Sunday, July 14, 2013

Thoughts on the Trayvon Martin Case

            On the day after the state of Florida v George Zimmerman there are many thoughts swirling in my head.  Some are of frustration.  Some are of not being surprised at all.  Other thoughts go to what can be done if anything to change our country into a place where killing an unarmed person of any ethnicity would warrant some sort of punishment no mater who you are.  People on one side are saying the most ridiculous things.  People are focusing on the small incident that occurred in Oakland California and claiming, "black people are rioting".  No a few idiots broke some windows and set some fires in the streets black people are very much not rioting.
            While the few instances of "rioting" are counter productive and only hurt those involved,  (Meanwhile the news this morning was that there were no riots, which in its self is ridiculous.  You shouldn't have a negative be the story.) To me it is understandable why people would become angry enough to want to or actually riot.  The fact is that race is still an issue in this country.  You can cherry pick facts about white slaves and the selling of Africans by Africans to diminish the legacy of slavery in this country, but at the end of the day the vast majority of slaves in the slave trade in the last 150 or so years of slavery were free Africans taken against their will by white slavers.  Did you know that there were free black people that owned white slaves until they passed laws against blacks owning white slaves? But that just doesn't matter because it was such a small minority of cases. 
            People like to act like slavery is ancient history but if you really stop and think about it there are people still alive today who's grandparents knew people who either were slaves or that owed slaves.  My father was born in 1929.  His grandfather was born just before the turn of the century. Now does anyone honestly think he didn't know anyone who was a slave in their past or who had been a young child during slavery?  And my father would only be in his mid 80's if he were still alive today.  Slavery definitely still affects the psyche of black and white Americans.  What a lot of white people don't understand when they say things like "black people are the most racist" or "Playing the race card at every turn simply sets race issues back years and decades" is that their prospective is from the position of a person who is not being actively discriminated against.  How many white people have been pulled over in their car and told that their car was reported stolen? (It was not by the way it was mine.) How many white people have been pulled over by a cop while driving with a light skinned black girl and when the cop gets to the door says, "Oh you're not white" and lets you go?  How about walking into an establishment and asking for a job application and as the person at the front desk is looking for the application in the desk the manager comes out of a back room and shakes her head no while cutting her throat with her hand.  After which the person at the front desk says, "Sorry we aren't giving out applications right now".  These are actually experiences. It's hard not to pull the race cards in situations where it's the only card in the deck. The most important question I have for white people is how often do you think about your race on a daily basis.  My guess would be approximately 0.00001 times on average.  If you ask a black person this same question the answer will usually be, "All the time".  As a black American you are constantly reminded of your blackness and differentness by the media, white people (even if they don't know they are doing it) and to some extent by other black people. 
            Some people say, "To paint with a broad brush that the system never seems to work out for black folks, is simply not right." I say the statistics speak for themselves on that matter.  It's just a fact that black men, in particular, are convicted and charged with harsher sentences than their white counterparts for the same offenses in a statistically significant manner.  Which is to say more than just by chance.  The police's bias against Trevon was evident in the case.  They believed from the beginning that Zimmerman was completely justified and that this young black man had to be at fault.  This is why they did a toxicology report on the victim and not on the shooter.  How backwards is that?  They see a dead black kid and immediately test him for drugs.  And yes I know they found trace amounts of THC in his blood.  Does that justify his death? No.  I would say it is completely irrelevant to this case accept to say that if he was smoking marijuana he would be less likely to be aggressive.  If Zimmerman was a black male and Trayvon was still who he was, a black male, there is almost a zero percent chance that he would have been able to walk freely around the police department on the night of the shooting let alone be set free with out a trial or bail.
            I live in San Diego currently and these kinds of issues are not very prevalent here. It is a very young city demographically and the amount of racism I face here, in my perception if negligible, and I ignore racism in my personal life as much as I can anyway because most racism that I face now would only boil down to hurt feelings and the people who are perpetrating said racism have no power over my life in any way so they can be safely ignored. However all of America is not equal, in the South racism is open and frequent and is perpetrated by people who have some degree of power over the person that is on the receiving end. 
            The reason people are upset with this verdict is because it is yet another example of how the life of a black youth is worthless in this country.  Trayvon was making his way home from the convenience store and some random guy who was NOT a police officer started to follow him and then confronted him after being told not to.  What would you have done if you were Trayvon?   Does he not have the right to defend himself or does that right only extend to Zimmerman?  I honestly believe that if Zimmerman had not had the gun he would not have followed Trayvon let alone confront him, and if he did Trayvon would not have killed him.  Worst-case scenario one of them would have been beaten up.  For self-defense you have to meet force with force you have to believe your life is in danger.  Trayvon was unarmed.   I'm sorry but sidewalks don't count as being armed.  For those of you that might have missed it defense attorney Mark O'Mara actually argued in court that Trayvon Martin was armed. He was armed with the sidewalk.  He said this while holding a slab of concrete.  This is a horrible precedent to set.  By this logic every person on earth is always armed with a deadly weapon because there is always something around to bang someone's head on or because they have arms and legs. 
            I also think that these prosecutors did a very poor job with this case.  The defense was allowed to have their defendant testify NOT under oath and without a cross examination by having the videotaped statement to police at the crime scene entered into evidence and their client not take the stand.  The jury should have never seen this video.  They weren't even able to adequately point out all of the inconsistencies with this story.  They were able to enter into evidence a computer generated animation showing the defenses side of the story.  The jury should have never seen that either because once you see a series of events you internalize it and will lean towards that series of events even when there is no evidence that it happened the way it happened in the animation.  The only evidence is Zimmerman's word against a dead Trayvon's word. 
            I will say I'm not surprised about the out come. I was just hoping that it would be different.  I didn't think that seconded degree murder was an appropriate charge.  I think manslaughter would have been a more appropriate charge and if he was found guilty of that he would have gone to prison for 20-25 years with the maximum for that charge being 30 years.  I'm pretty sure the prosecution went with second-degree murder in fear of the public response of manslaughter isn't enough.  Manslaughter would have been easier to prove because the burden of proof wouldn't have been so high.  They wouldn't have had to prove ill intent.  It is always hard to prove what someone is thinking.  I will give him the benefit of the doubt about that.  I don't know if he went out to kill this kid.  But what I do think is he bit off more than he could chew by confronting someone that had the right to defend himself just as much as anyone else does, and the only way he could think to get out of the situation was to shoot his way out.  They should have just fought it out and "lived to fight another day" as the saying goes. 
  I end with a thought:

 Wouldn't it be great if we lived in a world where Zimmerman instead of confronting Trayvon with suspicion gave him a ride home to get him out of the rain?