(This is a rambling mess, but I don’t really care…I’m just spewing words here).
Like everyone else, I’ve been following the Trayvon Martin trial. There are two things everyone keeps mentioning in the wake of the verdict: that the outcome was expected (true), and that race was not a factor (false). Let’s start with the first one, because that’s the real problem here.
The reason Zimmerman managed to elude conviction was Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law. His defense team’s strategy of self-defense falls directly under it, so all they had to do was focus on that side of the argument. Regardless of what you think of him and what he did (and his apparent lack of remorse after the fact), George Zimmerman was found not guilty. He is not the problem, the law is the problem. SYG is a stupid, stupid fucking law, and because of it a 17 year old kid is dead and the man that pulled the trigger is free.
Whenever there’s a big trial like with a surprising (or not surprising) verdict, everyone likes to think it’ll lead to change, that no one will want a repeat occurrence. Let’s not make the same mistake again, right? But that’s all we do.
22 years ago, Rodney King was excessively beaten with batons by several policeman. The incident was videotaped, four officers were tried, and four were acquitted. LA Riots, mayhem, etc..we know how the story goes. You would think that society learned from that mistake, that we’d never see something like that happen again. You’d be wrong. Years and years of politicians, police officers, and others saying one thing while their fists, feet, and weapons deliver a different message have eroded the trust we put in our elected officials and those around them. Millions are spent on campaigns to convince us that Candidate X is 110% committed to serving the citizens and being a voice for the people, only to spend his or her time in office ignoring the ones who provided that opportunity in the first place. Politicians serve their parties, and their parties serve those who open their checkbooks. Why should we trust them to protect us? Why should we assume they have our best interests at heart? If they happen to overlap, then sure…but for the most part, the needs of the people aren’t a blip on the radar. They serve greater masters than us. The entire political system in this country needs to be overhauled. The electoral college is a joke, a relic from the stone age that sticks around because it’s the easiest way to ensure that the people don’t truly have the power. We’re children caught between two squabbling parents, just trying to get someone to pay attention to us, but being constantly ignored. And the sad part is that it’s not going to change anytime soon.
Next up…race. I hate to generalize but I’m going to do it anyway. Many of the people saying that race has nothing to do with this are probably the same ones saying that racism no longer exists. Did race factor into the trial itself, and the evidence? Likely not, because as I mentioned above, SYG is what allowed Zimmerman to beat the charges. But pretending that the situation would have been exactly the same if Trayvon was white and Zimmerman was black (I’m aware that he’s half-white, half-hispanic) is ridiculous. For starters, there’s absolutely no way he wouldn’t have been arrested on the spot (It’s been awhile, people seem to forget that it wasn’t until six weeks after the shooting that Zimmerman was charged with murder). If it’s some white teenager walking down the street in a hoodie, does Zimmerman have the same suspicions? Does he consider that kid a “fucking punk” that “looks like he’s up to no good” like he did Martin? Don’t get me wrong, the first discussion we need to have in the wake of this trial is about the justice system, but ignoring the race factor would be stupid. I’m black; I can vouch for the fact that racism still exists, and the worst part of it for me is how easily everyone denies it. I live in Boston (technically Somerville, but I spent over 20 years in Boston and still work there), a city that claims to be liberal and accepting, and it’s honestly bullshit. It disgusts me how two-faced (some of) the residents are, refusing to admit what everyone else can easily see. But it’s not just here, it’s everywhere.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton, I don’t go seeking the race angle everywhere. But it’s there. And there is no chance of society moving past it until everyone comes to terms with the fact that it still exists. And I’m not singling out white people, it exists on all sides
The only things we know for sure are they a man shot a teenage boy, was tried for murder, and was found not guilty. The law failed him. The law failed us, as it has time and time again. Society needs to take a long hard look in the mirror and realize that changes are needed before something like this happens again.