Monday, July 15, 2013
Trayvon's Humanity Remains Devalued
"These assholes, they always get away," are the words George Zimmerman said to a police dispatcher as he began following Trayvon Martin the evening of February 26, 2012. How ironic these words seem considering the jury’s verdict this past weekend acquitting Mr. Zimmerman of killing Trayvon Martin, an innocent seventeen-year-old black youth.
Suppose Trayvon Martin had somehow managed to wrestle Mr. Zimmerman’s gun from him and at the end of the struggle it was Mr. Zimmerman who was dead, do you really believe that Trayvon Martin would have been found “not guilty”? Would Trayvon be free or behind bars waiting to be sentenced to death?
The statistics are clear and definitive on who “gets away” with murder and other crimes here in the so-called “greatest nation on earth,” where justice is rarely administered impartially. Black youth (and other minorities) are still far more likely to be detained, arrested, prosecuted, tried, convicted, sentenced as adults (if juveniles), and imprisoned longer than white youth suspected of similar crimes.
Let’s be honest. Even if you believe Mr. Zimmerman's story that Trayvon Martin physically attacked him rather than the opposite, George Zimmerman got away with murder or at the very least manslaughter. After all, was it Trayvon Martin or Mr. Zimmerman who initiated the tragic chain of events? Exactly who was following whom with a gun? And, who ignored the police dispatcher’s directions to stay put and stop following the victim?
The six jurors have spoken. I respect their decision that the state did not prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. With that said, I cannot remain silent on why this tragedy happen in the first place.
Race is surely at the heart of it. Granted, we’ve come a long ways in the 68 years since I was born, but far too many of us continue to see black youth like Trayvon Martin as one of "them," as a negative racial stereotype – as someone to fear.
George Zimmerman certainly did that evening. And, in doing so, he devalued Trayvon Martin’s humanity, which led to Trayvon’s tragic death.
Until we stop as a society from associating black Americans with more negative words and imagery than we do white Americans, the racial bias that still contaminates our society and distorts our perception of the world will continue to alienate and separate us from one another, will continue to perpetuate an atmosphere of fear, distrust and racial bigotry.