So much is being, and has been, said about the disturbing case of murdered teen,Trayvon Martin, in Sanford, Fla. So much–some good and some not so good. Nevertheless, I will not be adding any personal two-cents at this time (I do reserve the right to reblog those opinions which coincide with my own, however).
Empathy, which is always among the first casualties of racist thinking, mandates our acceptance of the possibility that maybe it isn’t those long targeted by oppression who are exaggerating the problem or making the proverbial mountain out of a molehill, but rather we who have underestimated the gravity of racial domination and subordination in this country, and reduced what are, in fact, Everest-sized peaks to ankle-high summits, and for our own purposes, rather than in the service of truth.
And please, let us have no more ignoble and dissembling rationalizations for Trayvon Martin’s death and Zimmerman’s killing of him. If you are one, like those firmly ensconced in the pathetic Sanford, Florida police department, trying against all logic and human feeling to square this pernicious circle, just stop it. That there had been a half-dozen or so break-ins in Zimmerman’s community, ostensibly orchestrated by black males matters not a whit. Likewise, that there was a string of robberies in my New Orleans neighborhood during my senior year of college, which were the handiwork of white men, would not have justified my being stopped by police every time I returned home from a late afternoon class, to say nothing of being accosted by some community asshole with a Charles Bronson complex. But of course, such an analogy is silly isn’t it? We all know that whites are never subjected to this kind of generalized suspicion, even when we do, indeed, fit the description of one or another bad guy on the loose. We are not all looked at sideways when yet another white male serial killer is at large, or yet another abortion clinic bomber. We don’t face police roadblocks in lily-white communities so as to catch drunk drivers, even though the data is quite clear that whites represent a disproportionate number and percentage of those driving under the influence.
As for Zimmerman’s claims of self-defense, that anyone could believe such a demonstrably transparent lie as this is stunning. Or rather it isn’t. It makes perfect sense in a nation where blackness and danger have long been considered synonymous, such that any black male over the age of perhaps 10 can “reasonably” be assumed a predator whose designs on decent people and their property are so concretized as to warrant virtually any measure invoked to monitor, control and incapacitate them. However much has changed in the U.S. since the 1960s, or for that matter the 1860s, make note of it that at least this much has not: black folks are still, in the eyes of far too many whites, a problem to be addressed, a riddle to be solved. And deprived of the old mechanisms of social control to which we were once so wedded — formal segregation, regular lynchings, forced sterilization, even enslavement — we have opted for the development of new forms: racial profiling, gated communities into which we shall police entry, zoning laws that limit who can live among us, and mass incarceration for non-violent drug offenses, among others.
Under what rational interpretation of self-defense could Zimmerman’s actions qualify? Zimmerman chased Martin down. Zimmerman tackled Martin after Martin demanded to know why Zimmerman was following him. Martin screamed for help. And Zimmerman shot him. Even if Martin fought back, how could such a thing — a quite reasonable response, it should be noted, to being attacked by a total stranger — justify pulling a gun, pulling the trigger and shooting the person who was acting in self-defense against you? To those who accept Zimmerman’s claim of self-defense, let us ask a simple question: would you be so willing to buy that argument if a black person were to chase down a white person in a mostly black neighborhood, and then upon catching him, end his life when the white person resisted being pummeled? You know full well the answer. We all do.
If I chase you and jump you, and you resist my assault, and in response to your resistance I kill you, I am the bad guy. Period. End of story. No exceptions, no prevarications, no ifs ands or buts. It’s me. Trayvon Martin is the innocent one here. He is the one who was acting in self-defense, when he resisted the assault of a total stranger, whose purposes for chasing him and accosting him made him rightfully afraid. After all, “neighborhood watch captains,” whether duly elected as such or just in their own heads (as seems to have been the case with Zimmerman), don’t wear official law enforcement uniforms, which might help identify them to the persons they may find themselves pursuing. And ya’ know why? Because despite their fervent and pre-adolescent desires to play cops and robbers like they used to do when they were eight years old, they are not cops. They are not even security guards. They are self-appointed enforcers with no authority whatsoever, save that which they have chosen to fabricate so as to make themselves feel more important.
Check out Wise’s full essay.
~Peace, Blessings, and Growth~