So there you go. It’s okay in the state of Florida to hunt and murder a black kid who is simply walking in your neighborhood. George Zimmerman wanted to be a big hero with his gun, so he shot Trayvon Martin and then painted a target around him. Martin had previously smoked weed! He’d talked smack on his Facebook! He may have called Zimmerman a (TRIGGER WARNING: CRACKER) cracker to his friend! Possibly he was looking to score some “reefer” or get hold of a gun. At any rate, once Zimmerman stalked him through the neighborhood Martin became irrationally agitated and you know how the colored folk get when they’re all het up. Zimmerman had no choice but to defend himself from an assailant he had created and provoked. It all started when Trayvon hit back.
There are entire levels of outrage involved in this case. An Advanced Theoretical Outrageist could spend his career investigating the various levels, permutations, particles, and emanations from this and still barely scratch the surface. I think that near the top is the fact that not only was it pretty much assumed that Zimmerman would go free, remember that there almost wasn’t even a trial in the first place. When this first began, Florida cops were looking at a black kid who’d been shot in the street while committing no apparent offense and didn’t think there was anything it needed to look into. Their first reaction — borne out by the results of this trial — was that no crime had been committed because Zimmerman’s actions were covered by the now-notorious “Stand Your Ground” law.
This law, courtesy of ALEC and the NRA, is more of a “Last Man Standing” law, where as long as there are no witnesses around (no reliable ones, anyway, by which we mean white) the person who survives is the winner. You shot the guy out of fear for your life because he got all crazy when he saw your gun! It’s an insane law that favors gun violence over other violence, perfect for America. The NRA loves it because it means more gun sales for their manufacturer clients. ALEC loves it because, well, it sure as hell ain’t rich folks shooting each other, is it?
The acceptability of Trayvon’s murder, and the legal justification and approval of it, isn’t news to anyone who isn’t white. Black people, especially young black men, have no value or identity other than pre-criminals. Even if Martin wasn’t doing anything at that moment it was of course only a matter of time. Like that Minority Report movie, pundits engaged their prediction machines to demonstrate that Martin was inexorably on a road to crime, assuming he wasn’t there already. This was evident by the fact that he had smoked some weed and acted out on Facebook, things no white teenager has ever done, at least not while also being black. George Zimmerman, who shot an unarmed teenager wasn’t on trial, the teenager was. The dead teenager had to somehow prove to the jury that he wasn’t a threat, and was unable to do so.
“But this wasn’t about race,” some folks declared, the calling card of a situation that is largely about race. “Because Zimmerman is a minority too!” That Zimmerman’s Hispanic background should make it “not about race” speaks volumes about race in our country. The argument seems to be that since neither of these groups are white, they’re essentially the same, so clearly something else must have been involved. Zimmerman gets to be a hero and a credit to Hispanics for white conservatives, because he shot and killed a black guy. No, there’s nothing about race there at all.
As Ta-Nehisi Coates points out, the insulting thing here is not that there was some gigantic miscarriage of justice, it’s that there wasn’t. This was the “justice” system working exactly as designed. A law got passed, a dude got killed, the law said it was okay, and a jury confirmed it. Simple as that. If the law itself happens to be a travesty of humanity, well, let it get in line with all the others. The motto of American culture, whether in the boardroom or the streets of Sanford, FL, are, “I didn’t do anything illegal.”
It’s a disgusting law, created and supported by disgusting people. But America is a pretty disgusting place now and this sort of stuff doesn’t surprise or shock anymore. It’s just this disgraceful country doing what it does most, if not best.