7.18.2013

Black in the First Degree


 I’ve been writing this on and off for days.  At first I didn’t want to share my opinions, but now I realize how important it is for me to do so.

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The George Zimmerman trial ended this past weekend with an acquittal.  Actually, many reporters and Internet denizens have made the mistake of calling the aforementioned media circus farce the “Trayvon Martin trial”.  Trayvon Martin was not on trial, his killer George Zimmerman was, but perhaps I shouldn’t blame people; at times it seemed as if Martin was on trial as his character assassination happened day-after-day under the outwardly impeccable nature of legal dribble. 

America is so amazing now that we put black teenagers on trial for their own death - being black in the first degree.  It’s incredible, how white mass murderers are presented as quiet people who possibly have mental problems and, therefore, should be hospitalized not incarcerated, but black people who are killed without reason are niggardly thugs who wouldn’t have been suspicious if only they weren’t walking so damn slowly.1

While Martin illegally faced judge, jury, and executioner the night he died, the Zimmerman trial was carried out in a highly legal manner. Witnesses called in an orderly fashion, evidence introduced properly, a jury of peers.  However, for some odd reason that I still fail to understand, the prosecution seemed to be on Team Defense.  Why agree to go to trial with an all-female, mostly white jury when you have a choice in the matter?  Why dance around the issue of race?  Why ignore the chance to ask obvious questions during cross-examination?  My heart fluttered with anger as I watched the trial live.

The bottom line is, after being told to stay put, Zimmerman couldn’t help but go after Martin because of the way he looked, and shot him when the confrontation wasn’t going his way.  Why does anyone care if Martin beat Zimmerman?  That’s what you get when you come up to someone without a reason, questioning them illegally.  In relation to the Zimmerman case, who cares that a black person had recently committed a robbery in the area?  That person isn’t every black man on earth, and it certainly wasn’t Martin.  Sadly, whatever their motivation was for not doing so, the prosecution failed to present the case that Martin was profiled, confronted, and killed for being black and “suspicious”.  Hence, it was largely their doing that the case was not proved beyond a reasonable doubt. 

I think the best post-conviction reaction came from George Zimmerman’s mentally deficient older brother, Robert Zimmerman Jr.  I love how his biggest concern now is why Martin was trying to acquire a gun and grow marijuana (there’s no proof of this).2  He also stated that he did indeed worry for his brother’s safety because people, unhappy with the verdict, might want to take the law into their own hands.3

Well, what the fuck did your brother do after he was told to stay back, Robert?  Hmm.  Unfortunately, there’s no help for in this world for the hopelessly stupid and ignorant.

Like Jr. claimed during his post-trial interview, many would like to convince themselves that Zimmerman’s actions have nothing to do with race.  They would like to believe that he still would have exited his car and pursued a white teenager.  Heck, as Zimmerman was interviewed by police and said that he would, it must be true!  Plus, Zimmerman is actually Hispanic so people shouldn’t complain about race.  Right?

Wrong.

I think anyone who thinks that is possibly delusional.  Zimmerman has a history of discriminating toward people based on race (after all, look who he was raised by).4 5 It’s incredible how people claim that POC can’t be racist toward other POC.  (By the way Zimmerman, you don’t get extra brownie points from the white community for this, you’re only being used to uphold wacky gun laws if you haven’t figured that out by now).  Ironically, he’d be running back to his Peruvian roots had the law been against him, but considering that he wasn’t even arrested immediately after the shooting, that wasn’t a worry.

That being said, what he did still would have been a crime if Martin were a white or purple teenager.  Those who disagree with that have completely missed the boat.  Even if you’re part of your wannabe-cop neighborhood watch, you don’t have the right to approach people and ask them what they’re doing in a place where they belong, and you certainly don’t have the right to kill them.  There are reasons why we have police, and there are reasons why Zimmerman was not eligible to become one.  It could be the fact that he beat a police officer in the past, but of course, that’s not a serious as the fact that Martin skipped class before and wore gold teeth (the horror).6   

But should we all be surprised about the imbalance in this country when it comes to the handing down of justice?  This has been going on for a while, and it will continue as long as the lives of blacks and POC are deemed worthless or less than.  There are several recent examples.

Marissa Alexander fired a warning shot at the ceiling toward her violent husband and got 20 years in prison without killing or hurting a soul (the prosecutor in this case was the same as the one in the Zimmerman trial, funny that).7  Aaron and Kristin Parker were beaten within an inch of their life by a mob of white men resulting in…nothing, not even an arrest.8  The list goes on and on, and frankly, I think it will continue.9  For all those people obsessing about the what-ifs, according to these cases, I’d say Zimmerman would definitely be in jail right now had he been black.

So why did the Zimmerman case get so much attention?  I think everyone and their mother has a different opinion on the case, but I don’t think everyone truly gets why there’s such an outrage.

Zimmerman should have gotten second-degree murder.  No matter what happened that night, Zimmerman doesn’t have the right to claim he was defending himself when he shot Martin.  So, there was nothing to trigger him to kill Martin (except that he was black and “suspicious” which isn’t a good enough excuse under the law), which eliminates manslaughter.  Too bad Juror B37 and her peers were too biased to understand that.10 11

I’m angry about the media attention as well.  It’s not enough.  There isn’t enough time, energy, people, compassion, ect. to keep this case in the papers and on TV until things change.  And people like Martin who have been killed because of their color and forgotten aren’t getting media attention.

This is a huge, huge dichotomous issue in a country that has already been divided for decades, and remains so.  Civil rights issues that came up in the 20th century have been ended in the form of a truce, but never actually resolved.  If the media never covered this, no one would know about it.  It is unfortunate that other cases like this don’t get as much attention.

The Zimmerman case has broke the camel’s back (or at least significantly weakened it).  You shoot a black kid and don’t even get arrested until 44 days later, and would have never been arrested if people didn’t decide to use social media and complain.  That aspect of this case, in itself, is worth protesting for.  And it isn’t like people aren’t reaching across the divide, people of all colors and backgrounds are protesting.  I don’t think people should vandalize and march on highways, but holding up signs and showing solidarity?  Go for it.

America is a “pristine” dystopia of sorts, there’s no need to wait until the future.  We like to make everything seem like it’s fine while certain groups are systematically pushed to the side, their lives constrained by the law.  And if you’re in a certain group, your life doesn’t even matter.

The black-on-black violence argument is popping up everywhere now and is irritating because it’s blatantly comparing apples to oranges.  White people kill a lot of white people; Hispanics kill a lot of Hispanics.  In Taiwan, I can guarantee that most murders are Chinese-on-Chinese.  Death is sad and no one likes it, that’s obvious.  Violence is everywhere, that’s apparent.  I wish there weren’t more people dying on the streets of Chicago than in Afghanistan.12  It’s terrible, and it’s a problem that certainly needs to be solved.

But this case - and cases like it - are outrageous because they set a scary precedent – you can kill a black person for doing nothing, and as long as you’re white, most of the time, no one will care that you did it.  In states like Texas and Florida where you can assume that almost everyone has a concealed weapon, this is frightening.  Bumping into the wrong person can mean the end of your life.  The message this sends to the rest of the world is terrible and will have long-lasting implications.  There are many countries (like Taiwan where I now live) that take their cues from America, and a lot of people there already know that blacks are second-class citizens in the west; therefore, they act accordingly and discriminate as well.  People should be enraged, as they are. If people want the media to stop, then it’s time for a change.

The recent undying need by some blacks to be as PC as possible in relation to cases like Zimmerman’s is something that has been grating on my nerves.  A friend of mine said:

“I just think that we've got to stop thinking we're victims you know. That's what racists are trying to achieve. Trying to show minorities they're different, not part of it, second class beings. By being affected by this, we'd kind of help it along. The real victims are actually them and we should pity them. To fight racism, I just don't acknowledge it. What you don't pay attention to, will eventually go away.”

I don’t agree with ignoring racism, it just allows it pick up and snowball out of control as it’s doing now.  I pity all these psychos who think they’re better because they have lighter skin, but I refuse to stay quiet and not call people out on it.  When you ignore something, it doesn’t mean it goes away, it just puts the burden on someone else to solve it.

Unbeknownst to some, racial profiling against black people isn’t confined to hoodie-wearing teenage boys.  I have had countless experiences with racial profiling as a black woman.

There have been minor incidents like the man behind me at the checkout line who loudly expressed his frustration to his wife when he noticed I was going to pay with my credit card since he believed “it was probably going to take forever” for me to pay since “people like me always have bad credit”.  My high school classmate went on a tirade in the middle of English class because me, a black person, had a higher class rank than he did.  My previous coworkers spread vicious rumors about me lying about going to college because “people like me” usually don’t. 

There have been major incidents like the customs officer who questioned me unnecessarily at LAX after saying, “you’re parents are from Nigeria, right?”  And the police officer that came after I got into an accident, incorrectly rehashed the account I gave him, and told me to hurry up and call my parents because “no one else would help me now”.  I’m sure if I were a blond little thing my day would have ended in a lot less stress and tears.

Racist comments usually come wrapped up in a kind voice and a smile as well.  I’m tired of the people who ask me what country I’m from and compliment my English skills.  Um, I was born and raised in America just like you, you fucking idiot.  I’m tired of people who think they can pet me like a dog without asking just because my hair is a different texture.

I just hope those in America who possess white privilege make the effort to understand why this is so upsetting and what POC have to go through in this country.  Fortunately, some people have already taken this step.13

Naturally, it’s not only blacks that are constantly put on trial for looking a certain way.  Those who were on the Asiana flight which crashed in San Francisco were discriminated for being suspicious Communists since most of them were Chinese.  Here in Texas, people talk endlessly about how they fear their children going to school and picking up Spanish.  And Middle Eastern people…well, you know how Americans have loved to pick on them since 9/11.

Although I have an afro, I’m not a Black Panther, neither do I hate white people or agree with the violent protests going on as a result of Zimmerman’s acquittal.  I don’t walk around mean-mugged and make every sour interaction with a white person a race issue.  It’s just tiring to see race-based injustice after injustice here, or being judged just for being darker.  I’d like to have hope for America, but I honestly don’t.  As discussed under Kon’s video post, we have to think about the consequences of bringing a black child into this sort of environment.  I look forward to being a mother in the future, but I would never do my child the disservice of raising them in a nation where hunting season for POC, especially blacks, is all year round.

I don’t think Zimmerman will have to watch his back for the rest of his life like many are saying.  I actually think he will live a comfortable, privileged life filled with exclusive big money interviews and maybe even a best-selling tell-all book.  He will also continue to get thousands from his fans.  People are angry now, yet I think that eventually everyone will forget until this happens once again and the vicious cycle continues. 

My only hope is that karma eventually finds Zimmerman in a bad way.  But if it does, will he really feel that it’s because of what he did?  I’m not sure if such a dark, evil, rotten heart feels much of anything.

11 comments:

  1. What an excellent, well-written article. There's so many facets to the Zimmerman Trial and everything that has happened before and after I don't know where to begin.

    Like you, I believe there are larger things at play, a bigger message that's being sent out to the world and again, we as POC are on the losing end.

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    1. Thank you. It is hard to know where to begin with all the facts, speculation, and opinion flying around. America may be a first world country, but cases like this make us come off as barbaric.

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    2. Amen!

      The way the US is going, it will be a third world country. You're so right with it looking barbaric. It's a basic human rights issue. Its a crying shame of the chain of events that has taken place in recent times to make it look that way.

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  2. Brilliant work, Nicolette, as always.

    My only hope is that karma eventually finds Zimmerman in a bad way. But if it does, will he really feel that it’s because of what he did? I’m not sure if such a dark, evil, rotten heart feels much of anything.

    This is a damn good point.

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  3. Excellent work, Nicolette.

    Zimmerman and his convenient last name are pawns. The "whites" don't give a rat's ass about him either. They care about preserving the stupid stand your ground law. I'm sure it was implemented to ensure that "whites" could freely murder Black, Hispanic and Indigenous people in Florida.

    How many of the 500 people executed in Texas were Black? I'm afraid to check.

    Obama's double win has driven these "whites" out of their minds. Since they can't do anything to him, they want to take it out on the rest of us.

    I hope people are focusing more on Marissa Alexander because what they did to her is pure race-based hatred.

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    1. Thank you.

      He certainly is a pawn, but he seems to be enjoying the somewhat celebrity statues he's acquired so I don't expect that to ever be a concern of his.

      I'm afraid to check as well. It's just sad that so many of them were executed then later proven to be innocent (thanks Houston crime lab).

      Like Obama, there are is an increasing number of successful POC which, I think, it's irritating to some people.

      I don't know why Marissa Alexander's case isn't being re-examined. There's no excuse for it, I can't imagine sitting in jail for doing nothing because of some insane law.

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  4. This is a fantastically presented article, just as I knew it would be, Nicolette.
    It's infuriating, seeing how blind and willfully ignorant my white 'peers' keep themselves. I hear some astonishing things. I don't know whether they simply lack imagination, or have no frame of reference, but either way the result, innocent or no, disgusts me and leaves me endlessly frustrated. I can only imagine how it effects people of color in their everyday lives, but at least I damned well try and don't turn a blind eye simply because something doesn't effect me directly. The ignorance of the privileged to the suffering of the out-group makes Buddha cry.

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    1. Thanks Andi.

      I think one of the biggest issues is lacking a frame of reference. If you haven't been treated differently for all your life, you won't understand why certain things are wrong or racist. I think what makes me insane when it comes to this case (and cases like it) are the people who insist it has nothing to do with race. Martin would still be alive if it didn't.

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  5. Meanwhile, the folks rallying around Zimmerman don't want to talk about John Spooner, whom a Wisconsin jury sent away for life after only two hours of deliberation.

    And Florida isn't entirely the problem, since Michael David Dunn is most likely going to rot in prison for a while.

    Maybe that's why they're rallying around Zimmerman. He's the one who got away.

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    1. I think he only got what he deserved because he was on camera doing it...no way to lie there :/

      As for Dunn, I hope he gets his own because that case was simply outrageous.

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