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Our society considers young black men to be dangerous, interchangeable, expendable, guilty until proven innocent

Posted by on Jul. 16, 2013 at 11:14 AM
  • 158 Replies
4 moms liked this


Black boys denied the right to be young

Justice failed Trayvon Martin the night he was killed. We should be appalled and outraged, but perhaps not surprised, that it failed him again Saturday night, with a verdict setting his killer free.

Our society considers young black men to be dangerous, interchangeable, expendable, guilty until proven innocent. This is the conversation about race that we desperately need to have — but probably, as in the past, will try our best to avoid.

George Zimmerman’s acquittal was set in motion on Feb. 26, 2012, before Martin’s body was cold. When Sanford, Fla., police arrived on the scene, they encountered a grown man who acknowledged killing an unarmed 17-year-old boy. They did not arrest the man or test him for drug or alcohol use. They conducted a less-than-energetic search for forensic evidence. They hardly bothered to look for witnesses.

Only a national outcry forced authorities to investigate the killing seriously. Even after six weeks, evidence was found to justify arresting Zimmerman, charging him with second-degree murder and putting him on trial. But the chance of dispassionately and definitively establishing what happened that night was probably lost. The only complete narrative of what transpired was Zimmerman’s.

Jurors knew that Zimmerman was an overeager would-be cop, a self-appointed guardian of the neighborhood who carried a loaded gun. They were told that he profiled Martin — young, black, hooded sweatshirt — as a criminal. They heard that he stalked Martin despite the advice of a 911 operator; that the stalking led to a confrontation; and that, in the confrontation, Zimmerman fatally shot Martin in the chest.

The jurors also knew that Martin was carrying only a bag of candy and a soft drink. They knew that Martin was walking from a 7-Eleven to the home of his father’s girlfriend when he noticed a strange man in an SUV following him.

To me, and to many who watched the trial, the fact that Zimmerman recklessly initiated the tragic encounter was enough to establish, at a minimum, guilt of manslaughter. The six women on the jury disagreed.

Those jurors also knew that Martin, at the time of his death, was just three weeks past his 17th birthday. But black boys in this country are not allowed to be children. They are assumed to be men, and to be full of menace.

I don’t know if the jury, which included no African Americans, consciously or unconsciously bought into this racist way of thinking — there’s really no other word. But it hardly matters, because police and prosecutors initially did.

The assumption underlying their ho-hum approach to the case was that Zimmerman had the right to self-defense but Martin — young, male, black — did not. The assumption was that Zimmerman would fear for his life in a hand-to-hand struggle but Martin — young, male, black — would not.

If anyone wonders why African Americans feel so passionately about this case, it’s because we know that our 17-year-old sons are boys, not men. It’s because we know their adolescent bravura is just that — an imitation of manhood, not the real thing.

We know how frightened our sons would be, walking home alone on a rainy night and realizing they were being followed. We know how torn they would be between a child’s fear and a child’s immature idea of manly behavior. We know how they would struggle to decide the right course of action, flight or fight.

And we know that a skinny boy armed only with candy, no matter how big and bad he tries to seem, does not pose a mortal threat to a healthy adult man who outweighs him by 50 pounds and has had martial arts training (even if the lessons were mostly a waste of money). We know that the boy may well have threatened the man’s pride but likely not his life. How many murders-by-sidewalk have you heard of recently? Or ever?

The conversation we need to have is about how black men, even black boys, are denied the right to be young, to be vulnerable, to make mistakes. We need to talk about why, for example, black men are no more likely than white men to smoke marijuana but nearly four times as likely to be arrested for it — and condemned to a dead-end cycle of incarceration and unemployment. I call this racism. What do you call it?

Trayvon Martin was fighting more than George Zimmerman that night. He was up against prejudices as old as American history, and he never had a chance.


by on Jul. 16, 2013 at 11:14 AM
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Replies (1-10):
snookyfritz
by Gold Member on Jul. 16, 2013 at 11:16 AM
2 moms liked this

I agree with the sentiment overall.  But I do not think the GZ thing was quite as cut and dry as is being presented. 

unspecified42
by Bronze Member on Jul. 16, 2013 at 11:17 AM
4 moms liked this
I haven't made up my mind about the whole thing personally, but the amount of propaganda, assumptions, and spin from both sides is alarming.
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romalove
by Roma on Jul. 16, 2013 at 11:19 AM
15 moms liked this

When the standard for self defense is that the person "feels" endangered, how people view each other absolutely makes a difference.

furbabymum
by Gold Member on Jul. 16, 2013 at 11:19 AM
1 mom liked this

 I hate how people keep saying justice failed. Justice didn't fail imo. The system did what it is supposed to do and I'm sorry it didn't deliver the verdict people wanted but that doesn't mean it failed.

Lizard_Lina
by Silver Member on Jul. 16, 2013 at 11:21 AM
Yup


Quoting furbabymum:

 I hate how people keep saying justice failed. Justice didn't fail imo. The system did what it is supposed to do and I'm sorry it didn't deliver the verdict people wanted but that doesn't mean it failed.


momtoscott
by Gold Member on Jul. 16, 2013 at 11:23 AM
2 moms liked this

This, absolutely.  There are a LOT of paranoid people out there.  

I also very much agree with the article, all the more so after being on CM for a while.  

Quoting romalove:

When the standard for self defense is that the person "feels" endangered, how people view each other absolutely makes a difference.


katy_kay08
by on Jul. 16, 2013 at 11:25 AM
7 moms liked this

based on the information presented by the juror interviewed by Anderson Cooper it sounds like justice was far from done and may have had a different outcome if the jury hadn't come in with personal agendas and a lackadaisical attitude towards the evidence and the job given them.  

Quoting furbabymum:

 I hate how people keep saying justice failed. Justice didn't fail imo. The system did what it is supposed to do and I'm sorry it didn't deliver the verdict people wanted but that doesn't mean it failed.


romalove
by Roma on Jul. 16, 2013 at 11:25 AM
7 moms liked this


Quoting furbabymum:

 I hate how people keep saying justice failed. Justice didn't fail imo. The system did what it is supposed to do and I'm sorry it didn't deliver the verdict people wanted but that doesn't mean it failed.

The one juror who was interviewed by Anderson Cooper did not support that the system did what it was supposed to do, since it included at minimum one juror who had a bunch of preconceived notions before the trial, had already believed that GZ was innocent, and decided it was a great opportunity to make a buck by writing a book.

idunno1234
by Silver Member on Jul. 16, 2013 at 11:26 AM
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I'm pretty sure society won't change their view of young black men until young black men change their view of themselves and their role in this world. 

Sisteract
by Whoopie on Jul. 16, 2013 at 11:29 AM
4 moms liked this


Quoting idunno1234:

I'm pretty sure society won't change their view of young black men until young black men change their view of themselves and their role in this world. 

This might be a chicken egg thing.

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