SANFORD, Fla. — George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer who fatally shot Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager, igniting a national debate on racial profiling and civil rights, was found not guilty late Saturday night of second-degree murder. He was also acquitted of manslaughter, a lesser charge. Read more…
Race arose again, in topsy-turvy manner, when Rachel Jeantel, 19, a young black woman who was speaking to Mr. Martin on the phone shortly before he was shot, took the stand. Mr. Martin told her during that call, Ms. Jeantel said, that Mr. Zimmerman was following him; he called him a “creepy-ass cracker.” The defense team quickly jumped on the words, suggesting to the jury that Mr. Martin had profiled Mr. Zimmerman.
In the cocoon of the courthouse, even Mr. Martin’s bullet-scarred hooded sweatshirt, positioned for jurors in a clear plastic frame, appeared less a poignant symbol for the thousands who marched in his name than a lamentable but necessary piece of evidence.
Still, black pastors, sociologists and community leaders said in interviews that they feared that Mr. Martin’s death would be a story of justice denied, an all-too common insult that to them places Trayvon Martin’s name next to those of Rodney King, Amadou Diallo and other black men who were abused, beaten or killed by police officers.
“Profiling, stereotyping, the disparity in treatment of African-Americans when it comes to criminal matters, how imbalanced it all is in the eyes of African-Americans,” said the Rev. Lowman Oliver, the pastor at St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church in Sanford. “That’s why so many eyes are on this case. It’s nationwide and international.”
The makeup of the jury, six women, none black, is occasionally noted. Race also framed Ms. Jeantel’s turn on the witness stand, which drew heckling online from white and black observers who mocked her demeanor. In testimony over two days, Ms. Jeantel, a high school senior and Mr. Martin’s friend, was clearly uneasy in the spotlight, at times impatient and often hard to hear or understand.
“She was mammyfied,” said Ms. Wilder, the sociology professor, expressing disappointment over the reaction. “She has this riveting testimony, then she became, overnight, the teenage mammy: for not being smart and using these racial slurs and not being the best witness. A lot of people in the African-American community came out against her.”
My kid was perfect to me. As a father, it hurts to see how Zimmerman’s attorney, Mark O’Mara, has tried to twist the truth. And I can’t defend my son, who has been killed. It’s demoralizing. How do you blame the victim?What they don’t understand is that Zimmerman didn’t only murder my son — he destroyed an entire branch of my family tree. I looked forward to the possibility of having grandkids from Trayvon. And that’s something that can never happen now. But as far as the attacks on Trayvon’s character, it certainly isn’t true, and therefore doesn’t affect me personally. I just hope it doesn’t work with the jury and the public.O’Mara has tried to focus attention on whether or not Trayvon had smoked marijuana in the past. First, that’s irrelevant to the facts of the case. I recently read a government report that showed 36 percent of American high school seniors had tried marijuana in the past year. And white kids do it more often than blacks or Hispanics. Is that a reason to shoot a kid? Would Zimmerman have shot a white kid in that neighborhood?
It is not wrong to be a maid, or even a Latina maid, but there is something very wrong with an American entertainment industry that continually tells Latinas that this is all they are or can ever be.My grandmother was a maid in Cuba; my biological grandfather was her employer. My father, never claimed by his bio-dad, was a janitor when he first began working in the United States, as a teen immigrant. My father went on to get his PhD, sort of a real-life Good Will Hunting, and became a leading sociologist. He raised me to believe in myself and my voice; I went to Columbia, and I’m a bestselling author Tom Wolfe called one of the most important social critics of our time.We don’t see stories about people like me or my dad. Indeed, network executives say to my face that I don’t exist. That’s the problem.
It is comforting to believe these things have nothing to do with one another, to insist that the administration’s shocking spying program is a distinct issue from the trends we’ve witnessed in communities of color for years. But the logic used to defend secretly collecting the communications data of people not accused of any crime is the same logic used to defend NYPD’s stop-and-frisk program and Homeland Security’s deportation apparatus. The logic of “national security” was developed and honed by law enforcement practices inside communities of color. It is one of the more striking examples of a basic truth: racial injustice is cancerous; it eats the national body from the inside out.
It rained in Sanford, Fla., on Tuesday, just like it did exactly a year ago when Trayvon Martin died there.
The shooting death of an unarmed black 17-year-old at the hands of a part-white, part-Peruvian neighborhood watch volunteer in a gated community catapulted the central Florida city into headlines around the world and launched heated discussions about race and guns and Florida’s “stand your ground” law.
Despite the damp conditions Tuesday, a crowd amassed outside Sanford’s Goldsboro Welcome Center and the Goldsboro Historical Museum by midmorning. Museum curator Francis Oliver said she opened the welcome center a few hours early to accommodate the score or so of people who gathered to get a glimpse at the items memorializing the slain teenager.
There are crosses and flags, dolls and pictures of the teenager, Oliver said of the items showcased at the permanent memorial made from the items that initially cropped up outside the Retreat at Twin Lakes, the gated community where Trayvon was fatally shot. - Marisa Gerber, Los Angeles Times
Earlier this month, news surfaced of a Louisiana school psychologist who posted racially charged messages on Twitter. Mark Traina, who later resigned, worked as a psychologist at an alternative school in Jefferson Parish Public School System, a district that’s been under intense scrutiny in recent months. According to a court complaint filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center, Jefferson County has been sending a disproportionate number of black and special-education kids to “languish for months” in the district’s alternative schools.
Traina had already taken to Twitter to post his support of George Zimmerman, the former neighborhood watch captain charged with murdering Trayvon Martin. But back in January, Traina went on a rant against “young black thugs.” Traina, a self-proclaimed “American Civil Rights Activist who unlike Jessie (sic) Jackson and Al Sharpton presents all Americas,” tweeted that “Young black thugs who won’t follow the law need to be put down not incarcerated. Put down like the Dogs they are!”
While black children aren’t often ceremoniously “put down like dogs”, they do face harsh school punishment at much higher rates than their white counterparts. Jefferson Parish’s problems are symptomatic of a disease that’s already been diagnosed nationally: the tendency to dole out harsher than average treatment for people of color. From the classroom to the clinician’s office, there’s a long and troubling relationship between racism and the mental health field.
The tensions surrounding the death of Trayvon Martin continued to fester, with even United Nations officers getting involved.
“As High Commissioner for Human Rights, I call for an immediate investigation,” the U.N’s Navanethem Pillay said at a press conference Friday. “Justice must be done for the victim. It’s not just this individual case. It calls into question the delivery of justice in all situations like this.”
As hip-hop journalist Davey D reports, “situations like this” show no signs of stopping: 29 African-Americans have been killed by police or security officers this year–16 since Martin was shot and killed by George Zimmerman little more than a month ago. Continue reading →
I have felt like Trayvon Martin. Many many times while walking at night, being pulled over by police, being told that I’m not supposed to ‘be.’ My ‘being’ in a space has caused questions, concerns, suspicions. In the back of my mind I always wondered if there would be a reckoning. If my ‘being’ would become so intolerable to someone that they would try to end my existence rather than engage in a conversation. The only difference between me and Trayvon is that I am still here and he is not. Still, the question lurks around the subconscious when I walk home every night from the subway and a police car slows down alongside me. The squad car slows down. Eyeballs examine my ‘being,’ noticing any signs of anger, insanity, guilt. I continue walking, pretending to be oblivious. In most cases this is the best sign of innocence: by pretending to not notice.
Unlike myself, Trayvon physically noticed the accusation. He noticed the suspicion and dared to walk toward it. Stare at it, as he spoke with his girlfriend over the phone. Curious, as to who could be staring at him so intently he took a step in Zimmerman’s direction. Staring directly at George Zimmerman before quickly walking away.
When I am walking in strange or dark surroundings I try to keep it moving. No time to stop. I hear my parents’ voice of survival.
It’s been just over a month now since Trayvon Martin was shot and killed, and while his case has come to dominate national headlines, there have been other tragedies coming to light. Continue reading →
Race, Culture, and Identity in a Colorstruck World