More on Trayvon

First of all, those of us who want justice for Trayvon must condemn the Black Panther’s placing a 20,000 bounty on George Zimmerman’s head: Inciting people to murder goes against the very principle of justice that we are fighting for. Trayvon’s parents have repeated, over and over, that they are not looking for “an eye for an eye”, for revenge – they are looking for justice, namely, a trial in which George Zimmerman will be judged by a jury of his peers.

As more and more facts come out, it is nearly impossible to know exactly what happened. Here however, are some quick points:

1. Zimmerman claims he was beaten up – the question however, is not whether or not a scuffle ocurred, but rather, who started it. Furthermore, since Zimmerman chose to get out of the car and follow Trayvon, despite the police telling him not to, even if Trayvon did start the fight, it might not be a clear-cut case of self-defense: If you goad someone into a situation in which they feel threatened, and they respond to that threat by fighting you in self-defense, do you then have a right to kill them? (and Travyon most certainly did feel threateneed if his girlfriend is to be believed – he told her on the phone that he was scared because he was being followed, and phone records show that they did have a conversation, though only she and Trayvon can know what was actually said.)

2. That is leaving aside the flaws and contradictions in Zimmerman’s story.

3. Zimmerman’s history of being suspicious of black males – including one age 9 – and of violence (arrested for assault) are relevant. Trayvon’s suspension for hypothetically having done pot (his corpse tested negatively for drugs) is not, since Zimmerman would have not known that information, and kids who have done pot at one point don’t look inherently more suspicious than those who haven’t.

4. Most of the media arguments surround Zimmerman’s guilt. But in fact, Zimmerman’s guilt is not the issue here. The issue is the apparent lack of a complete investigation surrounding Trayvon’s death, and the lack of charges against Zimmerman. While it is imposible to know the veracity of Zimmerman’s tale, there are enough red flags surrounding it that further police action should have been taken, and charges should have been filed. This is not about trying Zimmerman in the court of public opinion – it is about making sure Zimmerman gets a trial.

Lastly, I am worried about the social implications: We now have a situation in which young black men in hoodies feel threatened and targeted. We also have a country where it’s pretty easy to get guns, and to use them in public places. We have a country in which white racism is mounting, and hidden prejudice is bubbling up to the surface, at the same time that African-American frustration with the lack of progress for the African-American community is mounting and bubbling up to the surface. We live in an era in which we are aware enough of our society’s systemic racism to be angry, but not angry enough to actively fix it – or maybe we do actively fix it, its just so entrenched that we don’t know how. We also have a country in which white people feel threatened (yes, I know its hard to believe, but its out there, I promise.) Again, this feeling of being threatened, combined with easy gun access, is just not good. I am not debating the legitimacy of each side’s claims, or who is behind racism, white poverty, black poverty, or both – I am just stating facts. Even if you don’t agree with me, that if a young African-American feels afraid he might get shot because he is wearing a hoodie, then America has failed to be the country it was meant to be, that such a land is not truly free, and is a desecration of the Constitutional values upon which it was founded*, then at least, if you’re worried about peace and public safety, you’ll have to concede that fighting racism is practical, because having different groups of society pissed off at each other is potentially a very dangerous situation – especially because yes, we do have ridiculously lax gunlaws. Sure, the second ammendment entails the right to bear arms, so I can stomach basic handguns and hunting guns being owned, provided that getting those guns is at least as hard as finding a job: I am talking background check, interview, waiting period, and references – heck, maybe even a psych exam while we’re at it. Don’t want the exam? Don’t buy the gun. (Maybe pysch exams discriminate, implying if you want a gun you’re psycho. I need to think about that.)

I suppose I got far afield, but while one part of fighting racial violence is fighting racism, the other part is making it harder for racists to be violent – and whether or not the Trayvon case turns out to be racial violence (as it appears to be) or not, I do hope that his case serves as a larger wakeup call to this phenomena – while also recognizing that nothing, not even a million trials, could bring Trayvon back to his friends or family – even if justice is served, this will still be a tragedy.

*Going to table the whole “How could the Constitution not abolish slavery/our founding fathers may have been hypocrites” issue, and for the moment, give them a pass with the whole “to be a human is to be a hypocrite” arguments.

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