George Zimmerman and Florida Style Justice

382550_532599130128827_945563227_nI don’t even know how to process the recent acquittal of George Zimmerman in the murder of Trayvon Martin. Except to say this: it’s un-fucking-believable. Let’s start with the obvious: despite what the defense would have all idiots and particularly this Florida jury believe, there is no “reasonable doubt” about which party started, escalated and finished the altercation that resulted in Trayvon Martin’s death. The only doubts that I have are around what sort of hallucinogens Zimmerman may have been taking to form his own quicksand-shifting explanations of what actually happened that night. Just based on his own statements, Zimmerman might have been the least credible person in history.

Despite the fact that he’s lived in the neighborhood for four years and declared himself vigilante commander of the non-existent neighborhood watch, he left his car, not to further pursue Trayvon Martin (that would be against police orders) but to get the exact street name. Right. Martin is also described by Zimmerman as a cartoonish evil character ripped from a Quentin Tarintino script in manner and speech, but alternatively as an actual cartoon character that wasn’t running away from Zimmerman (that would imply fear on Martin’s part). He merely skipped away. You know, because he’s going back to Smurf Village in the forest. Sure. Next up is the confrontation. This is where Trayvon Martin morphs from smurf to super-powered attacker. According to Mr. Zimmerman, Trayvon was 100 feet or more away initially. After a brief exchange, in the second it took Zimmerman to look down to find his phone in his pocket, Trayvon traverses that 100+ feet of rain-soaked ground from a dead stop, and breaks Zimmerman’s nose with one punch like he’s The Flash from the Injustice Fighting Game. Makes perfect sense — Trayvon always accesses the Speed Force on his way home from 7/11. Finally, during their close-up physical encounter, Martin was supposed to have one hand over Zimmerman’s mouth, one over his nose, and another one — good job covering all mutant bases there — reaching for a gun that he didn’t know Zimmerman had that was located under a jacket and shirt on Zimmerman’s backside. So that’s an extra hand plus telepathy.

All of this is nonsensical at best. But frustrating as it is, Zimmerman’s unreliable and completely bizarre narrative is not the main point of concern here. So rather then continuing to illustrate all of the holes in Zimmerman’s tale of epic battle with an unarmed person he outweighed, let’s step back and look at another Florida case involving self defense — and see how things may have looked from another angle.

Zimmerman got the benefit of asserting self defense in the death of Trayvon Martin. Everyone isn’t that lucky however. People like Marissa Alexander. We’ll pick the story up from the Huffington Post:

On Aug. 1, 2010, a fight between Alexander and her husband, Rico Gray, 36, left her cornered in the couple’s home. She fled into the garage to escape but was trapped behind a jammed door, she stated in court documents. She said she grabbed the gun she kept in the garage, returned to the house and, when Gray threatened to kill her, fired a single shot to ward him off.

Sounds like a pretty clear-cut case of self-defense, even for this porous and dodgy SYG policy — but no, there was no Stand Your Ground for Marissa. Defending yourself while firing a warning shot specifically aimed not kill someone resulted in 3 counts of aggravated assault for a grand total of 20 years in prison. Mr. Gray, the man who attacked Mrs. Alexander admitted to hitting her and also abused several other women in previous relationships. Not only that, but he has about as many different accounts of the night in question as Zimmerman does. This apparently meant nothing to the jury. The parallels are frightening however. Two men go out of their way to pose an active, violent threat to other people — one to an African-American child and one to an African-American woman. Their targets try to defend themselves, and their aggressors spin that angle to portray themselves as the victims. One incident results in the death of a 17-year-old black boy, and no conviction for that killer. The other results in no further harm to either party, and a 20-year prison sentence for a 31-year-old black mother.

Let’s check the scoreboard in these two cases. A boy gets stalked and killed by a vigilante. A person who, even if you believe his nonsensical tale, precipitated the entire encounter by following Trayvon after the 911 operator told him not to.

Does anyone out there truly believe that if the races were reversed, that is if Zimmerman was some cop-wannabe who declared himself neighborhood watch commander but was a black dude and Martin was a 17 year-old white kid on his way home from the store, that Zimmerman would have walked?

Then you have the Alexander case, where a spousal abuse victim gets charged with three separate felonies for not even scratching her assailant. This is some Kobayoshi Maru no-win scenario bullshit for brown people.

As much as the apologists are hollering right now about rights, due process and following procedure, a lot of the American judicial process — particularly in high-profile cases like this — is about a larger cultural narrative. And in America, our cultural narrative does not allow for individual black people to be innocent victims. Sure, we’re allowed in common discourse to claim some kind of aggregate and systemic persecution over time (and right now, and correctly so). But when you put a young black man wearing a hoodie on a TV screen and show it to an audience, our narrative does not fill in the blanks to provide him with characteristics like vulnerability, sensitivity, or fear. And if something terrible happens to that young person, he does not get the benefit of the doubt. He must have done something to bring this upon himself — he must have had it coming. Women are plenty familiar with this line of thinking as well — as the Alexander case very clearly showed. And at the end of the day, their safety and their lives are worth less to us as a society than keeping that poisonous and damaging narrative intact.

That is why in Florida black people can be murdered for looking “suspicious” while walking home with no consequence whatsoever. And on the other hand, defending yourself from assault where you take great care not to kill anyone results in a 20-year prison sentence.

I don’t know what can be gleaned from these two cases besides the fact that as person of color, my life means less than a non-POC. And that as a whole, my country is more interested in keeping up its image of me as inherently menacing, and therefore an enticing open-season target for sociopaths, vigilantes and bigots, than it is in protecting my safety, my rights or my life.

Jesus America can be depressing.

Categories: Random Rant

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