We Are All Trayvon

Let’s call this what it is: a vigilante getting away with an extrajudicial execution. It is driven by institutionalized racism and abetted by our collective denial and rationalizing. The defense took less than three days to offer up an out for the jury. Any excuse would do, they didn’t need to take a long time trying to convince the jurors who was the problem. Never mind that a grown man with a gun followed, against the orders of the police dispatcher, an unarmed teenager. Don’t take into consideration that at any point, the man with the gun could have stood back and said, “Whoa, man, let’s wait for the police to come and sort this out.” Or even, “OK, I give up.”
But no, this type of domination of *whiteness and its privilege* over other races has a long and consistent history in America. Even before our alleged *independence*, this country had set the tone for coming centuries; settlers built a culture that stole lands from native peoples at the point of a gun and that built an economy on the backs of slaves. The right to bear arms was only ever meant to enshrine the *right* of those with resources to dominate those without. Even once we had endured the slaughter of the Civil War, ostensibly to end slavery, Jim Crow laws and lynch mobs continued to show the *others* that they remained second-class citizens at best, or not human at worst. We today are mere decades beyond the last lynching in this country; there are people still alive today who participated in such foul atrocities, and families that still mourn their lost loved ones.
This case highlights one of the problems with our system of justice: the dead have no real voice with which to challenge their attacker. Instead we depend upon *witnesses* who claim to have understood what was happening in the dark of night; upon speculation by a minority opinion describing what *might have happened*; and upon the jury being presented with information totally irrelevant to the issue at hand in an attempt to raise their enculturated emotions and to bring their fear into their awareness, a fear of the *other*, of one who supposedly does not belong in *our neighborhood*.
The police at first had no desire to prosecute any crime. It took the determined and national outcry to even have this trial at all. Mr. Martin’s body was tested for drugs; Mr. Zimmerman’s was not. Mr. Martin’s education, background, and socialization were thoroughly questioned and usually denigrated; Mr. Zimmerman’s education, background and socialization were not even mentioned. Why should it have been otherwise; after all, who was on trial here? It was the *outsider*, as is always the case. In just the first six months of 2012, the Malcolm X Grass Roots Movement documented 120 extrajudicial killings of black people by police, security guards, and self-deputized vigilantes like Mr. Zimmerman; that is one every 36 hours. This is nothing new.
And we will likely react like we always do: we will grieve for Mr. Martin, expressing anger and grief, at least for a few days. Then we will get on to the next big news story, and the memory of this latest travesty of justice will quickly be thrown into the dustbin of history. Indeed, if you doubt it, what about all of those who died at the hands of authority figures in 2012? Who still speaks of them today? But we have to face facts: what we are doing is not working.
As Margaret Kimberley writes,
“There must be very public, very outspoken acknowledgement that our system demands that black people be victimized by those in authority on a regular basis… The songs, parades and kumbayahs should be kept to a minimum. Anyone who speaks about the case should be unafraid to tell the ugly truth about the many ways in which black people are targeted in this country. The well paid pundits and black misleaders should be called out if they aren’t willing to speak openly about why Trayvon Martin was killed… Mealy mouthed platitudes urging us to “talk about race” and silly questions about why black and white people see things differently are an affront to intelligence and to justice.”
In our silence, in our *going along to get along*, we are complicit with what passes for justice in this country. Someday, somewhere, you too will be the *other*. Let us hope we have had the courage to right these injustices long before that day comes. It is long past the time when we should have acted on our deep, heartfelt conviction that we are all connected in the huge Web of Life. No longer may we speak the words *with liberty, and justice, for all* until such a time when it is truth rather than lip service to the fantasy that is America. We are all human and part of one family. Racism is very real; a hard part of the foundation of America. And yet, there is no such thing as race except as the human race. How long until we begin to act like we understand this?

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