Click here to see what I wrote on this issue shortly after Trayvon’s murder.
The Trayvon Martin case has concluded and George Zimmerman was acquitted of murder and manslaughter although it is patently obvious that George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin. This is not a surprise to the legal experts. However, I have seriously mixed feelings about it. When I first heard the verdict earlier yesterday evening my soul was stunned. Part of me understands Florida case law and what has to be proven for someone to get convicted of manslaughter or murder. This is why I chose not to watch the case or follow it closely until the time of the verdict. In the end, I could not resist tuning in to see what would become of the man who had sought out and killed Trayvon Martin.
Rationally I can understand that in order to get a murder conviction, the prosecution had to show intent. But my soul can’t comprehend the juror’s conclusion that George Zimmerman did not intend to kill Trayvon Martin, when he clearly left his car to do something he was not legally authorized to do.
Rationally, I can understand that the prosecution could not provide any evidence that there was negligence or “responsibility” on Zimmerman’s part for the death of Trayvon Martin. But my soul can’t rest when I know that Zimmerman was told by authorities not to engage the situation and chose to ignore that advice, carry a loaded gun, and begin to start some type of conflict with a teenager.
I understand that there is no legal way to reconstruct what really happened between George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin. If things were different and this was an assault case it would be the plaintiff’s word against the defendant’s. But my soul can’t look past the fact that Zimmerman was the one who spotted Trayvon, Zimmerman was the one who took a killing weapon to the confrontation, and Zimmerman was the one who ultimately pulled the trigger and left a young man dead.
They say there is no good legal evidence, but the evidence is that there is a dead young man killed at the hands of George Zimmerman. Public discourse suggests that this case is comparable to the OJ Simpson case. It is nothing like it, in the OJ Simpson case reasonable doubt was raised about OJ’s whereabouts at the time of the crime. In this case Zimmerman’s whereabouts at the time of the crime where known. He was the man who pulled the trigger.
I understand the law, but sometimes strict adherence to law is wrong. In fact I must quote Martin Luther King when I say “An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. “ Well this is an unjust verdict which is out of harmony with morality period. Legally I can understand it. But morally I can’t accept it.
That’s where I am with the Trayvon Martin case. Yet, I realize something positive needs to come out of all this frustration. People continue to plead that this case has nothing to do with race. As a Black man in America I beg to differ. This case may not have much to do with whether George Zimmerman is classified as White or Hispanic, but it has a lot to do with the fact that Trayvon Martin is Black. People speculate if the roles were reversed and Trayvon was the 29 year old aggressor and George Zimmerman the 17 year old victim, the jury would have put Trayvon in jail and it would not have taken a 16 hour deliberation.
I think a more basic issue to ponder is that in America, it isn’t even in the realm of possibility that a White family would fear that their child would end up killed by a vigilante neighborhood watchman on the way back from the store. This isn’t even remotely likely to happen to a young White kid. Even if this happened to a young White kid, it would not be the character of the White child that would not be put on trial. The character of the White child would be beyond reproach!
Do not lose sight of the fact that Trayvon was a minor and George Zimmerman was a grown man. In America it should not be possible for ANY grown man of ANY race to approach an UNARMED MINOR with a gun and that MINOR end up dead and the GROWN man end up absolved of any wrongdoing in the death. It’s just not right, it’s not moral, it’s not justice, and it should not be legally defensible. As an adult, George Zimmerman should have had a larger responsibility to ensure that the situation ended up with some positive result. His inability to do this should have at least amounted to criminal negligence and should have got him a conviction of manslaughter.
This case sets a precedent, that in Florida if you kill someone (even if they are a minor) you can convincingly plead self defense because the person who you killed is not there to tell their side of the story. It is just unbelievable that the dead body doesn’t count as evidence in itself. It is obvious that young black men fitting a certain profile are going to be considered threats to society. Those young men apparently at least in Florida can be gunned down as long as an attorney can raise doubt that the killer acted with murderous intent.
I believe this indicates that the Black community must be vigilant on ALL fronts and what I mean is that we need to recognize for ourselves that the lives of young Black men are precious and they matter, and whatever situations confront them that cause them to be locked up and/or murdered at high rates need to be addressed and dealt with. We need to do it within our communities and we need to do it for ourselves, because verdicts like this show that the levers of government aren’t equipped to help us. We need to make sure that we value our own lives, so that others will think twice before devaluing us again.
As for myself I will be looking for ways to effect this kind of change and I hope you do too. We need to use this as a means for unification, and for people to construct visions of what a fair, just, and reasonably safe society looks like and take steps to make that a reality.