Summary: The acquittal of the murderer of Trayvon Martin shows, “beyond reasonable doubt,” that unconscionable acts of murder and abuse against Black Americans continue to define the social and legal structures of this land, and that racism is more than ever the Achilles heel of American “civilization” — Editors
When I first heard of George Zimmerman’s acquittal of the murder of Trayvon Martin, I couldn’t believe they would risk a not guilty verdict. It just shows how much the legacy of slavery and genocide has disfigured and stained the American mind with its “color blind” racism and how little the ruling classes grasp the opposition to their rule. I just finished Alan Gilbert’s Black Patriots and Loyalists, so my head was full of “America’s First Unfinished Revolution.” The Black dimension couldn’t catch much of a break back then, whether they fought for the “abolitionist” British (which they preferred) or the “Patriots.” Here it is 230 years later and except for small privileged sections of the Black middle and upper classes, Blacks still can’t catch a break.
A Sham Trial
On Sunday, July 14, 2013, One of the most closely watched murder trials in recent memory acquitted George Zimmerman — a volunteer neighborhood watchman in a gated community in Sanford, Florida — of second-degree murder and manslaughter of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin.
The killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman occurred on February 26, 2012, but Zimmerman wasn’t charged with his murder until April 11, 2012, six weeks later, after Governor Rick Scott of Florida had appointed Florida State Attorney Angela Corey as prosecutor, “not” by local police. This happened despite the fact that police reports stated that there was no indication Trayvon Martin was involved in any criminal activity at the time of his encounter with George Zimmerman. In fact, the police dispatcher or clerk told Zimmerman to leave Trayvon Martin alone and stay in his car.
George Zimmerman’s trial lasted about six weeks and was decided by six women jurors, five white and one Latina; they deliberated for approximately 16 hours to arrive at their verdict. Zimmerman appeared, to this observer, to have been coached very well; upon hearing the not guilty verdict, he couldn’t have looked less surprised and he was careful not to celebrate too obviously.
Zimmerman’s attorney Mark O’Mara had the gall to claim Zimmerman wouldn’t have been charged if he were black, and he also claimed Zimmerman was used for a “civil rights” event.
Within a few hours, the NAACP gathered more than 225,000 signatures urging the Justice Department to file a criminal civil rights charge against Zimmerman. The Justice Department is supposedly still evaluating whether to file criminal civil rights charges, which several “legal” experts believe would be tough to pull off.
Following the not guilty verdict, President Barack Obama issued a statement: “We are a nation of laws, and a jury has spoken. I now ask every American to respect the call for calm reflection from two parents who lost their young son. And as we do, we should ask ourselves if we are doing all we can to widen the circle of compassion and understanding in our own communities.” This call for calm was parroted by numerous upper class Black luminaries, e.g., Russell Simmons.
Legal experts rightly criticized the prosecution for not preparing their witnesses properly and not making sure a Black male juror had been selected. The need for a Black male juror is even more critical in a state that allows a murder trial to be conducted with only six jurors, thus endangering our Sixth Amendment right to a fair trial.
I would argue that prosecutors are more adept at prosecuting Blacks than in defending them. Florida State Attorney Angela Corey prosecuted a black woman, 31-year-old Marissa Alexander with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon for firing a warning shot at her estranged husband, who has a history of domestic abuse. Alexander was found guilty of three counts and was given a mandatory “minimum” sentence of 20 years. (The judge said he had no choice.) In discussing Trayvon Martin’s case, Corey stated that Trayvon Martin was racially profiled but that the trial wasn’t about race. Jesse Jackson pointed out that “you can’t have it both ways, the trial was about race.”
Before getting too buried in legalisms and procedure, I want to end this section with what I would characterize as the vigilante “Stand Your Ground Law,” adopted by Florida and more than 21 other states. The Stand Your Ground Law impeded law enforcement in arresting Zimmerman, and in how thoroughly the police interviewed witnesses, preserved the crime scene and screened Zimmerman. The Stand Your Ground Law even extended to the instructions given by Judge Debora Nelson to the jury that Zimmerman had “no duty to retreat” and had a “right to stand his … ground and meet force with force, including deadly force.”
The Black Dimension Today
I began this article by referring to the legacy of slavery and genocide and will have to return to that legacy to begin to grapple with what is the new form of social control, “color blind” racism. Michelle Alexander has contributed greatly to this discussion with her book The New Jim Crow. There isn’t the space in this article to attempt a complete review of The New Jim Crow and how that ties in with the reality of the Black dimension today. I am in the process of making that attempt to review it and tie in the philosophic writings of the International Marxist-Humanist Organizations (IMHO) writings on the Black dimension in that effort.
The New Jim Crow attempts to define what has been called the “Post Civil Rights Era” beginning in the mid-1970’s through today, our allegedly post-racial period, where simply talking about racism openly is considered to be impolitic, if not racist. Consequently, we have entered a new phase of social control, “color blind” racism. One of the most important points raised by Michelle Alexander, and one of the most insidious issues, is that for “color blind” racism to succeed requires the complicity of the Black middle and upper classes along with Blacks in law enforcement. This helps explain the timid, milquetoast, neutered response of Obama and the rest of the Black capitalist minions to Zimmerman’s acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murder.
“Color blind” racism also helps to explain the objectification and over criminalization of young Black, Latino and Asian men, mass incarceration of young Black, Latino and Asian men through the war on drugs (there are more Black men in prison today than were enslaved in 1850), the prison industrial complex, and the militarization of the police through the war on drugs.
From The Streets
Phillip Agnew, Executive Director of Dream Defenders, called Zimmerman’s acquittal “our 9/11.” He said that George Zimmerman was declared not guilty but we find the state of Florida guilty. He added that we are young and the school-to-prison pipeline keeps us under-educated. We are over criminalized, second-class citizens with no freedoms, no safety, no security, over populated in the jails. Consequently, Phillip Agnew declared, this is a new day and we are taking it to the streets.
Young Black men have been painfully reminded that they can be singled out and killed and accused of having a weapon even when they don’t, as a young black male protestor stated: “Trayvon Martin was accused of using the concrete as a weapon.” Young black parents fear for their children because of “what happened to Trayvon can happen to anybody who’s Black, Latino or Asian.”
Former presidential adviser Van Jones tweeted an image of Dr. Martin Luther King wearing a hoodie. Activists and celebrities began wearing hoodies and chanting, “I am Trayvon.”
Trayvon’s attorney compares Trayvon Martin to Medgar Evers and Emmett Till, symbols of the fight for justice for all.
The Peoples Power Assemblies stated: “IF ZIMMERMAN WALKS, THE DAY AFTER THE VERDICT WE ARE CALLING FOR A DAY OF ABSENCE, A TOTAL NATIONAL BLACKOUT. Call in sick and tired. Call in angry. Call in crazy. But CALL IN. Boycott transit. Boycott non-Black businesses. Wear black armbands in solidarity — especially if you feel you have to go to work for fear of losing your job, or if you are essential personnel….” See LINK
I don’t think that it’s any accident that George Zimmerman’s acquittal occurred on the heels of the Supreme Court’s attack on Affirmative Action and the gutting of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 with its removal of Section Four of that act; not to mention the degenerate stage of capitalism we are currently living in. (See Peter Hudis, “One Leap Forward, Two Leaps Back: Forward Progress on LGBT Rights vs. Backward Movement on Civil Rights of African Americans,” International Marxist-Humanist, June 28, 2013)
The most ominous consequence of the new form of social control, the attempt to eliminate people’s power or “color blind” racism is the attempt to neuter the revolutionary potential of the Black masses. This year marks the 50th anniversary of our founder, Raya Dunayevskaya’s formulation of the category “Black Masses as Vanguard” in the Marxist-Humanist publication American Civilization on Trial (ACOT). ACOT was first published on the 100th anniversary of the “Emancipation Proclamation” and coincided with the 1963 March on Washington. As the preface to the 1983 edition stated: “What American Civilization on Trial disclosed was that, at each historic turning point in the U.S. it was the Black masses in motion who proved to be the vanguard.”
– Dale Parsons works in construction in the Denver area