Coffee Rhetoric: Justice or Just us? - On Reactions to the George Zimmerman Verdict

July 14, 2013

Justice or Just us? - On Reactions to the George Zimmerman Verdict

[Also read: I Know Trayvon Martin]

Six jurors in Florida have spoken and 17-year-old Trayvon Martin’s killer, George Zimmerman, walks free of any accountability for the part he played in Trayvon’s death. It’s hurtful. It’s a sharp pang that has become all too familiar for Black folk looking to the criminal justice system to work in our favor in some capacity, because far too often, the narrative seems to remain the same-- (and spare me any O.J. Simpson derails)

Despite the hope many of [us] cling to when imploring … demanding… the recognition of our humanity, there’s always this feeling of foreboding about the outcome of that expectation will be. Now that Trayvon has been added to long list of Black people-- many young -- who seem to be nothing more than disposable casualties in the grand scheme of the world at large, I’ll expend some of my righteous indignation towards the gas-lighting and condescension I've seen on my social media timelines, from folks on their proverbial high-horse who fail to grasp the overall implication of the Zimmerman verdict. People who, in the midst of their patronizing reminders about how the legal system works, how none of us were there—(at the scene of the crime the night of February 26th 2012, 
or on the jury sifting through the evidence), and who don’t understand that Zimmerman’s acquittal symbolizes the idea that Black women, men, and youth are subject to being considered inherently dangerous, and subject to racial profiling and vigilantism: even by a neighborhood watch volunteer, an (allegedly) drunk off-duty police officer, or an overzealous gun owner, all with delusions of grandeur about the privilege and power they wield. 

Look, some of have some basic understanding  of how the justice system works… we all had some modicum of an idea about what the 
Zimmerman verdict would be; so it, unfortunately, didn't come as a surprise to those of us who struggle to exist under the weight of systemic and institutional racism and the  act of extrapolating information about any of us, simply because we're Black or brown. 

Many of us noted the precarious case the prosecution presented to the state of Florida, which seemed as if it was set up to pacify a fed up Black community. Notwithstanding, since we don’t exist in a vacuum, it doesn't make the impact of the case (and others like it) any less personal or upsetting. Bringing George Zimmerman to trial with lackluster evidence didn't help quell people's exasperation with racial profiling and the deaths of Black lives; it merely irritated an already open wound. There'll always be cause to engage  these sorts of discussions.  People are emotional, and like the verdict, the visceral reaction was to have been expected. Is it wrong that folks still retained hope that justice would be meted out in some way, despite our misgivings? 

If you’re viewing this case from the lens of a lawyer or law enthusiast, are able to divorce all emotion from what's happened and can opine without a second thought to nuance: "It is what it is", good for you... don't begrudge others the right to sit in their feelings, reflect, and dissect-- What? Why? and How? 

If you're a so-called revolutionary and think now is the time to start brow-beating folks from your keyboard or touchscreen with useless solutions, about what people should or shouldn't be doing, or how much more 'conscious' you are than other Black folks, stop. Policing people’s reactions  is just as counterproductive as slacktivism, particularly since many of you aren't in the trenches doing a damn thing other than running your mouth and putting useless information out into the universe, don't vote, and especially since you aren't occupying the same emotional space as Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, who I feel a profound sense of empathy and sadness for. 

People have the right to feel the myriad of feelings when they're dismayed and distressed. 
This likely isn't over because, while Zimmerman and his family are feeling celebratory and probably won't lose a minute of sleep following this verdict (note George's brother still making media rounds to slander Trayvon), he is subject to a civil suit for gunning down Tracy Martin’s and Sybrina Fulton’s son, as well as  other inquiries made by the Justice Department. 
And for clarity, to those who've expressed: "If George had just remained in his car like the 911 operator told him to, we wouldn't be having this conversation", YES, we would be, because Trayvon Martin isn't the first Black teenager who's been racially profiled and/or killed, and he won't be the last

Being dismissive of earnest reactions to a tremendous tragedy and perceived miscarriage of justice is obnoxious and it's silencing. I don't get it. Give it a rest. Stop juxtaposing the case with  'Black-on'Black crime' (you sound stupid and ill-informed). Save the scorn for the pathologically remedial
And to the presumptuous commentary practically begging folks to riot warning Black folks not to "riot like animals", I'ma need you to redirect that advice and call out folks in your own community, 'KThanksBye. 

To wit:
"If you are silent about your pain, they'll kill you and say you enjoyed it."  --Zora Neale Hurston