Music News Headlines - Yahoo! News

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman and the Black male

Wow. Let me say it again, WOW!  In the wake of the verdict of the Zimmerman trial which was put on to adjudicate his killing of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin. We all know the story surrounding his death so I wont go into detail here and as I'm sure you are aware at this late date, George Zimmerman was acquitted in his trial.  Many people of all backgrounds were surprised at this verdict, I was not particularly so.  The tragedy of the young mans death and the and the subsequent trial played out in the state of Florida which has a law commonly known as "stand your ground".  The law basically states that if engaged in a confrontation you have no obligation to attempt to retreat and may use deadly force if you feel threatened during the confrontation.  Florida is not the only state to have this type of law on the books.  Currently twenty two (22) other states have some version of this law on their books.  The stand your ground premise comes out of another concept known as the "castle doctrine", as in one's home is their castle. The castle doctrine states that in your home you have no obligation to "retreat".  This is because your home is your ultimate retreat.  It is the place which we all retreat to daily after our dealings with the outside world.  In many states this concept has been expanded to outside the home.  Stand your ground was initially invoked in this case. (it later to morphed to straight forward self defense)

Initially that was to be the end of it, case closed.  It was not until 44 days after the shooting that the wheels of this justice system began to turn.  Now lets be clear, the police department in Sanford Florida had no intention of investigating this case.  The prosecutors office had no desire to try this case in court.  They were forced into doing so because of public pressure, nothing else.  The usual reaction of an individual or group of individuals being forced into doing something that they had no  intention or desire in doing is to do so grudgingly.  The paces will be gone through, the appearance will be given of the work being done but the quality of the work will be sub par.  Both the police department and the prosecutors office fix that description.

It became glaringly apparent to anyone who watched the trial for any amount of time from the very beginning. There was no real passion for the prosecution of this case because as I stated above, they were forced into it.  Even worse than that they appeared unprepared, there was no obvious direction to their questioning of witnesses, no order. No theory was developed, there was no narrative on the prosecutions part of what happened that night.  They did not give the jury a clear vision of their case and consistently hammer home key points.  Much was done in the presentation of the states case that was counter productive.  Evidence that was favorable to the defense was in effect put into the case by the state!  The witnesses that were put on the stand by the prosecution were either entirely unprepared or very beneficial to the defense.  Much ado has been made of Rachel Jentel who was billed as the star witness for the prosecution.  Ms. Jentel was on the phone with Trayvon while he was being pursued by George Zimmerman.  While many have labeled her as uneducated and worse due to her style of speech while testifying she was in fact compelling, direct, honest and stood her ground on key points while on the witness stand. That being said,  from the minute she stepped onto the stand it seemed to me that she was had not been at all prepared by the prosecution as to what to expect during the actual trial. Other witnesses seemed to overpower the prosecution and go off in their own direction.  While I could not watch the trial in its entirely I watched as much as I could and saw a good portion of her testimony in particular and the trial in general.

 The prosecutions performance that I witnessed in this case was pitiful.  Actually it was shameful, almost criminal itself.  To use an analogy, if this was a sport you would say they threw the game. This is the thought that was continuously in my mind as I watched the state present its case to the jury. It wasn't so much that the defense won the case as it was the state giving it away.  The case now has been adjudicated and a decision rendered. That decision must be lived with.  While some have spoke of possible  federal intervention or civil suits that remains to be seen.

This case also served to show again the racial divide in this country.  For anyone who may have harbored the delusion that we were past race as a country this should serve as a wake up call.  From Zimmerman initially thinking that rayvon was "up to no good", following him and ultimately killing him to the police response and prosecution of the case to the many hateful statements posted on many web sites by people who are apparently White Americans it was all about character.  The perception of Trayvon Martin's character or more precisely the lack thereof as an individual and by extension every Black male in the country.  From the time he was killed his character was also assassinated. I've seen this tactic employed on many other cases and I'm sure others have also.  We watched in this case as everything from school suspensions to facebook photos were used to place in the minds of the public justifications for his death.  It was used to help portray him as a basic thug, a wanna be gangsta as many have called him.  They were used to imply that his killing was not criminal and was justified and that he was violent and had it coming to him.  Trayvons actions which included nothing more than talking on the phone while walking home were considered to be suspicious. Truly this was not because of what he was doing but because of who he was.

This is applies to every single Black male in America regardless of  whether you are engaged a criminal act of not.  Your blackness has already criminalized you.  You are to be both feared and loathed.  

Into all of this steps President Obama.  A week after making a brief statement following the verdict he surprised everyone by coming out unannounced to a press conference that was supposed to be conducted by his press secretary Jay Carney.  He took no questions but instead used the opportunity to speak out further not just on the case itself but the larger issues that I touched on above.  While his words were measured he spoke about the perception that the larger society has about young African American males while putting it into a larger historical context. President Obama spoke about his own personal experiences prior to being a senator and now President.  He also had what I will call his Bill Cosby moment.  Black folk were not left blameless for the current state of affairs.  The President spoke very clearly about young Black males being disproportionately involved in the criminal justice system as both perpetrator and victim and that being used as a rationale to enact laws.  He said that statistically Trayvon was more likely to have been killed by one of his peers than by someone else.  He asked communities to come together and begin to construct how to do better for young black males whose unemployment rate is  astonishingly high.  

As even minded as this was he was nonetheless raked over the coals by the usual bunch of right wing  extremist commentators. For what he said, the context he said it in and underneath it all the fact that he had the nerve to come out and say what he did at all. Doing what many in the Black community were looking for him to do since his first term, to speak not just as an American but as a Black American.  Many felt that it was past time for him to speak not just in the capacity of President but as a President who yes, is Black and to speak directly to Black America and to White America for  Black America.

The venom that was spewed by many both in the media and the public toward Trayvon Martin,his family, Rachel Jentel et al underscores the utter disdain that all African Americans including the President of the United States are held in by many whites.  This makes it still necessary even in the 21st century for parents to give their sons and increasingly their daughters "the speech".


No comments:

Post a Comment