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. ( 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 …

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 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. (  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.”  ( .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.” (

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 …


American Justice System Not Just for African-Americans

It’s hard for me to believe in the justice system in America.

The jury system has its good points, but juries have been wrong so often. I cannot shake the hunch that Troy Davis, executed last year, was innocent, but because a jury found him guilty, his fate was sealed. Before he ever got to the jury, though, he was a target in this American justice system which too often hones in on African-American males as “the” people who are always guilty, always to be wary of.

All one has to say is an African-American did something, and the “justice” system buys into the accusation. In the case of Trayvon Martin,  George Zimmerman’s claim that he acted in self-defense, despite the apparent evidence that he approached (stalked!) Trayvon, has resonated with people who are all too willing to too easily throw the book at African-Americans, throw them into jail, and throw the key to the jail away.

So many African-Americans, falsely accused or rightly arrested, are at the mercy of public defenders who too often seem not to care about the fate of their clients.Of course, many young offender, or those accused of offenses, do not help themselves by appearing in court dressed in sagging pants, bling, and other pieces of apparel that feed into stereotypes of who African-Americans are and what African-Americans do.

Everybody knows that it’s easy to get off, or at least get attention deflected from oneself, by pointing a finger at an African-American. Charles Stuart, the man who killed his pregnant wife and then blamed an anonymous black man, knew that, as did Susan Smith, the mother who drowned her two children but lied to the public, saying black men had done something to her children.

The fact of the matter is that, in America, we are still shackled by our past, our rabid, racist past, which will not go away. This country has been successful in setting up the prototype of the “bad black man,” and that image is a part of everybody’s psyche, black and white.

So, when a black and white person are in a skirmish, as in the case of  Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman, in spite of what appears to be pretty clear-cut evidence that Zimmerman approached Martin, there is this huge pool of doubt that this young, 17-year-old African-American youth could have possibly been pure as the driven snow. George Zimmerman’s claim that he acted in self-defense feeds into the fears of too many, that another “bad black person” acted up again. The media has quietly changed the picture of Zimmerman and Martin, Zimmerman’s from a person in an orange jump suit, looking kind of mean, and Martin looking quite innocent, in a tee-shirt, to Zimmerman, smiling, in a suit and Martin in a wool skull-cap, no smile evident.

It is the feeding of racism and racial stereotypes. Zimmerman has been given a bad rap, supporters say.

Never mind that if Zimmerman had been black, and Martin, an unarmed white teen, that the story would be different. Zimmerman would have been arrested on the spot, charged at least with second degree murder, maybe even first degree murder. There would have been no credence given to a claim of self-defense, cuts on head notwithstanding. And there would have either been high bail – maybe $500,000, or no bail, not this paltry $150,000  amount set by the judge today.

At the end of the day, the American justice system has its strengths, but when it comes to treating African-Americans justly, it falls very short, and always has, with few, yet important exceptions. Just today, Judge Greg Weeks of Fayetteville commuted the sentence of Marcus Robinson to life imprisonment, saying that racial bias played a part in the severity of his sentence. Robinson was accused and convicted of killing a white man.

Those types of “admission” of racism within our justice system, however, are few and far in-between. African-Americans still cannot find peace or assurance that within our justice system, they will in fact find justice.

A candid observation …

What If Trayvon Martin Was Standing HIS Ground?

The Sanford, Florida Police Department has said that it cannot arrest George Zimmerman for the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin because they cannot find probable cause. Zimmerman has claimed self-defense, and because he had a cut on the back of his head and appeared to have been roughed up, they are claiming that self-defense cannot be ruled out.

But what if it was Trayvon Martin who was standing HIS ground?

Consider the circumstances, as described by news reports. The young Martin is walking home, hood on his head, minding his business. He is spotted by Zimmerman, who calls 911 and says Martin looks “suspicious.” He starts following Martin in his car, although police tell him he doesn’t need to do that. The 911 tapes reveal that Zimmerman agrees to meet police at the front gate.

But Zimmerman continues to follow young Trayvon. I am sure that the youth knew he was being followed and became nervous. Then, for some reason, Zimmerman gets out of his car. The news reports do not say that Trayvon’s body was found next to Zimmerman’s car, which would have shown that Trayvon approached Zimmerman. Rather, Trayvon’s body was found on the grass not far from his stepfather’s home in the gated community.

That says to me that Zimmerman got out of his car and approached Trayvon. Wouldn’t that mean that Trayvon felt threatened, and fought with Zimmerman, probably frightened as well as angry? Doesn’t the place where Trayvon’s body was found tell a story of his having been approached, suddenly, by this unknown man who had been following him in his car?

How come the Sanford police are not considering this scenario, which, the more I think about it, is much more likely what happened. Perhaps Trayvon yelled out to Zimmerman while he was in his car, asking him why he was following him…but the way the incident has been described still indicate that Trayvon was approached and assaulted by Zimmerman, not the other way around.

The chief of the Sanford Police Department is frustrated that this case is generating so much attention. I am not surprised; it would have been much easier to just let this case shake out the way Zimmerman has said, with another African-American young male the sacrificial lamb, “one more again.”

This is racism at its ugliest. It is the type of incident that shakes the very souls of African-Americans in this country, who have made strides not because of this country, but in spite of it.

It is a moral outrage, and an insult, and a slap in the face that Zimmerman has not been arrested, and that nobody is certain that he will be. Larger, this case speaks volumes for the raging infection called racism that is eating away at America’s very core.

A candid observation …


No Justice, Not Yet

Authorities are saying that the murder of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was self-defense.

But few people are buying that explanation. This unarmed, African-American youth was walking home to his father’s house in a gated community in Sanford, Florida, when he was shot by a neighborhood watch captain, a man by the name of George Zimmerman.

To many onlookers, this case looks like another sidestepping of justice for an African-American.

Zimmerman was said to be white, but reports today say that he is Hispanic. Regardless, the case has enraged the African-American community, because Zimmerman has yet to be arrested. Police in Sanford say there is no probable cause, and the 911 tapes, which might help Martin’s anguished parents hear for themselves what happened, have not been released.

Today, a televangelist, Rev. Jamal Bryant, a preacher from Baltimore, Maryland, declared that people are going to “shut Florida down until justice” is done.

And I would suspect that Bryant’s expressed rage is just the tip of the iceberg. Black leaders in Florida are vowing to bring at least 1000 people to a City Council meeting in Sanford at the end of the month unless charges are filed against Martin’s alleged attacker.

The history in this country when it comes to African-Americans has been paltry at best; there always seems to be a reason for some unprovoked violence on a young man, and far too often, law enforcement officers and others who have murdered African-Americans have gotten off scott free.

Young Martin was wearing a hoodie when he was shot; as previously mentioned, he was unarmed. He was carrying a bag of Skittles and a can of iced tea. But for some reason, he appeared to be “suspicious” to Zimmerman. The gated community has signs up that “suspicious” persons will be reported to the police. Zimmerman apparently called police, but also apparently approached Martin. What happened next is unclear. The 911 tapes have not been released. But the aftermath of whatever happened is that young Martin was dead, shot once in the chest, allegedly by Zimmerman.

I am not an attorney, but it seems that if this was a case of self-defense, Martin would have had to have approached Zimmerman in a threatening way. Reports say that Martin was about 100 pounds lighter than Zimmerman. He was not armed. And…he had no reason to approach Zimmerman.

It seems far more likely that Zimmerman approached Martin and said something to him. Whatever was said, and however it was said, might have provoked an argument between the two…but then, what?

What is so disturbing about this case is that it is NOT unusual. African-American youths can look “threatening” or “suspicious” just by wearing a hoodie, where a white kid wearing the same hoodie might be ignored. A black kid wearing a hoodie in a gated community should not have in and of itself, however, made him a suspicious person. Yet it did, and far too often, black kids get pestered and even harassed because of the way they look.

The case reminds me of Amadou Diallo. In 1999, this young man from Guinea, West Africa, was shot 41 times and killed by four white officers who thought he was armed when he reached into a pocket. It turns out he was not; he only had a wallet in his pocket. He had been stopped by police because he resembled some other person, African-American, who was a serial rapist.

There it is again: he “looked” suspicious.

In the eyes of we on the outside, it feels like injustice is happening yet again in a case involving a young African-American male. Rev. Bryant’s response, when he heard the police say that there was not “probable cause” to arrest Zimmerman, was “you’ve arrested a lot of black men without probable cause.”

So true.

So, now the family, already aching because this young man, their son, has been senselessly shot and killed, is aching even more because it feels like they will have to fight for justice. Zimmerman walks free because there is no “probable cause.”

It doesn’t feel right.

A candid observation.

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