Trayvon Martin’s killer, George Zimmerman, was acquitted. Let that sink in for a moment. You can stalk, confront, assault, and kill a young black man, then claim self-defense, and a jury composed of five white women and one Hispanic woman will acquit you.
The American criminal justice system has failed again, but for black people, when hasn’t it failed? The American penal system warehouses black men at a dizzying rate, which is reflected in a social ideology that views black males with suspicion. Did Zimmerman leave his home with the intent to kill that night? I doubt it. But when he saw a young black male in a hoodie walking down the street, he immediately viewed him with suspicion, thinking he didn’t belong and was a criminal. Zimmerman had a history of reporting black males to the police as “suspicious.”
Trayvon Martin’s only “crime” was walking while black, a crime that ultimately saw him executed by a wannabe cop, a wannabe willing to use lethal force after his victim fought back. I believe the evidence supports that conclusion.
No reasonable person could accept Zimmerman’s narrative that out of nowhere Trayvon went crazy and attacked him, while shouting “you’re gonna die tonight, motherfucker!”, a line of dialog straight out of a bad Hollywood movie, usually the kind featuring a white vigilante (or cop) cleaning up a city where the villains are non-white. It’s as cartoonish as it is absurd, but no doubt it played better to jurors than the testimony of Rachel Jeantel, who was smeared in the media and in the court of public opinion simply for being a young working class black woman.
The jury just wasn’t able or willing to draw a conclusion based on Jeantel hearing Trayvon shout “get off me!” or Zimmerman’s past behavior of reporting black males as “suspicious.” It’s consistent with a study that shows a “stand your ground” defense increases the likelihood of a not guilty finding when a white person is accused of killing a black person. This wasn’t strictly a “stand your ground” defense, but it was close enough.
Look at the case in Minnesota of CeCe McDonald, a black trans woman, who was attacked by a white Neo-Nazi and his friends, and killed him in self-defense, yet she was the only one charged with a crime. The white woman who broke CeCe’s cheekbone was never charged with a crime. Like so many black working class people, CeCe was railroaded into accepting a plea deal to avoid a lengthy prison sentence.
We don’t live in a post-racial society. We live in a society predicated on white privilege. We generally lack the kind of racist terrorism that was once common, where black people were publicly lynched or crosses were burned on lawns, but our society is weighed down by white privilege, and by obvious extension, black non-privilege. It’s still a form of white supremacism.
Under the current bourgeois legal system, the only hope for any small measure of justice for Trayvon is a federal charge of a civil rights violation against Zimmerman or a civil wrongful death lawsuit against Zimmerman by Trayvon’s parents.
As a revolutionary socialist, I believe the real solution requires the capitalist system, that great fomenter of racism to keep workers divided, to be smashed. Only by abolishing the current social order can we create the change in consciousness necessary to destroy the underlying causes of racism and privilege.
My sympathies are with Trayvon Martin’s parents. First they lost their son, then they watched his killer walk free.