A Murdered Black Child vs. A White Child Killer
On Race, Crime and Punishment in America
Now that the Jury has returned a verdict of “not guilty” in the case of The People of Florida vs. George Zimmerman, we are inundated by questions about the black community’s response, but the most important question is how is it possibile that an unarmed teenager going about his business can be stalked and murdered by a armed adult, and that adult walks away free?
It’s been a strange affair, bizarre even, this trial of George Zimmerman, a white adult male who killed Trayvon Martian, an innocent black child going peacefully about his business in a Florida gated community, but no mention of race, or the motive force of racism, a phenomenon for which Florida has a long infamous history, was ever mentioned during the trial. Yet many people believe, this writer included, that racial perceptions determined the outcome.
From all that I have seen of this guy Zimmerman he is a cowardly, deluded, caricature of a man who looks like a pig and has the values of a moral pathogen. This moral cretin even had the unbelievable gall to come on FOX network, the right-wing Republican antidote for the truth, and tell Sean Hannity – one of the most odious and moronic talking heads in right-wing media – that he had no regrets about murdering an innocent black man-child because “I believe it was God’s plan.”
And yet as I listened to much of the commentary by white observers of this trial, I found that most of them believed that Zimmerman would get away with this murder without serving a day in jail; the authorities were already putting plans in motion to deal with the black rage they suspected would boil over when Zimmerman walked. The national and local leadership of the Afro-American community were assuring everyone that the black community will not explode.
I’m not so sure the explosion will not happen. Given the high rates of unemployment among Afro-Americans; the things people are hearing about the meaning of the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Voting Rights Act; the sharp rise in student loan interest rates due to inaction in in the Republican controlled House that will prevent many black students from re-enrolling in college this fall; the seeming impotence of the first black President to enact programs that address the crisis in the black community due to white Republican opposition, which is accompanied by racially tinged insults to the President; the constant television reports of racist whites arming themselves to the teeth and using posters of President Obama for target practice; the widespread police brutality in poor black communities, and now they are told any white fellow citizen can shoot them down and kill them like dogs then walk away free because in their racist white mind you are criminal?
This mixed bag of hostile government policies puts them at risk and limit their life’s chances, plus a rising tide of racism endangers their very lives, it is an explosive concoction…one could say it is social dynamite. It is a wicked combination of dire circumstances that can rob youth of their ambition and make them believe the fabled American Dream is beyond their grasp.
All things considered perhaps it is wiser to seek the vision of poets rather than the prognostication of lawyers and pundits. Langston Hughes, the Poet Laureate of Harlem in troubled times of joy and pain, posed questions a half century ago that we should all be asking now: “What happens to a dream deferred? / Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun/ does it cake over like a syrupy sweet then run? / Does it sag like a heavy load / Does it Corrode? / Or does it explode!”
Yet should black communities explode in violence we will add a self- inflicted wound to those inflicted upon us by others, from the racist policies of the Tea Party politicians to the ahistorical and immoral decisions of the Supreme Court. Among those who would be injured by a violent uprising of Afro-Americans is President Obama. We need only look at two incidents in order to envision what could happen: The Skip Gates Affair and President Obama’s statement that Trayvon Martian looks like he could be his son.
In the first instance the President had to invite a racist Boston cop to the White House for a beer in order to prevent wildcat strikes by white policeman all over the country, creating havoc and imperiling the public safety. And his embrace of Trayvon – declaring “If I had a son he would look just like Trayvon” – provoked hysterical cries of racism from the right-wing media, feeding the racist hysteria of their white fans –who also happen to be armed to the teeth and more than a little paranoid. Yet these events are small potatoes compared to mass riots, like those of the 1960’s, by enraged Afro-American mobs broadcast in real time on the 24 hour cable news stations and played endlessly on the internet.
Everyone will demand that President Obama take a public stand on the riots – and he will be dammed if he does and damned if he doesn’t. For whatever he says will be offensive to millions of Americans. If he does not unequivocally condemn the black rioters it would be a boon to the white verbal arsonists in right-wing media who have no qualms about leveling virulent charges of black racism against the president. Yet if he denounces the black rioters, as he must being President of the United States sworn to uphold the Constitution, which clearly defines how our system of trial by jury works – and it offers no provision for riots by the losing side in a trial.
As a professor of Constitutional law Barack knows that while the Constitution provides for a trial it cannot guarantee the outcome. And since the jury is a group of ordinary citizens giving of their time and efforts in order to serve the cause of justice, the President of the United States cannot impugn their motives or second guess their verdict.
Thus we see that his statement on the verdict today was very measured; like all of the lawyers who have commented on the verdict he implores us to accept the jury’s decision peacefully, and after acknowledging the loss of Trayvon Martin’s family he urged us to move on as a society and find ways to prevent these type of tragedies from happening again. There is really nothing else he could say at this moment. However I’d bet my bottom dollar that he is looking into the possibilities of a federal case based on Civil Rights violations, which is the only option available to the Feds since murder is a local crime.
However some black people will not understand this; many would like him to denounce the decision, or believe that he has the power to intervene. The truth is that Trayvon Martin would have been better off if he had killed George Zimmerman. First of all he would be alive to tell the story so it is his narrative that the trial would have revolved around, and if he were convicted the President could pardon him! But as things stand there is really nothing he can do since he does not have the power to overturn jury decisions.
Many Afro-Americans also fail to understand the fact that we are a small percentage of the US population and therefore must form coalitions with whites and others in order to elect people to Congress that will vote for the policies President Obama is trying to enact that benefit poor, working and middle class Americans…including us. Hence he must avoid taking positions that may appeal to black Americans but alienate other factions in a winning coailtion.
Alas, should the riots come many Afro-Americans will bitterly resent the president’s denunciation of black rioters -which will be confused and conflated with the scathing racist condemnations from the right. It will be seen by many as proof that every scurrilous and spurious charge leveled against this president by the chorus of black magpies and intellectual poseurs that for a variety of reasons – some transparent, some incomprehensible – have questioned his blackness, his commitment to Afro-Americans…and even his personal integrity. They are either too full of themselves; envious that it is him and not them in the White house; too politically backward or simply soulless opportunists trading on the misery and hopelessness of some classes of black Americans, ala Cornel West and Tavis Silly!
Then there are the hysterics of the hard left, black and white, those lost souls who have no agenda beyond incessant debate and acting out in public temper tantrums with ineffective demonstrations. High on that list are Marxist ideologues like Comrade Carl Dix, of the “Revolutionary Communist Party,” that leftwing Uncle Tom who is Bob Avakian’s puppet, spouting words put in his mouth by this all-knowing white “theoretician.” According to Dix, who heads something called “The October 22 Coalition Against Police Brutality And the Criminalization of a Generation,” the Trayvon Martin killing is a reenactment of the Emmitt Till Case of the 1950’s. And he concluded that if the jury lets Zimmerman walk it is proof that in American society whites never pay for crimes committed against Afro-Americans.
Yet just a few days ago a white man was put to death for murdering James Bird, a black man, in Texas – the reddest of red neck states! So Comrade Dix is clearly wrong on that claim, and he is equally wrong when he says if Zimmerman walks we need to stage a “rebellion,” like the one in LA after the cops who beat down Rodney King on video was released by an all-white jury in Semi Valley. Alas our militant Comrade evidently forgot that even Rodney King opposed that one.
However this kind of talk from the left, and the fear mongering among heavily armed racist whites, could spark a social explosion now that Zimmerman has not only gotten away with murder, but to add insult to injury the police gave him his gun back! Which is the best argument for law abiding black citizens of Florida to arm themselves with the best shootin irons they can get their hands on. and when they encounter a creepy ass cracker on a dark road open fire on his ass if he gives you any trouble!
Relied on Charts and regurgitating Witness Testimony
Marshaled the evidence with passion and spoke to Juror’s Hearts
Given the volatility of this trial, which the world watched on television, the lawyer’s arguments took on an outsized importance to the stability of the body politic. In our system of adversarial jurisprudence the jury is presented with competing narratives from the prosecution and the defense. Since the outcome of the trial depends upon which lawyer tells the most convincing tale, the closing arguments in a serious case is high drama – which is why there are so many TV dramas about crime and punishment featuring lawyers.
In the closing arguments the lawyers for the prosecution and defense employed radically different approaches to telling their version of events on the night George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin in Sanford Florida. The defense relied on charts and graphs and snippets of witness testimony that supported their narrative. But the prosecutor emphatically denounced Zimmerman as a damned liar who killed an innocent kid while acting out his wannabe police fantasies and spun a “web of lies” to conceal his crime.
The defense spoke to the intellect and the Prosecution appealed to the hearts and the common sense of the jurors, believing that since several were mothers’ they would think of their own children as the contemplated the fate of Trayvon. While we have no way of knowing how the jury arrived at their verdict, it is fairly safe to assume that they didn’t see Trayvon as their son.
As for me, I think George Zimmerman should at least have been convicted of second degree murder. And although I understand the theory of the law under which the accused must be presumed innocent, even when we know that the accused stalked and murdered an innocent child, I would still love to just string the lying fat child killer up from the nearest tree! And despite the fact that competing narratives gives the prosecutor and defense the freedom to present their version of events, I found defense attorney Mark O’Mara offensive; like a low down dirty egg sucking dog!
On the other hand, even amidst charges of ineptitude the prosecutors in this case are heroes to my eyes; they properly charged Georgie the Child Killer, and I believe their version of events. It is only by virtue of their efforts that the family of Trayvon Martin could receive a measure of justice for the murder of their innocent child – although the white female jury nixed it by freeing the killer. Yet every Afro-American I know – especially my friends and relatives who live in Florida – believe the prosecution’s version of events. They watched the court room drama with rapt attention and believe Zimmerman is a guilty as sin!
A good friend in Florida law enforcement is convinced that given the racist history of the Sanford police, it is quite possible that the cops conspired with Zimmerman to cover up the murder of Trayvon Martin; even helping him construct his self-defense hoax by smacking him around a bit so he would look like he was under attack. The Florida lawman has been asking around and assures me that quite a few of his black colleagues in law enforcement share his suspicions. Whether this is true or not is sort of beside the point; if law enforcement professionals believe this, who knows what kind of conspiracy theroies the average black person believes. And perception is reality to the believers.
The stories told by the Florida lawmen about his experiences on the job reflect the same kind of racist stuff we heard about from the black LA police officer Christopher Dorner, a real life 21st century Django trained as a special forces killing machine, who went on an armed vendetta against his former LAPD colleagues because of the racist practices he witnessed and was driven from the department for complaining about. Listening to his story one could clearly see how a devoted public servant in a dangerous profession, fully prepared to die in the line of duty, could go rogue and turn on his colleagues with a murderous rage.
Reflecting on the lives of black males in America today I am once again reminded of the title the great Afro-American novelist Chester Himes chose for the second volume of his auto-biography: “My Life of Absurdity.” Unlike his more famous contemporary Richard Wright, who the peerless Florida writer/folklorist Zora Neale Hurston said viewed Afro-American life as unrelieved tragedy, Chester Himes saw his life in America as absurd. It is interesting that both Himes and Wright quit America for the expatriate life in Europe.
Zora, like novelist/essayist Ralph Ellison recognized the tragic/comic character of Afro-American life that produced the art of blues and accounts for the joi di vivre that gives Afro-American song and dance its universal appeal. And they stayed at home to fight the battle for a better society where Afro-Americans could realize their dreams. In order to survive and thrive in America when prospects for Afro-Americans were far worse than they are today, they learned to roll with the punches and keep on keepin on.
Despite the temptation to sink into mindless rage and nihilism, this moment requires us to keep our heads, maintain our cool, and make no bad moves. The first thing we must do is take an accurate accounting of the present situation. Things are not all gloom and doom, far from it, but in order to fully recognize this one needs the added dimension of historical perspective.
As one who grew up in apartheid Florida I can testify to the fact that Afro-Americans are routinely doing things that were unimaginable when I left there in the summer of 1960 to keep from killing or being killed by “a creepy ass cracker,” as Trayvon Martin described Zimmerman with uncany accuracy. Yet notwithstanding monumental changes in the status of Afro-Americans in Florida and the nation – including a black family in the White House – Trayvon Martin, an innocent teenager was murdered by that creepy ass cracker while going about his business at 7:30 in the evening….simply because he was black.
I can conjure no other explanation for the Jury’s verdict than race was the controlling factor. Anyone who doubts that race was the deciding factor in this case need only reverse the racial identities of the murderer and victim – imagine five black women who would be much closer to a “jury of peers” required by the Constitution rendering the verdict in this case. Despite the dramatic progress Afro-Americans have made over the last half century, the most accurate thing that can be said about our present predicament in America is echoed in the opening lines of Charles Dickens’ classic novel, A Tale of Two Cities: It is the best of times and the worst of times.
George Zimmerman: Child Killer
A Real Creepy Ass Cracker!
Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
July 14, 2013