It feels like 1965 all over again. The Voters Rights act had not yet been passed. Citizens were being shot for simply marching in the street to make sure their rights to vote were not hindered. You couldn’t be on the jury unless you were registered to vote and thus, there were still all-white juries even in areas where the majority were black. The Zimmerman case, cloaked under the shadow of the NRA whose backing of the Stand Your Ground law enables people to basically shoot first and ask questions later, emboldened George Zimmerman to ignore the police, get out of his car and stalk 17 year-old Trayvon Martin, whom he clearly profiled. Since Zimmerman was not a cop but really just a neighborhood watch guy, he didn’t need probably cause to follow Martin. And he knew he could stand behind Stand Your Ground if he used his weapon (he later lied about this). He didn’t invoke Stand Your Ground at trial because he would have had to face a judge – and the judge would have sent him to prison. Better to take it to a jury with defense lawyers who really had the law on their side in this case. To convict Zimmerman, the jury would have had to go against the law, something they weren’t going to do.
But there is simply no way anyone with a thinking brain, a beating heart and a sense of fairness is going to take this lying down. There is a reason Zimmerman was later arrested after the cops were going to let him get away with murder. There was outrage after the murder and there continues to be outrage with the verdict – and it won’t stop until justice is done. Justice is not the law, however. David Simon writes a wonderful blog, The Audacity of Despair, and he had this to say:
You can stand your ground if you’re white, and you can use a gun to do it. But if you stand your ground with your fists and you’re black, you’re dead.
In the state of Florida, the season on African-Americans now runs year round. Come one, come all. And bring a handgun. The legislators are fine with this blood on their hands. The governor, too. One man accosted another and when it became a fist fight, one man — and one man only — had a firearm. The rest is racial rationalization and dishonorable commentary.
If I were a person of color in Florida, I would pick up a brick and start walking toward that courthouse in Sanford. Those that do not, those that hold the pain and betrayal inside and somehow manage to resist violence — these citizens are testament to a stoic tolerance that is more than the rest of us deserve. I confess, their patience and patriotism is well beyond my own.
Behold, the lewd, pornographic embrace of two great American pathologies: Race and guns, both of which have conspired not only to take the life of a teenager, but to make that killing entirely permissible. I can’t look an African-American parent in the eye for thinking about what they must tell their sons about what can happen to them on the streets of their country. Tonight, anyone who truly understands what justice is and what it requires of a society is ashamed to call himself an American.