The case that shocked the nation, the Trayvon Martin murder case, has finally come to trial. The case has everything that intrigues, or is, America: xenophobia, race (or racism), guns, liberties debate and media hysteria. It also has many of the conflictions that Americana brings about; self-defense, rights, free speech, public opinion, protest, fair trial, innocence before guilt, guilt before conviction, right winged rhetoric, left winged rhetoric, intelligent analysis, anti-intelligent debate, coherent prosecution, incoherent defense… all making for what will be a highly watched trial. Will Trayvon’s death be vindicated? Or, will the gun culture rationalize social fear as an acceptable defense? Will race, or media hype, take over the case? Will George Zimmerman get off for acting within “the law” (a weak law, but the law, nonetheless)? The two real questions here are, did Zimmerman purposely exploit the law? And, will he be able to receive a “fair trial” because of “the taint” all “the noise” has directed toward the case?
I know…some people don’t think he deserves a fair trial. Vigilante justice has a rich history in the United States, and it mostly worked to the detriment of black people (and Native Americans). We most certainly can’t become part of the “hang ’em” politic, as we ended up on the wrong end of the noose more times than the nation ever cares to remember. “Just because” justice never works because it undermines the justice system. George Zimmerman will not be convicted “just because…” The prosecution will have to prove he broke the law. That’s where things are going to get really fuzzy, because the law loves justice and justice loves the law. The system is set up to “uphold the law” - a system that has never been perfect, but now works much of the time (the past sixty years), given the many external variables that tend to influence it. But let’s face it; it is a stacked deck, and we know it.
Black people always have to worry about the system failing us, whether it’s in the 19th Century, 20th Century or the 21st Century, largely because the system is set up to fail us. The biases are build into the system, otherwise blacks wouldn’t be disproportionately convicted, or whites disproportionately exonerated in race cases (and make no mistake, the Trayvon Martin case is a race case). That’s why black people celebrate so hard when they finally win one, which isn’t often. They are the literal exceptions of that infamous moniker, “beating the system.”
In the Trayvon Martin case, George Zimmerman is poised to beat the system. Why do I say this? Because everybody and everything will be on trial, except George Zimmerman. The “Stand Your Ground” law is going to be put on trial, and the whole nation is watching-because if it wins, it will be the law in all 50 states. Trayvon Martin, may God rest his soul, will be on trial, as the three hundred pound stereotype of the “angry black man,” that maniacal, violence craved, unpredictable beast of a human being, will be resurrected for the ga-zillionth time. Though Trayvon Martin was just a boy, he will be cast as a beast in the making. His Skittles will be the weapon of choice and his hoodie will be his indictment. “The system” will have to work overtime to convict George Zimmerman.
First, race. Everything in America is about race. The nation sees race in everything. Those who thought we were in a “post-racial” period in America - even black people were saying that nonsense - only have to look at five years of the Obama Presidency to see that’s just not the case. They will try to make this a black-and-white issue, even though Zimmerman is Hispanic. He will “play white” in this trial. The jury will see more images of Trayvon Martin, in a hoodie - out of a hoodie, in a dehumanizing nature that we won’t recognize who they’re talking about. Trayvon Martin will be put on trial…from the grave.
Second, the law. The judge and the jury have the utmost respect for the law. If Zimmerman’s attorney can make a case that Zimmerman was only following the law, it’s a wrap. Never mind that Zimmerman fits the profile of your typical “toy cop” of some overzealous cop “wannabe,” on the prowl trying to impose his authority on somebody, “looking for some action,” code words for looking for a chance to shoot their gun. Whether he confronted Martin or not, once he “feared for his life,” according to the law, he was allowed to “stand his ground.” Martin is not alive to testify, so his word and the neighborhood watch “cop’s” word are the only things that will stand. Trouble for the prosecution.
Third, the intersection of guns and fear. Don’t underestimate this with a largely white, or all-white jury. We don’t know the composition yet since jury selection is still taking place - but we can estimate what we think it will be. Then just ask yourself (or this jury) one question; what would I do if confronted by a black male in a hoodie, knowing what society has said about black males. Combine that with the random shooting and the very highly polarized “gun debate,” where we found out that anybody, or anything, that goes up against guns will lose…including Congress. So, his right to carry and his right to use his gun come into play.
Fourth, the jury. Finding and convincing a jury - in Florida - to go against the law and to go against their racial sensibilities, is a reach. Plain and simple. You might find one, but it will be a needle in a haystack.
Fifth, media distortion. The media has distorted this case so badly that finding a jury that hasn’t been tainted is a problem. Moreover, the prosecution still has to worry about the case being misreported - as many high profile cases are. Where is Court TV when you need it? That’s what got Ray Lewis and O.J. off. Everybody tends to “act right” when the camera is in the courtroom. But in this instance, Court TV would put a human face on Zimmerman. Trouble…
In conclusion, the variables to a fair trial are many, but the conclusions as to how the case will be tried are few. The law is on trial, and black men will be on trial (again). Zimmerman is the by-product of the latest episode of “America on trial,” starring race, guns and fear.
Hopefully, justice for Trayvon will be fulfilled and the system will work in his favor.
Friday, 14 June 2013