July 11, 2013
By Jennifer Bihm
As the fate of George Zimmerman, accused of killing unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin plays out in a Florida court this week, the African American community braces itself for his possible acquittal. A gunshot wound expert testified that Zimmerman’s claim of self defense against Martin was justifiable and witnesses testified that screams on a 911 call from the night Martin was murdered definitely belonged to Zimmerman, two key specifics that could sway the jury in his favor. Now, the Internet is abuzz with comments and essays comparing the case to others where killers and abusers of Black American men like Rodney King and Oscar Grant have gone free, pointing to a nationwide system of inherent racism and injustice.
“There’s a specific thing about young black men being murdered by the people who say they’re protecting us,” said a man identified as “Brother Ali” during a video interview posted last week on hardknock.tv.
“They find a way to blame the victim, ‘he did something he wasn’t supposed to be doing.’ And they find a way to let the killers go free under some little weird loophole. This case is part of that legacy.”
Last week, a judge denied the prosecution’s request to disallow toxicology reports indicating that Martin had drugs in his system the night he was killed. As of press time the judge had not yet ruled on whether the defense would be allowed to use an animated reenactment of Zimmerman and Martin’s altercation. Also, Rachel Jeantel who had been talking to Martin on the phone moments before he died, was ridiculed profusely in social media after she took the stand for bad grammar and “sounding ignorant and uneducated.”
“If Trayvon Martin’s trial is about his hoodie, his gold teeth, his ominous middle finger, his possible marijuana use, Rachel Jeantel’s trial is about her appearance, her ‘bad attitude,’ and her use of language,” wrote George Ciccariello-Maher in his article “The Racial Politics of Guilt: Black Skin, White Justice” posted on counterpunch.org.
“It’s about bullying a black man,” the late Rodney King told USA Today last year.
“This time, a young man was bullied to death. I’m still alive; Trayvon Martin is not here.”
Since Martin’s death, many have pointed to similarities between his, King’s and Grant’s scenarios. All were unarmed when attacked and in all three cases no arrests were made for the crimes against them until angry cries for justice became loud and persistent. The perpetrators in King and Grant’s cases were found not guilty.
“George Zimmerman may be convicted, but then again he may not,” predicts Charles Richard Brown in an article posted on uptownmagazine.com.
“It’s not clear which outcome is better, more ‘just.’ Of course he should be convicted, but any conviction will only become fodder for the argument, pernicious as it is pervasive, that ours is a “post-racial” society… There is nothing but racism and white privilege here. Zimmerman felt privileged enough to be able to gun down a black teenager, and he knew the police wouldn't do anything about it. Zimmerman wasn't stupid. He knew very well what he was doing... protecting his white world from ‘one of them…”
“In this particular case when we start talking about these things, people are looking for some way to make this not a racial issue,” Ali said.
“You know, ‘let’s wait until all the facts come out,’ etc. The major facts are out. This guy approached a black kid who was unarmed and wasn’t doing anything wrong. There may or may not have been a scuffle and he shot and killed him. And, the police took him at his word that he was defending himself, that the grown man with a gun was defending himself against the kid with the skittles and the iced tea... People are looking for ways kind of fortify in our minds that George Zimmerman had a reason to be suspicious of Trayvon or that we as a society have a reason to suspicious of Trayvon.”