A revisit to the Trayvon Martin case. On February 26 2012, black teenager Trayvon Martin was walking home on a rainy night through a gated neighborhood in Sanford Florida. He had been deemed as suspicious by an armed neighbor watch volunteer, a white Hispanic man, George Zimmerman. Despite being ordered by police authority not to follow Martin, Zimmerman pursued the teen and an altercation ensued resulting in the death of Martin. Zimmerman claimed self defense and was released. The outraged public demanded that he be held for trail and in 2013 Zimmerman was acquitted.
Most cases of racial prejudice and bigotry – which happens everyday, millions of times a day – are difficult to prove. I have been subjected to racial discrimination many times in my life. But can I prove that I was a victim of racial bias beyond a reasonable doubt? No. But I know a racist bigot when I encounter one, despite their smiling face.
As an African-American, I give all white folks some latitude. I realize that I can make mistakes, or errors in judgement. My perceptions can be false. But, after a series of questionable incidents with an individual I become wary. I let my intuition guide me.
Let me explain: I know a white man that is respected by many and he is well connected socially and politically. He is very friendly. He is a true asset to the community… And I think he is a racist. I could point to several incidents where his behavior towards me seemed to be the product of unconscious bias. I have determined that there is a strong subliminal belief system at work and he is not aware of it. If I told him that I think he harbors racist beliefs, he would deny that he was a racist. He would probably point out that he has black friends or Blacks in his family… etc.
After multiple opportunities to prove myself worthy of his high esteem, I recognized that he is not likely to see me as an equal, as a man. Ever. So rather than waste precious time trying to disprove the basis for his racial bias, I moved on. In my old age I realized that I don’t have to prove myself to anyone, I am not seeking acceptance. Those days are over. Long gone.
And that is what racism is like in contemporary America. It comes in varying degrees of unconscious animosity to outright hatred. Sometimes the racist is a blatant, hostile bigot but most of the time, most racists would deny that they are racist! Their dislike for another group of people are contingent on a range of variables. I believe that George Zimmerman believed that there were good Blacks and then there were the other type, “Fucking punks. These assholes, they always get away.” he said. His voice, recorded by the police dispatcher.
Unfortunately the statement in itself could not be used to establish that his state of mind was racially biased, but it seems clear to me Zimmerman did not see a innocent child walking home from a convenience store… when he pursued, and killed Trayvon Martin. (Would Zimmerman have challenged a white teenage girl under similar circumstances?)
Do Black Lives Matter in the United States? Is a white man’s word his bond? Despite the evidence, law enforcement gave Zimmerman the benefit of doubt. They believe his version of events, seemingly without question.
But there is a greater issue lurking under the scum in the Zimmerman-Martin case: the historical evidence of racial violence directed at Black people over the centuries in the United States. White men have been getting away with murder of Black folk for generations. Just take a gander of the work of the Equal Justice Initiative, the murder of black men by white men who were ultimately acquitted is nothing new. Viewed from the context of hundreds of years of racial injustice, Zimmerman”s claim of self defense did not ring true to some black ears. The Sanford Florida cops’ release of Zimmerman only hours after the killing of Martin seemed head scratching-ly inappropriate.
How the state handled the case is a separate discussion. The issue is the Stand Your Ground law that allows white men to kill black people with impunity across the south…
A claim of “I thought my life was in danger!” is enough to beat the rap for a white man. But when the shooter is Black the law is not equally applied… a signal to Blacks everywhere that the return to the good ol’ days is unfolding.
The situation is bad enough when young Black men shoot and kill each other in da hood. But when state government gives the wink to racists murderers, the Black community is outraged. And rightfully so.