Saturday, July 13, 2013

A Time for Grieving

My on the spot reaction to the Zimmerman verdict is, first, just a heavy sadness. It was exactly what I expected, but that doesn't really make it easier. The reaction on Twitter (which skews young and minority) is disbelief and confusion. People are angry and they don't understand how such a miscarriage of justice could occur. So I think it is enormously important for people to understand that the jury did its job responsibly. I know very little about the law. I defer to the experts, and they seem to unanimously agree that the prosecution did a poor job making a convincing case that George Zimmerman murdered Trayvon Martin under Florida law.

So go ahead and be sad. Go ahead and be angry. But not at the jury. Not at the process. The process worked as well it could have. But it was poisoned at the root by an unjust law. And this same sort of law is on the books in many other states. There has been too much attention paid to the details of this case and not enough to the larger injustices it put in such stark relief. These stand your ground laws need to be repealed. That is much more important than a conviction for this one man.

I think what makes this so hard to take is that most of us cannot imagine this alternative scenario: the events are exactly the same, as is all the murky evidence, but the 17 year old boy is a middle class white kid and the killer is a poor black man, and no arrest is made. I think nearly every honest American knows in their gut that an arrest would have been made. That's hard to take.

It's doubly hard because of the way this crazy spectacle exposes people for what they really are. The conservative media has rallied around the view that what Zimmerman did was not just legal but morally sound. It produces such a deep sadness in me. Suffice it to say, if you are on Zimmerman's "side" so to speak, I honestly don't want to know about it. I don't know if I could handle it.

There isn't any neutrality. There isn't an objective view. We are all of us predisposed to lean toward one side or another. The United States was founded as a White supremacist state. That explicit purpose has been disavowed, but White privilege remains systemic and pervasive.  Are you for it or against it? And what are you going to do about it?

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