Why White America Blew the George Zimmerman Verdict
I could say the George Zimmerman verdict surprised me.
I'd be lying.
I'm generally optimistic. But when I heard the jury make-up: six women, five whites and one unidentified minority, in my head it was all a done deal.
Here's the thing. I'm white. I've been partnered up with this amazing black dude for almost half of my life. I'm sympathetically aware of the bullshit challenges he sometimes experiences. Occasionally, if I'm outstandingly lucky, I even get to share in joint racial profiling. But, as a white woman, I can never fully experience his discrimination.
And neither could these jurors.
To prove the crime of Manslaughter in Florida, the State must prove that Trayvon Martin is dead. Check. And that Zimmerman intentionally committed an act or acts that caused the death of Trayvon Martin. Double check.
So what's the issue? Could the reasonable doubt have come into play because these women, the majority of them white, have absolutely no understanding of the hardcore profiling that black men and teens deal with every single day. And trust, even with a black president, we still live in an outstandingly racist society.
Lately, I can't stop thinking about how many people don't want to accept their part in the ugly. Indeed. That would be you Mr. Zimmerman, last week's pariah Ms. Paula Deen, as well as all all of their supporters, including the peeps claiming no one's racist here.
Who exactly are you lying to?
Clearly, if we're living in a colorblind society, as so many people falsely believe, then my husband, Trayvon Martin, and millions of other people of color, who have similar stories to tell, should be able to go about their business without a second glance.
Sorry. The numbers just don't match up.
The greater truth? No one wants to be labeled as racist. But if you've blissfully managed to live in self-segregation and avoid putting yourself into a situation, any situation, where your beliefs about race can be challenged, either good or bad, then you cannot, I repeat, cannot claim you're not racist.
Racism is not some sort of abstract idea. It's concrete. It's ugly. And how you react in front of a real live person, who looks, on the surface, perhaps a bit different than you, particularly during a time of stress is the true test of character, and in my opinion, the only way you can discover where your racial prejudices really lie.
Zimmerman failed this miserably.
Tim Wise, an antiracist essayist, author and educator said in this recent piece: "Which is to say, Trayvon Martin is dead because he is black and because George Zimmerman can’t differentiate — and didn’t see the need to — between criminal and non-criminal black people. Which is to say, George Zimmerman is a racist. Because if you cannot differentiate between black criminals and just plain kids, and don’t even see the need to try, apparently, you are a racist…"
Sure, George Zimmerman can claim that he's not a racist. He's got a Peruvian mom after all. But his true test came when he met up with a dark skinned youth, wearing a hoodie, who had the balls to walk through his neighborhood. Did Zimmerman see Trayvon as an individual just passing through. Nope. Trayvon was called out by Zimmerman, three days after the shooting during an interrogation with the police, as yet another of those "fucking punks".
The other piece of the whole mess that really disgusts me is this concept that persons of color have no right to defend themselves, during an attack. Especially during an attack that they didn't start. Indeed, Trayvon may have contributed to those wounds on Zimmerman's head--as self-defense during an fight. But I guess the protections awarded by the Florida Stand Your Ground Law don't apply to dead teenagers.
Again, I defer to Mr. Wise: "They are saying that black people who fight back against someone they think is creepy and who is following them, and might intend to harm them, are more responsible for their deaths than those who ultimately kill them. What they have said, and make no mistake about it, is that any white person who wants to kill a black person can follow one, confront them, maybe even provoke them; and as soon as that black person perhaps takes a swing at them, or lunges at them, the white pursuer can pull their weapon, fire, and reasonably assume that they will get away with this act. I can start drama, and if you respond to the drama I created, you are to blame, not me."
Let that sink in for a second.
And can we be real for a second Zimmerman? When you pulled your gun on Trayvon, it's highly doubtful that he said, "You got me", as you claimed in the Hollywood western playing out in your mind. Do you really believe your story? I'm guessing that Trayvon said, in complete shock and disbelief, "You shot me."
Which you did.
So, I wonder, do you still think he deserved it? I don't remember you apologizing. Even now that you're off the criminal hook.
My very wise girlfriend told me recently, about the perspective of one of her African American studies professors, a white man, who said black people are not going to end discrimination. The task lies with white people, the only ones with power to change the system. But to do that, injustices not only have to be seen, but acknowledged as such, even if you can't relate to them in the exact same way.
So to you, the five white jurors, who a real opportunity to leave your mark on history, you just blew it.