NYU Black Renaissance Noire Fall 2013 - Page 62

The Evaporation of Justice Twelve Lessons from the Zimmerman Trial That evening I sat and watched the rendering of the verdict with my sixteen-year-old son—he is less than a year younger than Trayvon Martin at the time of his death. As I watched the time dishonored tradition of devaluing black life play out again, my thoughts turned to my son and how his mother and I could protect him in a country that was founded on the principle that black people were 3/5ths of a human being—in a country where we still have not gotten to 100% in the eyes of too many members of the white majority. 60 On July 16, 2013, I wrote about the lessons that he should learn from the trial, and acquittal, of George Zimmerman: BRN-FALL-2013.indb 60 It took approximately sixteen hours for the jury in the trial of George Zimmerman to arrive at the verdict that acquitted him of all charges related to his having killed Trayvon Martin. This stunning demolition of the concept of “justice for all” has a sad and macabre “Groundhog Day” quality to it as American history reeks from the tradition of black men (and women) being killed without criminal consequence for their white killers. Conscientious black parents in this country give their children American Survival Lessons at a very early age lest they run afoul of the third rail of racism that lies hidden just below the surface in these United States. The Zimmerman verdict provided yet another mandatory teachable moment. Ever since it took the jury of five white women and a Latina determined that the killing of Trayvon Martin did not warrant any punishment whatsoever, it has been important to think about twelve lessons that black parents will be teaching their children: 1. For over two hundred years it was impossible for a white person to be arrested, must less convicted for killing a black person in the American South. 2. Until the Civil War, very few white Americans anywhere in this country did anything to prevent this ritualized and legalized slaughter of human beings. 3. For over one hundred years back after the Civil War black men and women were routinely lynched by white terrorists. These lynchings took place not only in the South but in places like Indiana and New York’s Long Island. Records do not indicate that any white person ever faced legal consequence as a result of this terrorist activity. 4. During the wholesale lynching frenzy, most white Americans went about their business and there is no record of any Congressional or Presidential action outlawing lynching despite a few pathetic efforts to do so. 5. Late in the evening of July 13, 2013, the jury returned a verdict acquitting George Zimmerman of all charges related to the killing of Trayvon Martin. Mr. Zimmerman blinked once, twice and then three times as the verdict was read. His face remained emotionless for another few heartbeats and then the smile came through—the smile that had to be the last dagger in the hearts of the parents of Trayvon Martin. During the classic years of the Civil Rights movement so many black Americans were killed without the killers ever being arrested, much less prosecuted, the United States Congress passed a law in the early part of this century empowering the Justice Department to reopen so called “cold cases”. Not surprisingly, most of the perpetrators have either died at home and in peace or continue to walk the streets. 9/13/13 12:48 AM