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


bobwhite11 said...

Point of order--the 911 operator did not tell GZ to stay in his car; the 911 operator told GZ long after GZ was out of the car, standing in the rain, as follows:


Are you following him?




Ok. We don't need you to do that.

Now that we have that clear, I think I understand the problem. Blacks were not really interested in the law or the facts of this case. I have read everything about it--even to correcting your misunderstanding of the 911 call. You clearly have not.

No, it seems black folks wanted GZ punished as an archetype of a problem they have had with the white majority for some years. No armed white man should be able to kill an unarmed black one--that is enough to be found guilty, guilty of something. Just guilty.

The legal system we have, of course, looks at every single case as a distinct set of facts and does not use archetypes. It is designed to evaluate each case without passion or prejudice, because we lawyers know everyone's emotions, sensitivities, common sense, and hot buttons vary and we have tried to make the system as close to objective as anything man-made can be. We think that makes it fair. Blacks like you seem less satisfied.

I would suggest to you this: Instead of wallowing in this great divide we have, why don't you and those who think like you draft with specificity the changes you would want to see in our legal system and let's discuss them. I will warn you as you think through it that our legal system is the product of thousands of years of work and of the best minds who have ever lived. But, you may be able to improve upon it.

We'll see--let's discuss it.

TiffJ said...

@bobwhite: First of all, I've read, thoroughly, the details of the case and am full *aware* of the shoddy evidence brought forth by the Florida prosecutor, Angela Corey, the jury had to work with. I don't need a rundown from you.

This opinion piece is subtitled: "ON REACTIONS TO THE GEORGE ZIMMERMAN VERDICT" ... I've outlined the policing of people's reactions, the online antagonism of people *for* their reactions, and the reasons WHY people are upset.

Do NOT tell me what I HAVE and have NOT read, don't patronize me and tell me what YOU think Blacks have done... particularly since most of the commentary being offered ARE by black attorneys and experts on how the legal system works.

What exactly are you looking to discuss? Particularly since you presume to think you know what all blacks people are thinking and you PRESUME to be an expert on what we do and don't know. Your comment is the height of arrogance.

bobwhite11 said...

You cannot even discuss the matter I see. Let me make it really simple--the system worked exactly as it should, an innocent man was acquitted, and there should be no more discussion of it. Your very first paragraph acts as if another result should have occurred. Why? In my opinion, there should be no outrage, as justice was served. And if you think you know TM, then you need to check this out: http://www.pjtv.com/?cmd=mpg&mpid=56&load=8689

So I reiterate: What would you change about the system to give this "justice" you think was denied? Go ahead. Take a stab at it....

As to my arrogance, I plead guilty; I've been practicing law for nearly 30 years and I get really upset when those who know so little speak as if they know so much....

TiffJ said...


P.S. People are entitled to discuss whatever they want, however long they choose to. Good day.