Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Zimmerman decision exposes deep-rooted assumptions regarding black men.

Now the hard part begins.  Black America has to contend with what we know to be true.

We know that look of disdain that keeps many at a safe distance.  We know the look of judgment when all we seek is to purchase a bag of Skittles.

We’re not surprised by the verdict to acquit George Zimmerman.  We saw it coming.  We know the elaborate ploys to protect the interest of those invested in keeping black men in their proper place.  The hard part is not in hearing the verdict, but in listening to commentary aimed at convincing us it’s not about race.

We’re forced to listen to ceaseless narrative that will blame prosecutors for failing to prove their case.  The trial will be taken apart, piece by piece, in hope of persuading us it was a lack of evidence rather than race that freed Zimmerman.  We’re expected to concede the errors of prosecution while ending the racial pontificating at the root of the story.

Are we to approve the summation of legal expert’s intent on deflating the angst that has black parents afraid to allow their boys to walk alone at night?  Are we to refute the mounting evidence of rulings that discredits the value of black life taken by a person who makes a judgment before saying hello?

Should we accept the notion that prosecutors failed to prove their case, or should we question assumptions surrounding the evidence?

What is implied in jurors rejecting a lesser verdict of manslaughter?  Should we decry the suggestion that Zimmerman acted in a reasonable way to protect his own life when the evidence proves he put himself in danger by following Martin?  Shouldn’t he be punished for racial profiling and failing to honor the recommendation of the 911 dispatcher?

This case rationalizes racial profiling.  In claiming the absolute innocence of Zimmerman, the jury has added muscle to those who presume guilt based on a profile.  That position is rooted in racism, yet we are asked to discount its significance in Martin’s death

A mostly white jury believed Zimmerman had the right to defend himself because he was afraid.  That fear didn’t prevent him from stalking Martin.  He had a gun.  He was trained to use that gun.  Martin was unarmed.  Zimmerman’s harassing of Martin was enough to trigger Martin’s fear; however, the jury brought into Zimmerman’s fear.

Why wouldn’t they? Most people fear black men.  Accepting Zimmerman’s argument of fear played into conceptions of race.

The jury downplayed Zimmerman’s pattern of “profiling”. Prosecutors played five calls to police made months before the shooting.  The phone calls made to the dispatcher that night wasn’t enough to prove “profiling” and “ill-will”. 

“These a------ always get away,” Zimmerman said followed by, according to prosecutors, Zimmerman muttering “f----- punks” under his breath.

His comments assumed guilt.  Those words suggested intent, but the evidence was not enough.  Why?

Maybe the jurors view Zimmerman as a hero for protecting people from the “f ------- punks”.  Maybe the jury agrees with his assessment – they always get away.  Who are they?

Isn’t that a position based on a racial stereotype? If so, isn’t this about race?

Isn’t it troubling that the age of Trayvon was disregarded? Shouldn’t we consider the youth and innocence when discussing the matter of fear? Rachel Jeantel, 18, was on the phone with Trayvon at the time of the shooting. Trayvon told her he was being followed.

Trayvon told her of a “creepy-ass cracker” was watching him as he walked home from the convenience store. She heard Zimmerman angrily demand to know what Trayvon was doing in the neighborhood.  She heard a bump – the sound of Trayvon’s cell phone headset hitting the ground.

She heard Trayvon’s voice: “Get off! Get off!”

Isn’t that enough to prove aggression?

She’s only 18.  Legal experts say she was not polished or articulate.  Her testimony never changed, yet we are told to discredit her testimony because it failed to impress.  Isn’t the unwillingness to concede her testimony rooted in notions regarding race? Has her testimony been minimized by those who make judgments of black people?

The jury was asked to rule based on Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law.  The law eliminates a citizen’s “duty to retreat” before using lethal force.  We are asked to buy into the argument that it was Zimmerman, not Martin, who was at risk while all the evidence suggests the opposite claim.

Lead Detective Chris Serino refuted Zimmerman claim that he never “followed” Trayvon. Zimmerman’s statement to the police was full of inconsistences, a point that failed to sway the jury.  What is implied by their decision not to consider those discrepancies when weighed against other testimonies?

What about the 911 call made by the neighbor near the scene? Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon’s mother, and Jahvaris Fulton, Trayvon’s older brother, identified the voice on the recording as Trayvon.

The defense called eight witnesses who claimed the voice was Zimmerman’s, including his mother.  In the end, it came down to who the jury believed – the mother and brother of Trayvon or the friends and family of the man who, according to the evidence, chased the 17-year-old while assuming his guilt.

The judge’s decision not to allow the testimony of an audio expert may have decided the case.  The expert was ready to testify that the voice on the tape is Trayvon Martin. 

How should we feel about that exclusion of evidence?

What about the sound of the wind on Zimmerman’s call to police, suggesting he was chasing Trayvon? The defense claimed Martin was the aggressor, but all the evidence says otherwise.  That is for those capable of seeing how evidence can be tainted by those who bring their own notions of race to the case. The fact that Zimmerman may have been beaten by Martin doesn’t negate the truth related to Zimmerman’s aggression.  It merely proves that he approached the wrong person and took his beating poorly.  He pulled the trigger to end the beating.

At issue is who won the fight.  Shouldn’t the question be who started it and why?
Zimmerman was the aggressor with a gun.  Martin was on the phone when approached. Martin had no way of knowing Zimmerman’s intent.  He defended himself. He may have won the fight, but Zimmerman pulled the trigger.

Help me understand how this is not about race.

This is about the right to kill a black man after you start a fight and find yourself on the bad side of that decision.  This is about validating racial profiling.  This is about affirming the fear of a black teen when there is nothing to fear.

This is not about the law. It’s about the application of that law from the position of white fear.  The defense team used that fear to convince the jury Zimmerman had the right to kill.

What is the lesson?  Don’t assume I’m up to no good.  In your mind, I may look like a criminal. In my mind you look like a person looking for a fight.
Rest in peace Trayvon. Justice knows the truth.


  1. This is exactly what I have considered in regards to the verdict. It seems clear that there is important excluded evidence, the circumstances surrounding the trial and an implication of bias/racial profiling obvious to the public following the trial.

  2. It feels good to read what you have written here. I have seen many innocent young black men accused, threatened, thrown against police cars. and I have been with them after this has happened and tried to offer comfort and reassurance. In our culture Black young men need to be protected.