by Elle Morris
I’m going to get this unpopular opinion out of the way now, so you can throw the magazine across the room in rage and yell a bit before coming back to read it: George Zimmerman could not have been found guilty of murder.
Good; now you can hear me out. There’s a damn good reason why Zimmerman had to be acquitted of the very specific charge of murder. The point of our legal and justice system is that everyone is innocent until proven guilty, and proof must be beyond the shadow of doubt. In our angry, hyper-aware-of-race-charged guts it seems very obvious that there is no doubt: Zimmerman hunted down a boy and murdered him.
Our guts are, luckily, not the justice system. If you divorce yourself from the racial tensions that have permeated ALL the media coverage of the trial, and firmly put down the instinctive disgust and the indignant “HOW THE HELL DOES A GROWN MAN KILL A BOY?”, you’ll see it. Even I had to admit that there was not, in fact, that necessary proof and I was raging in the office for days.
It pisses me off, but that is the short of our system. And until a magical video tape of Zimmerman tracking Martin down to murder him in cold blood appears, we must live with this distinction: Zimmerman is a killer of a teenage boy, and probably a hideous person, who deserves your anger and disgust, but he his not a murderer. Because until that magical video appears all we have are a mistrusted police department, bad reporting, claims of self defense, bad quality police recordings, a man treated for head injuries, and changed stories from all sides.
So Zimmerman had to be acquitted, or our justice system, such as it is, flies out the fucking window. And believe me, it burns; I hate it; I hate thinking about his acquittal, I hate that there is effectively nothing we can do to make sure he receives a just punishment for killing a boy.
Most of all I hate that we, as a society, have let it get to this point.
Make no mistake, this whole incident, killing, and trial is the making of our society and the ingrained attitudes of those of us in power –that is, white people – who have never actually gotten around to really understanding in our souls that we are not special snowflakes who need to bring culture and civility to the Other.
In effect, we perpetuate slavery while patting ourselves on the backs and smiling benignly, telling black people (and all other minorities) that they’ve never had it so good. (Like we didn’t destroy it for them to being with.) Yeah, you’re hearing me right, people. This is on us as much as it is on Florida for it’s entirely fucking ASININE Stand Your Ground law.
Zimmerman’s very thought process had to go something like this: BLACK BOY WEAR HOODIE. OBVIOUS GANG MEMBER/THREAT/DANGER. MUST FOLLOW. BRING GUN. And we let it get there. We are so impressed with ourselves for marching in the Civil Rights Movement (whether or not we marched), for befriending a few black people in school (whether or not we ever trusted them as real friends do), and for electing black men and women to local, state, and national office – and then the president. LOOK HOW AWESOME WE WHITE PEOPLE ARE! A majority of privileged people in a place of power chose a black guy, obviously we’re in a post-racial society where everything is idealistic rainbows of utopia!
Give me a fucking break.
We are no more living in a post-racial society than we are living in a gender-equal society (a completely different rant that I will write one of these days). Instead we are allowing ourselves to forget the hardships, and deaths, the pain that people suffered just to get to the point where we allow minorities to go about their day without harassment and segregation being a part of the routine of their lives. Think I’m kidding? Then answer me this: Who was the very first suspect of the Boston Marathon Bombing, before anybody actually had any facts?
Answer: A “dark skinned individual” who had nothing to do with it whatsoever.
It wasn’t FOX that got that shit wrong, either. You expect racial profiling and general disregard from them. No, it was CNN – CNN is supposed to actually be a credible source of news. But it hardly made a splash outside of a moment’s attention. When we accept that our credible reporters are just going to make this assumption and nobody actually takes them to task when they’re proven wrong, we perpetuate attitudes akin to the slave owners of old. We took it for granted that a dark skinned person was behind the bombing; because, what? Dark skinned people are easily swayed to evil? Because no white person could ever even consider building a bomb? Because it was a marathon that only white people care about, so why would they want to kill people running in it? How fucking ridiculous are those answers? But if you perpetuate an attitude towards black people as subservient, as needing the guiding hand of the white man to be civilized, then yeah, that’s what you come up with.
So what do we do? Take a step back to realize that many black people are well educated by white standards of education? That they pursue hobbies and take pleasure in sports and read books like the rest of us? Try to correct our idea that all black people are part of a lesser culture than white culture?
We band together against the Evil Hoodie Wearing Young Black Men in Gangs and enact stupid as fuck laws like Stand Your Ground, carrying concealed guns like paranoid tin hats. We stack the entire system of our country against them, making sure that more money is needed to be a part of High White Culture and that it’s incredibly hard for anybody who isn’t white to get that money. We make internal judgements that we probably don’t even realize we make and hold black people down a step below us. We make sure our judicial system is in favor of money (re: bail), and who has the money necessary to make bail? White men. Who are disproportionately forced to languish in jails, whether it be for juvie or for life? Black men. Who thinks it’s a totally legitimate worry when a black boy in a hoodie is walking in his own neighborhood? George Zimmerman. Who is acquitted when he shoots that boy in his own neighborhood because he can claim self defense because the laws are stacked in his favor? George Zimmerman.
And it’s our fucking fault.