Sunday, July 14, 2013

George Zimmerman Acquitted: Read/React

I'd like to point out that I said George Zimmerman would be acquitted a month ago. Not that I necessarily wanted that outcome but because I know my state and its laws.

An unarmed Black kid was shot and killed. The Hispanic man who killed him never denied the killing. The Stand Your Ground Law was not the primary defense used by attorneys Mark O'Mara and Don West, but because it is law it played a part in how the jury decided the verdict. Under Florida law George Zimmerman had no duty to retreat in the fight with Trayvon Martin. Under Florida law deadly force is legal no matter who the aggressor is in a confrontation.

This is the law. This law in its application is not always equal. So while both prosecutors and defense attorneys say this specific case was not about race, I understand as a Black community (that is not said to alienate our non-Black readers) why we feel like it is.

I spent the night of the verdict inside my newsroom containing my feelings and trying to make sure I presented balanced coverage. As a journalist that is my duty. As a person, a woman of color, I still can't help feeling some kind of way.

As a Black person there is no escaping this Black skin. As a Black person there is no escaping the stain of slavery, of being considered subhuman, of being emancipated and discriminated and segregated against, of fighting for and dying for rights technically given to us a 100 years before we were ever able to exercise them. There is no escaping the immediate looks of notice when entering a room where your color stands out against your "peers." No matter how professional you are or how much the p.c. majority say they don't see color, color is all that is seen; not because the majority is racist, but because color is noticeable. Difference is always noticeable.

My heart goes out to the Black men in this country who no matter how much on the right side of the law they remain, are still in constant fear for their lives because they don't know who's watching them and thinking they are of the sinister ilk because their swagger walk is too tough, their mug to mean, or their professional status just can't be believed.

This specific case may not have been specifically about race when it comes to the legalities but to say it is not a referendum on race in this country would be as silly as saying that we live in a post-racial society because President Obama is in the White House.

As a Black woman with three step-sons it is hard to look at them and not worry for their lives. It is hard to have nephews, brothers, fathers, friends and know that in certain parts of this country, my state and my city being one of them, that they can be shot and killed through no fault of their own, and their killer can go free.

Trayvon Martin may not have been the innocent child seen in his 12-year-old picture. He may have been a thug in training who could have grown up to have a lengthy criminal rap sheet. But on the night of February 26, 2012 he was just a kid walking home from the convenience store. Even if he doubled back because he was being followed, he was still just a kid walking home from the convenience store, whose bravado may have gotten the best of him that night. He didn't deserve to die and in my opinion George Zimmerman didn't deserve to walk.

Angela Corey may have overcharged him. She has a track record of that in my city for which she is the State Attorney. But overcharged or undercharged, arrested 46 days after the shooting, and acquitted nearly a year and a half after that fatal night moving forward George Zimmerman is a free man and the death of Trayvon Martin will remain non-unique. In my city we have a trial starting in September where a 17-year-old boy was killed because his music was too loud. The facts are different and I do expect a different outcome but that doesn't mean an acquittal isn't possible.

In a justice system where the defendant is judged by a jury of their peers (not a jury of the victim's peers) and race can never take the stand, a verdict of guilt or innocence comes down to the letter of the law and the whims of the jury. The law in the George Zimmerman murder trial was never on the prosecution's side and the jury agreed.

So now what?
blog comments powered by Disqus