Posted by: gdevi | July 18, 2013

The lonesome death of Trayvon Martin

Support the economic and cultural boycott of Florida. Read statement by the Congressional Black Caucus here. (By the way, you can really get a sense of racial equality in our great nation by reading the many comments below.)No African American male or female should be ever gunned down ever again. Hey residents of Florida, stand up for the young man your laws allowed some guy with a gun to shoot down. Your state has let a killer get away and live amongst you with all the freedoms. Do you think any African American living in the US will be allowed the legal luxury of “self defense”?

See pictures of the rallies here.

THE LONESOME DEATH OF TRAYVON MARTIN

After George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin around 7:30pm on February 26, 2012, and the Sanford, Florida police department took his dead body to the morgue, he lay unidentified and unclaimed as “John Doe” for over twelve hours. Martin had walked to the nearby convenience store to buy iced tea and skittles and had not taken his ID with him. Neither Zimmerman, who killed him, nor the police, could identify the young man. On the morning of February 27, after Sanford police came to know about a missing person’s claim that was  earlier filed by Tracy Martin, Trayvon’s father, they arrived at Martin’s residence with a photo of the dead young man for identification purposes.  The photo was positively identified by Martin and his fiance; it was indeed their son who was the dead teenager in the photo.

There are names of dead young African American women and men, boys and girls, that we remember with shattering grief. Because it seems like such a hopeless puzzle that you would be targeted and killed because of the color of your skin.  At 14 years old, Emmett Till was tortured and killed by Roy Bryant and his brother in Money, Mississippi in 1955 for allegedly “flirting” with Bryant’s wife.  Carole Robertson, Denise McNair, Addie Mae Collins and Cynthia Wesley–four young girls, all 11 and 14 years old– were killed in the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama on September 15, 1963. Ironically enough, the girls were waiting to hear the sermon entitled “The love that forgives” when the Klan blew up the basement with packed dynamite.  The great jazz saxophonist John Coltrane wrote “Alabama” as a memorial to the killed children.

When the Klan again struck in 1981 and killed  nineteen-year old Michael Donald, a young African American in Mobile, Alabama who was kidnapped and picked at random by Klan members and lynched, he was also just walking back from a convenience store after getting a pack of cigarettes. Throughout the nineties, I followed the trial of each of the Klan members accused in the murder of Michael Donald–the last lynching in the United States– primarily through the reporting done by that intrepid reporter from Texas, Molly Ivins. Donald’s mother Beulah Mae Donald sued the United Klans of America for wrongful death of her son. An all white jury found the Klan guilty of racially motivated hate crime and murder and ordered a seven million dollar judgement in favor of Beulah Mae Donald. The Michael Donald verdict effectively weakened the Klan in America. Forty two year old Henry Hays who drove around looking for an African American man to lynch became the only Klan member to be ever executed in the United States for a hate crime murder in the 20th century.

It is a twisted shock, isn’t it, how we as a society have perverted the theory and practice of “neighborhood watch”? Who is a neighbor? The root words across Germanic languages are cognates for “near” and “dwelling” — the person living in the house nearby.  Perhaps the most celebrated discourse on “neighbor” is from the Gospel of Luke when a lawyer asks Jesus “who is my neighbor?” and Jesus teaches him the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10-25:37).  When asked “Master, which is the greatest commandment?” Jesus replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:36-40). A neighbor is someone who protects you. A neighbor is not someone who initiates a series of aggressive actions against you. Martin lived with his father and his fiance in that neighborhood.  Zimmerman shot and killed his neighbor. Zimmerman shot and killed a neighbor’s son.

It is amazing that everywhere we are debating who threw the first punch in the Trayvon Martin case, who yelled for help, whose voice is on the 911 call, whether Zimmerman acted in self-defense etc etc. The fact of the matter is Zimmerman, an overzealous neighborhood watcher followed with a weapon a young African American male whose “look” he did not like, and about whom he was already predisposed to think of and relate to in a hostile way, as evidenced by his own words, some of which were racially tinted.

In the light of the recent verdict by the Florida jury acquitting Zimmerman, Zimmerman’s comment that “these assholes always get away” could also quite ironically be applied to Zimmerman himself, and his dubious claim of self-defense. Because it is Zimmerman who got away. The claim of “self-defense,” that springs from every human being’s intense love-affair with his or her own life–human beings are in love with their own lives first and foremost–this claim of “self-defense” cannot and should not be legally used to get away with murder. That is what the jury who just acquitted Zimmerman of the wrongful killing of Trayvon Martin did. They helped Zimmerman get away.

It is quite possible that Zimmerman did not stalk and pursue Martin because Martin was African American, or that Zimmerman got out of the car with a weapon with the intention of killing Trayvon Martin. But the obvious fact remains that Trayvon Martin did not initiate the contact with Zimmerman.  Martin was walking home in the rain in the dark with some snacks. It was Zimmerman who followed Martin. Zimmerman was not on his neighborhood watch duty at the time.  Though licensed to carry a firearm, Zimmerman is not a police officer. The 911 dispatcher clearly told him not to follow Martin when Zimmerman called 911 to report Martin walking casually in the rain looking at houses, apparently a big crime in Florida if you are a young African American male.  It is unbelievable that Zimmerman was not held accountable for continuing to follow Martin after 911 explicitly told him not to do so. This is a clear bias on the part of the jury.

It appears that Zimmerman was not on a neighborhood watch. He was looking for a fight. And when he got one, for following a young man in the rain in the dark, Zimmerman shot him and killed him. He did not think twice about fatally shooting and killing Martin. Zimmerman, though on a neighborhood watch team and licensed to carry a firearm, does not really know his neighborhood or neighbors, and is evidently not good at making public decisions, nor does he appear to be trained in crisis intervention. He appears to be an overzealous and prejudiced guy with a gun. And he got away with homicide.

As days and weeks go by and we as a nation debate this shameful perversion of justice for one more young African American male, I hope the jury members who acquitted Zimmerman will rethink their lost opportunity to have done something constructive, and hold a thoughtless, arrogant, racially prejudiced, clean-cut criminal for the killing of an innocent young man, whose crime involved walking casually in the rain through a neighborhood that distrusts his “look,” whatever that means. Zimmerman’s shooting and killing of Martin is self-defense, but Martin “standing his ground” and defending himself from  a stalking Zimmerman is not? Why? This is where the jury is biased and malicious. It looks like the neighborhood watcher Zimmerman “owned” that gated community “grounds” a little more than Martin did. The pervasive and toxic ideology of racism works very subtly through cultural signifiers.  Martin was African American and had his “hoodie” up and was walking in the rain.  The same unconscious, ignorant and arrogant vigilante confidence that Zimmerman felt in a bonafide way to pursue a young African American male through the night in the rain is what makes racist people in Texas call middle easterners and south Asians “sand niggers.” This is the new way of racism.

Though it took years and years, the murderers of Emmett Till, Carole Robertson, Denise McNair, Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, and Michael Donald were all held accountable for their racially motivated hate crimes against another human being. I hope the Department of Justice will reopen this case and retry Zimmerman and convict him without further ado.

 

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