July 15, 2013

Zimmerman acquitted of Trayvon's murder

The verdict on George Zimmerman's killing of Trayvon Martin is in: not guilty. Conservatives are predictably glad that a white man got away with killing a black boy, while liberals are predictably angry.

For starters, let's note that the liberal outrage isn't necessarily over the verdict itself:

On the Killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman

By Ta-Nehisi CoatesI think the jury basically got it right. The only real eyewitness to the death of Trayvon Martin was the man who killed him. At no point did I think that the state proved second degree murder. I also never thought they proved beyond a reasonable doubt that he acted recklessly. They had no ability to counter his basic narrative, because there were no other eye-witnesses.

I think Andrew Cohen is right--trials don't work as strict "moral surrogates." Not everything that is immoral is illegal--nor should it be. I want to live in a society that presumes innocence. I want to live in that society even when I feel that a person should be punished.
That said, observers say the prosecution made several mistakes. One was not focusing on Zimmerman's initial aggression:How does 2013 Florida have a (Stand Your Ground) law that seems cut and pasted from 1881 Tombstone? Because let’s be clear here: according to current Florida law, you can get a gun, follow an unarmed minor, call the police, have them explicitly tell you to stop following them, then choose to ignore that, keep following the minor, get into a confrontation with them, and if at any point during that process you get scared, you can shoot the minor to death. And the state of Florida would say ‘Well, you did what you could.’John Oliver, The Daily ShowAnother was not focusing on Trayvon's race:

Zimmerman saga was all about race

Let's get real

By Paul Campos
Trayvon Martin was stalked by George Zimmerman because he was black. Trayvon Martin is dead because he was black. George Zimmerman was acquitted of killing Trayvon Martin because the boy Zimmerman killed was black.

If you deny these things, you are either a liar or an idiot, or possibly both.

Nothing above requires the conclusion that the jury’s verdict was wrong as a matter of law. Florida’s laws, in their majestic equality, extend to people of all races the right to engage in vigilante killing that eliminates the sole witness to that killing. To point this out is neither a defense of those laws, nor a claim that they will in fact be applied equally. In other words, to blame this jury in this situation is to miss the point.
Zimmerman verdict: A green light for racist vigilantes

This verdict allows every paranoid, sub-intelligent, vigilante with a gun to go on victimizing black youth

By Rich Benjamin
Zimmerman’s stooges and apologists claim that his deadly encounter had nothing do with race. And that his trial and acquittal have nothing to do with race. His defenders effectively portrayed him as a hapless Samaritan who got in over his head. Meanwhile, they tarred Trayvon as a menace who failed to properly justify his existence.

These presumptions colored every moment of the Police Department’s botched initial reaction and the trial.

How does an armed adult defy the policy, chase down a youth, kill him, and then turn around and call it self defense? Defense from what? A fleeing kid? Was Trayvon Martin seen for his humanity? Or as a “fucking punk”? Are black men seen for our humanity or as three-fifths of a fucking punk? This verdict will have devastating consequences. It is an implicit green light for every paranoid, sub-intelligent, vigilante racist to go on victimizing black youth. Trayvon Martin is dead for no reason other than being black.

Why do Zimmerman and some Americans feel entitled to police black and brown people like vigilantes? Why did the Sanford Police Department test a dead boy’s body for drugs in “standard operating procedure,” yet failed to test a live man’s body for alcohol or drugs? Why did the Sanford Police Department fail so miserably during the critical immediate hours after arriving on the scene?

Since our juridical Establishment often turns its head--or even winks--at the prevalence of racial profiling and police brutality against black and brown people, why should anyone be surprised by Zimmerman’s chase? Or by his acquittal? Implicitly and explicitly, the law condones his racial paranoia. The so-called rationales used to design and peddle “Stand Your Ground” laws and “Stop and Frisk” laws, and immigrant policing laws, fuel a vigilante mentality allowing some Americans to feel entitled to self-police others.

Even before the verdict, the Police Establishment warned black people not to riot--as though that were a foregone conclusion--without delivering Zimmerman’s supporters the same warning. The warning not to riot--in its substance and tone--recirculates the dogma of “black men as menace.” The chase, the trial, the warnings not to riot, the acquittal all compound the passive-aggressive profiling of black and brown people.
Defending Zimmerman = racist

Tim Wise explains the racism in the Zimmerman case for those who still don't get it:

No Innocence Left to Kill: Racism, Injustice and Explaining America to My Daughter

By Tim WiseI am fully aware that there are still those who would admonish me for even suggesting this case was about race. Not just the defenders of George Zimmerman, with whom I shall deal in a moment, but even the state, whose prosecutors de-racialized this case to a point that frankly was as troubling as anything the defense tried to do. Maybe more. I mean, the defense’s job is to represent their client, and I cannot fault them for having done so successfully. But the prosecution’s job is to make it clear to the jury what the defendant did and preferably why he did it. By agreeing to a fundamentally colorblind, “this isn’t about race,” narrative, they gave away the best part of their arsenal before the war had really started.

Because anyone who still believes that this case had nothing to do with race—or worse, that it was simply a tragedy, the racial meaning of which was concocted by those whom they love to term “race hustlers”—are suffering from a delusion so profound as to call into question their capacities for rational thought. And yet still, let us try to reason with them for a second, as if they were capable of hearing it. Let’s do that for the sake of rational thought itself, as a thing we still believe in; and for our country, which some of us still believe—against all evidence—is capable of doing justice and living up to its promises. In short, let’s give this one more shot.

Those who deny the racial angle to the killing of Trayvon Martin can only do so by a willful ignorance, a carefully cultivated denial of every logical, obvious piece of evidence before them, and by erasing from their minds—if indeed they ever had anything in there to erase—the entire history of American criminal justice, the criminal suspicion regularly attached to black men, and the inevitable results whenever black men pay for these suspicions with their lives. They must choose to leave the dots unconnected between, for instance, Martin on the one hand, and then on the other, Amadou Diallo or Sean Bell or Patrick Dorismond, or any of a number of other black men whose names—were I to list them—would take up page after page, and whose names wouldn’t mean shit to most white people even if I did list them, and that is the problem.

Oh sure, I’ve heard it all before. George Zimmerman didn’t follow Trayvon Martin because Martin was black; he followed him because he thought he might be a criminal. Yes precious, I get that. But what you don’t get—and by not getting it while still managing to somehow hold down a job and feed yourself, scare the shit out of me—is far more important. Namely, if the presumption of criminality that Zimmerman attached to Martin was so attached because the latter was black—and would not have been similarly attached to him had he been white—then the charge of racial bias and profiling is entirely appropriate.

And surely we cannot deny that the presumption of criminality was dependent on this dead child’s race can we? Before you answer, please note that even the defense did not deny this. Indeed, Zimmerman’s attorneys acknowledged in court that their client’s concerns about Martin were connected directly to the fact that previous break-ins in the neighborhood had been committed by young black males.

This is why it matters that George Zimmerman justified his following of Martin because as he put it, “these fucking punks” always get away. In other words, Zimmerman saw Martin as just another “fucking punk” up to no good, similar to those who had committed previous break-ins in the community. But why? What behavior did Martin display that would have suggested he was criminally inclined? Zimmerman’s team could produce nothing to indicate anything particularly suspicious about Martin’s actions that night. According to Zimmerman, Martin was walking in the rain, “looking around,” or “looking around at the houses.” But not looking in windows, or jiggling doorknobs or porch screens, or anything that might have suggested a possible burglar. At no point was any evidence presented by the defense to justify their client’s suspicions. All we know is that Zimmerman saw Martin and concluded that he was just like those other criminals. And to the extent there was nothing in Martin’s actions—talking on the telephone and walking slowly home from the store—that would have indicated he was another of those “fucking punks,” the only possible explanation as to why George Zimmerman would have seen him that way is because Martin, as a young black male was presumed to be a likely criminal, and for no other reason, ultimately, but color.

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. I don’t care what your Peruvian mother says, or her white husband who married the Peruvian mother, or your brother, or your black friends, or the black girl you took to prom, or the black kids you mentored. If you see a black child and assume “criminal,” despite no behavioral evidence at all to suggest such a conclusion, you are a racist. No exceptions. That goes for George Zimmerman and for anyone reading this.

And here’s the thing: even in the evidentiary light most favorable to George Zimmerman this would remain true. Because even if we believe, as the jury did, that Zimmerman acted in self-defense, there can be no question that were it not for George Zimmerman’s unfounded and racially-biased suspicions that evening, Trayvon Martin would be alive, and Zimmerman would be an entirely anonymous, pathetic wanna-be lawman, about whom no one would much care. It was he who initiated the drama that night. And even if you believe that Trayvon Martin attacked Zimmerman after being followed by him, that doesn’t change.

But apparently that moral and existential truth matters little to this jury or to the white reactionaries so quick to praise their decision. To them, the fact that Martin might well have had reason to fear Zimmerman that night, might have thought he was standing his ground, confronted by someone who himself was “up to no good” is irrelevant. 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.
A Washington Post columnist helpfully demonstrates how Zimmerman's defenders are as racist as Zimmerman is--exactly as Tim Wise said:

Richard Cohen is terrified of black people

Washington Post columnist understands racial profiling, because hoodies are the "uniform" of crime

By Alex Pareeen
Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen wrote an offensive, poorly reasoned column about racial profiling. In 1986. And also this week. And once or twice or let’s say perhaps a dozen additional times in the interim. The occasion of this week’s installment of “Richard Cohen explains why black men should be treated as second-class citizens for the safety of us all, which is to say rich old white men” is the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the murder of Trayvon Martin. Cohen is very sorry that Martin is dead due to Zimmerman incorrectly assuming him to be a criminal of some sort based solely on Martin’s demographic profile—in other words, Cohen is sorry that Martin is dead because of racial profiling—but on the other hand, Cohen argues, racial profiling is correct and necessary because black people are scary, at least when they wear certain things.I don’t like what George Zimmerman did, and I hate that Trayvon Martin is dead. But I also can understand why Zimmerman was suspicious and why he thought Martin was wearing a uniform we all recognize. I don’t know whether Zimmerman is a racist. But I’m tired of politicians and others who have donned hoodies in solidarity with Martin and who essentially suggest that, for recognizing the reality of urban crime in the United States, I am a racist. The hoodie blinds them as much as it did Zimmerman.A “uniform we all recognize.” “We all.” “We.” Richard Cohen speaks for us all. Or “us” “all.” That one incredibly dumb assertion, stated with perfect idiotic certainty in the first-person plural, is exactly the sort of thing that makes Richard Cohen America’s worst columnist on America’s worst opinion page.

In the world outside Cohen’s tiny boomer rich guy bubble, “a hoodie” is worn by … nearly all young people and plenty of not-so-young people. To call a hoodie part of a (universally recognized!) “uniform” of Dangerous Black Thuggishness makes about as much sense as invoking high-tops or baseball caps. It is the “uniform” of youth. But then, to Richard Cohen, youth plus blackness makes probable cause.
And please, spare us any talk of how Zimmerman is Hispanic, not white:

Is George Zimmerman white or Hispanic? That depends

For white Hispanics, our privilege can always be undercut. Zimmerman bet on his whiteness--and now he's entrapped

By Isa Hopkins
In the cascade of social media responses to the verdict in the death of young, black Trayvon Martin, the racial and ethnic identity of assailant George Zimmerman has been as bifurcated as the rage and relief. To those grieving an injustice, Zimmerman was a white man; those who celebrate his acquittal have been quick to point out that Zimmerman is, in fact, not white at all, but Hispanic. How can such a basic fact of a man be so disputed?

The truth is, Zimmerman is both: white and Hispanic, one a racial category and the other a marker of ethnicity, an accusation and an exoneration, respectively, inverted from their usual exculpatory order. Both are social constructions, but the former relies on skin color and ostensibly biological features, while the latter is a designation based on country of origin. Many Hispanics are dark-skinned, but many are not. It’s a confusing identity in a land that has traditionally preferred its divisions to be more clean-cut, and it’s one that even we white Hispanics struggle to understand.
The key point:The genius of white supremacy is in its elasticity: It can expand to include the not-quite-right, the off-whites, when necessary, and then otherize and eject us when convenient.Bottom line: Zimmerman is white, racially speaking. End of story there.

For more on Trayvon Martin, see Black Youth Killed Like Trayvon and Racial Profiling for Blacks and Indians.


Anonymous said...

If he's "white" then can you explain why he sure LOOKS Hispanic?

dmarks said...

"Trayvon Martin was stalked by George Zimmerman because he was black."

It appears this is wishful thinking/imagination by that writer. No one has been able to provide anything close to evidence that there was racial profiling in this case.

The closest we can come was Martin bashing GZ over the phone, using a racist slur. And that, of course, is from Martin, and not GZ.

dmarks said...

And Anon, it turns out that GZ is Native American and Black as well.

The racist narrative of the Left on this issue keeps running aground on the rocks of facts like this.

The left, including the writers here, are bashing Zimmerman because he is white. Never mind that they are incorrect, they are still racist for doing so.

Rob personally makes the error on Zimmerman: "Conservatives are predictably glad that a white man got away with killing a black boy"

And he makes other errors too: I have talked to many conservatives about this, and not one of them cared about the race of those involved.

dmarks said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
dmarks said...

And Rob, in all fairness, I can find some similarity in your inconsistent arguments. You have erroneously characterized the US legally fighting back against a major terrorist kingpin in Iraq as "killing brown people". Here, you call George Zimmerman white.

Compare the picture you chose for this post, here, of Zimmerman, to any typical picture of Saddam Hussein.

Zimmerman looks less "white" than Saddam Hussein. Yet you call him white, and call the terrorist brown.

And it seems odd that Zimmerman is whitewashed to the point that his 1/4 Native ancestry is whitewashed to the point that isn't mentioned on your blog about Native issues.

Rob said...

With your ignorance of the evidence of America has been discussing for months, the "wishful thinking/imagination" is solely yours. Here, refresh your memory on how Zimmerman profiled Martin:


At approximately 7:09 PM, Zimmerman called the Sanford police non-emergency number to report what he considered a suspicious person in the Twin Lakes community. Zimmerman stated, "We've had some break-ins in my neighborhood, and there's a real suspicious guy." He described an unknown male "just walking around looking about" in the rain and said, "This guy looks like he is up to no good or he is on drugs or something." Zimmerman reported that the person had his hand in his waistband and was walking around looking at homes. On the recording, Zimmerman is heard saying, "these assholes, they always get away."

Rob said...

All your other claims are foolishly wrong too, DMarks. For details, see:

George Zimmerman is Native?!