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The verdict for the George Zimmerman trial is in and a jury of his peers has found him not guilty of murder 2 as well as not guilty of manslaughter. Although I am saddened and deeply disappointed in this verdict, if you look at how the law is written and the instructions given to this jury I do not think they had any other choice. I know there’s a lot of people who will find fault with the jury, some will find fault with the presentation of the prosecution’s case, some will find fault with the strategy used by the defense and there are legitimate arguments for all of those points, but the real injustice of this case and verdict has nothing to do with any of those. The real injustice of the Trayvon Martin George Zimmerman case occurred when racial profiling intersected with legal self defense… here’s what I mean: All that is needed to convert a cold blooded murder into a justifiable homicide when evoking self defense is a reasonable fear that your life is in eminent danger. Whether that fear was real or imagined does not matter and whether you initiated the confrontation does not matter. Legally all that matters is your fear. There’s no refuting the fact that Trayvon was racially profiled by George Zimmerman. It’s disgusting, it’s horrible it’s morally wrong but believe it or not racial profiling is 100% legal. Racial profiling is openly used by law enforcement every single day. In this country racial stereotypes and assumptions are ingrained and reinforced in the psyche and subconscious of most Americans and rarely even challenged because they are presented as fact. Here are a few examples. If you ask most people (both African American and white) who they think benefits more from government assistance and food stamps, almost all of them would say African Americans benefit the most. But that is not true at all. According to the 2010 US Census 33% of whites were receiving government assistance via food stamps while 22% of African Americans received them (http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/2012/tables/12s0572.pdf). Another example of this racial perception vs reality shows up when people are asked about drug abuse. Again, the public perception would have you believe that African American’s are more likely to be drug users than whites. And again, this is not true. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (http://www.samhsa.gov/data/NSDUH/NSDUH-M9-Youth-Apps-2012.pdf), researchers found that 9% of white young adults struggled with drug abuse while only 5% of African American young adults had substance abuse problems . I’m not pointing this data out to say white people are bad and African Americans are good or maybe not as bad. In fact I’m sure I could find studies and research that will show African American’s in a much harsher light in other areas when compared to whites. But when we use racial profiling and let racial stereotypes stand unchallenged, we create a situation where African American youth are arrested for drug crimes at a rate ten times higher than that of whites despite proven research that says they abuse drugs much less. We get right-wing media and politicians telling their base that African Americans are dependent on food stamps which implies African Americans are the only recipients despite facts that says otherwise. We get people like George Zimmerman shooting and killing an unarmed teenager without having to serve a single day in prison. I can’t say whether or not Mr Zimmerman is a racist because I do not know this man. It’s very possible that he was unaware of his racial profiling of Trayvon. Something in his subconscious labeled Trayvon as a criminal the moment he laid eyes on him and in that very moment George Zimmerman decided he was going to catch a criminal and be the hero of the neighborhood.
I’ve heard a lot of different opinions from friends and family since this case became a national story. I’ve argued in forums, I’ve read countless news stories, and I’ve watch pundit after pundit comment and editorialize. Anyone who says this case isn’t about race is extremely naive or horribly uninformed. Race was evident in almost every discussion I took part in. Almost all African Americans were saying Zimmerman was guilty, but most whites did not share that opinion. This puzzled me for a while because some of my white friends also thought Zimmerman should be found not guilty. Maybe if I didn’t know them I could chalk their opinion up to racism and dismiss it, but these were people who I knew were not racist at all. Not even close to being racist. So there had to be some other explanation as to why the opinions about George Zimmerman’s guilt or innocence usually divided straight down racial lines. This became very clear during the last day of the trial when I watched the defense give their closing. At the end of his speech to the jury, defense attorney Mark O’Mara held up a picture of Trayvon Martin. It was a picture of Trayvon shirtless with a baseball cap. Mr O’Mara held up that picture and said to an almost all white jury this is who George Zimmerman encountered that night. At that very moment I knew what the verdict would be. I knew what Mr O’Mara hoped to do with that picture. He wanted the jury to put themselves in George Zimmerman’s shoes that night. And that’s exactly what the jury did. I bet every single woman on that jury would be scared to death if they encountered an African American male in the dark of night alone. The scary big black criminal rapist is the image they have been taught to fear their whole lives. That fear is in the subconscious of every white woman in this country whether they know it or not. As an African American man I have witnessed countless examples of this irrational fear. I’m 5’6” 125lbs always impeccably dressed and I’ve had white women that would not get on the elevator in my doctors office when they see me in it. I’ve seen white women rush back to their unattended handbags in their shopping carts when they see me coming down the aisle at the grocery store. I’ve heard car doors lock as I pass them in a parking lot. A majority of these women are most likely not racist at all. They have been conditioned to fear black men. When African American’s see the pictures of Trayvon they see their brother, or their cousin, or their son, but when most white people look at pictures of Trayvon they see a thug, a criminal, a drug user, or a drug dealer which is further evidence of their conditioning.
The thing that scares me and should scare a lot of other young African American males is now this acquittal of George Zimmerman says to America that your irrational fear of African American men is enough to justify cold blooded murder no matter the circumstances. The precedent has been set. Take racial profiling, add irrational fear, plus self defense and you got a legal way to kill as many black men as you want. What a fucked up reality in which we live.
This blog entry is a lot longer than I expected, so I’m going to have to write the second half half sometime tonight or tomorrow. Just wait and see how it all ties together. I break down the documentary and explain what caught my attention and got me fired up enough to blog about it. I will also post a link to the documentary so you can watch it free streaming right on your desktop.
TO BE CONTINUED:
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