman said, “acting suspicious.”  Martin’s mother said in a TIME article in 2012, “They’ve killed my son. Now they’re trying to kill his reputation.” ( http://healthland.time.com/2012/03/27/did-marijuana-use-sentence-trayvon-martin-to-death/)

What O’Mara is doing is good defense attorney stuff – but it is offensive, as offensive as it is when defense attorneys defend rapists and suggest that the accusing woman brought about her own rape. If anything, it seems like George Zimmerman brought about this entire tragedy by following Trayvon when he was asked not to, but that point is not being argued very effectively by the prosecution.

As a mother, my heart aches for Sybrina Fulton, whose son is dead, and for Gladys Zimmerman, whose son is on trial, but my aching for Fulton is accompanied by anger and a sense of insult that Mark O’Mara has put in the minds of the jurors that all of this was Martin’s fault.

Just like women who have been raped have been reluctant to come forward for fear of a lack of justice, so have been black people been reluctant. Over the years, all-white juries have ignored evidence and convicted black people at will. The killers of Emmet Till got off when it was clear they had killed the young black boy. Mamie Till, Emmet’s mother, had the strength to stand in and through the cloud of injustice that served as the “trial” for her son’s killer’s…in spite of not receiving justice.  Emmet Till was thought to have caused his own death as well, by whistling at a white woman.

The verdict has yet to be announced. It may be that Zimmerman is convicted of something, if not second degree murder, then something, which will make it seem like justice has been done. That is the hope, but it is a dim hope as the defense works to Trayvon seem like a young black thug who brought about his own demise.

It is insulting.

A candid observation …