Zimmerman, Martin and Racism in America: Who’s Really Promoting Prejudice?

Campaigners chose to make Trayvon Martin the focus for a national discussion of race in America. But it was never going to lead to an enlightened and rational debate. In seeking to personalise the issue and create an emotional tie through Martin’s case, campaigners dodged the significant structural and institutional barriers that give rise to racial inequality. And by portraying racism as something that comes from deep within the hearts of white people (so deep that whites often don’t even realise they’re racist), today’s elitist ‘anti-racist’ outlook makes racial divisions appear hopelessly insurmountable.

This comes from Spiked, an online British publication (h/t Mark Brady). Read the whole thing.

I am a little disappointed in myself for not paying closer attention to this trial. Its importance for understanding American society has just become evident to me over the past few days. For what it’s worth, I think the US is still a deeply racist society. I think there are structural and institutional barriers in place today that prohibit most blacks from having the same support networks as other ethnic groups.

I think that the government is responsible for these structural and institutional imbalances, but also that black leaders are responsible for failing to consider (consider) anything other than statist solutions to the problems that afflict American society. I also think that religion is partly to blame. Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams may go to church on Sundays, but you’d never know it based solely on their arguments.

I’ve got a post on peace coming up shortly. Hopefully it’ll be much clearer than this.

La mort d’un jeune homme, le verdict, la montee du fascisme, le racisme.

Je suis desole pour le manque d’accents et de cedilles. Avec mon logiciel de traitement de texte americain ils sont simplement trop difficiles a former.

Introduction

Fin Mars 2012, un homme denomme Zimmerman tuait d’un cou de feu un adolescent de dix-sept ans nomme Martin. Je decris le debut de cette affaire dans un rapport intitule: “Un adolescent noir assassine….

Le treize Juillet 2013, Zimmerman etait acquitte. Je brosse ci-dessous ls principaux faits de la suite de cette affaire. Je mele a cette description mes commentaires et mes opinions, en caracteres gras.

La victime

Ce n’etait pas le jeune garçon joufflu que TV5 – la chaine francophone internationale – a eu l’outrecuidance (ou la betise) de montrer mais un adolescent de dix-sept ans, plutot grand, bine bati. Il aurait pu facilement faire du mal a l’inculpe. (Je ne sais pas s’il l’a fait, bien sur mais il en etait capable, physiquement), un homme un peu courtaud. La main-courante de son ecole indique que Martin etait un petit deliquant, un voleur pour etre precis. Il n’etait pas particulierement pauvre. Lors de sa rencontre fatidique avec l’inculpe il rendait visite a son pere divorce dans un quartier residentiel economiquement un peu superieur a la moyenne.

Lors d’une breve conversation telephonique avec une de ses amies le soir de sa mort, la victime a brievement employe un terme raciste anti-Blanc (“Cracka”).

Absents du dossier: Tous les antecedents judiciaires de la victime s’il y en a . Je ne sais pas s’il y en a. Possible usage de drogue induisant la rage. Continue reading

What I’ve Been Thinking All Along

And never had the patience to say until now.

These are my thoughts and observations on the Zimmerman case. I did follow the news and commentary when the shooting happened, and in the following weeks. But trials bore me to tears, so I didn’t really pay much attention (I wasn’t the only one) to it. In fact, other than the verdict, this is what I knew about the trial and its periphery, commentary throughout:

– Zimmerman was charged with manslaughter as well as second degree murder. I don’t know if these were leveled against him at the same time or if they dropped one to pursue the other. I could probably easily find out but I’m feeling lazy.

– The prosecution had a really lousy case against Zimmerman. Much of what they did helped the defense. The prosecution’s witness’s own statements indicated that Zimmerman had a right to be where he was (for the record, I’ll take an impetuous neighborhood watch volunteer over the well-trained police, any day of the week, and twice on Sunday), and that he was the one being attacked. Any provocation, short of a threat or assault, may have been stupid, but it was hardly criminal. So you have the testimony of witnesses who didn’t even see all that went down. From the start it was pretty obvious that the prosecution didn’t have much more than this. Maybe Zimmerman did throw the first punch. Who knows? But it has to be proven beyond the shadow of a doubt. It seemed pretty obvious from the facts the public was made privy to well before the trial that the prosecution would never be able to do this.

– Certain groups wanted a guilty verdict, no matter what. Some of them for their own sincere reasons, but many simply because they have an agenda. Few if any of them, from what I could tell going all the way back to when the shooting happened, even had the capacity to empathize with George Zimmerman. This is fine, but when it becomes a racially motivated witch hunt with a presumption of guilt, and then the media gets a hold of it, and the outcome of the trial begins to take on consequences that could have repercussions throughout the nation, we have a major problem on our hands.

The fact is, it is really no one’s business besides the accused, the victim’s family, the lawyers, the witnesses, and the local courts and police. Not even really the community’s beyond the general task of stamping out crime. Some would argue that this trial has major consequences, and so we must pay attention to it. They are right, but it is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Making a big deal is what makes it a big deal. The only reason it has any consequences for anyone other than those involved or anywhere besides where it actually occurred is because we have been paying far more attention to it than it ever merited. And the reason for this is a collectivist mentality, where all formerly and currently oppressed folk must band together to defend their own even though they might just be in the wrong.

How could a case like this possibly have an impact on trials or laws or liberties or race-relations or childrearing or property rights in other states without the media and special interest groups hyping it beyond its actual scale and scope?

I certainly don’t want to sweep injustice (if there even was any besides the presumption of guilt placed upon George Zimmerman) under the rug, but it is illogical to think that widening the circles of those who think they have a say in this matter will lead to a preferential outcome. For all the clamor and hyperbole this case was still decided in the courts by an impartial jury of Zimmerman’s peers (well, sort of). The way certain people on the television, on the radio, on the web, in print comported themselves could have had little other effect than to pressure the jurors to follow the guidance, not of their own conscience, but of a bloodthirsty lynch mob. Even if they happened to hand down the correct verdict under these circumstances, and Zimmerman got what he “deserved” (whether exoneration or incarceration), they could in no way claim that they served the cause of justice. Neither the mob nor the jurors.

America is a nation full of self-serving big-mouthed know-it-alls, not that this is news or we need a reminder. Unsurprisingly then, the cause of justice was the last thing on these peoples’ minds. I place most of the blame on Trayvon’s (most vocal) sympathizers as it looks like Zimmerman’s were mostly reacting to the trend of busy-bodies, community organizers, and race-baiters who ran with this non-story to further an agenda: gun control, person control, race control, but not self-control.

But guess what? The real haters lost. So it was all one big distraction. A waste of everyone’s time. It was fascinating and all, but can we talk about something important (in its own right) now?

The Zimmerman Verdict, Racism and Trial by Jury

First of all, I have to admit up front that I had not been following the Zimmerman trial at all until the Not Guilty verdict flooded my Twitter feed and Facebook page. The case was just too common, too parochial and had attracted the type of Americans who normally don’t read the more cerebral musings found on this blog (if you get my drift).

I knew it was racially-charged, and that it was taking place in the South, but other than that I had really been in the dark about the relevant details. Nevertheless, you’re gonna get my two cents.

Here are the details that I have found relevant. Some of them may not, at first glance, seem relevant because they don’t even pertain to the Zimmerman-Martin case at all, but stay with me:

  1. George Zimmerman identifies as a Hispanic, not a white person, and is a registered, tried-and-true member of the Democratic Party. I bring this up first and foremost because race in this country has become an odd thing, to say the least. Perhaps it always has been. See Dr Delacroix’s ethnographic musings on race in America here for more on race in the US.
  2. In Jacksonville (also in Florida), a black woman was sentenced to 20 years in prison by a judge (not a jury) for firing warning shots at her estranged (and black) husband. It is unclear if the woman had a prior criminal record.* She was seeking a restraining order against the man and her defense team used the same “Stand Your Ground” laws used by Zimmerman’s team.** The trial was taking place at the same time as the Zimmerman one.
  3. In Miller Place, an affluent, predominantly white hamlet of Long Island in New York City, a black man was convicted by a jury of killing an unarmed white teenager who showed up at the black man’s house in the early hours of the morning and was threatening to assault the man’s son. The white teenager, now dead, had been friends with the black man’s teenage son.

All three of the verdicts were handed down over the weekend. I take away a couple of things about American society from these three cases. Firstly, the only white person involved in any of these cases directly was an unarmed teenager who got shot in the face. Secondly, America still has a long way to go before racism becomes more irrelevant than relevant. Jim Crow ended in the late 1960s, but its legacy of state-sponsored racism lives on in a number of ways that I don’t want to list here (feel free to do so in the ‘comments’ section).

Thirdly, and perhaps more importantly, I think that, were the woman from Jacksonville to have received a trial by jury (and it is still unclear to me why she did not get this constitutional right), she would have been found Not Guilty. Given this speculation, and given the large amount of ignorance about each of these cases on my part, I still have to conclude that the juries made the right decision.

Tocqueville once wrote about the unique trial by jury system found in the United States and argued that it was the jury itself which guaranteed liberty and freedom in the United States. Were this unique system ever to be removed from the legal system, Tocqueville mused, it would signify the beginning of the end of the American experiment in self-government. The right to be judged by one’s peers, instead of by a member of the court, is a right too few Americans appreciate enough. The trial by jury is not perfect, not by a long shot, but it is also no accident that liberty, tranquility and prosperity reign prominently in the few societies where it has been implemented.

*[Update: the woman had no prior criminal record]

**[Update: the Zimmerman team did not use the “Stand Your Ground” law of Florida]