Jun 30, 2013

The takeaway phrase from the first week of the second-degree murder trial against George Zimmerman, the admitted killer of Florida teen, Trayvon Martin comes from key prosecution witness, Rachel Jeantel, who recounted that Trayvon called the man watching him a "creep-ass cracker."  Defense attorney, Don West, not surprisingly jumped all over that part of her testimony wanting the jurors and the public to believe that the one with racial animosity in his heart was Trayvon Martin, not his killer, George Zimmerman.  West went on to argue that this racial hatred towards white people is what caused the unarmed teen to begin attacking Zimmerman.  From a defense tactic standpoint, I get it.  From a humanity standpoint, I was beyond annoyed and offended.  He is using the overly-used and shallow theory of reverse racism playing into the irrational fear of some white people that the tables will not be turned on them.  In other words, what was done by them will now be done to them.

I wrote about this irrational fear not long after the 2012 election focusing on the behavior of the Republican Party.  Now I am broadening the discussion to the general population of whites in America.  As always, not all white people feel this way.  I do not intend to lump everyone into the same category.  My intent is to talk about how this irrational fear is more present and pervasive than many will admit to.  Judge Nelson has decided that the prosecution can not accuse Zimmerman of racial profiling.  They can talk about how Zimmerman profiled Martin, but cannot use the term "racial profiling."  I can appreciate wanting to try a race-neutral case and it is possible to have a race-neutral outlook on the case.  It is possible that Zimmerman did not racially profile the unarmed teenager.  Possible but not necessarily probable.  Implicit and unconscious bias are topics that many people do not want to explore and own up to.  And of course, if Zimmerman were to admit to any racial bias at this point towards black people then a guilty verdict seems to be a certainty.  If only our justice system were that predictable...

Irrespective of this case, I posit to you that this irrational fear is alive and well. I could go on and on with examples of what people say but I want to focus on the fact that is a fear that is indeed irrational.  With the exception of a few extremists, people of color are not interested in exacting revenge on white people.  We do not have the political power, financial means, nor an actual desire to do so.  What made the civil rights movement so powerful was that fact that it was civil disobedience, a non-violent uprising against the institutionalized discrimination and racism of the time.  The non-violent approach is one that we take to heart because it was the right thing to do and because our violent retaliation would be used against us thus setting us back in the fight for justice and equality.  On the occasions where crimes committed by blacks against whites, it is not like the black criminals have gotten away. They have felt the full weight of criminal justice system.  Sadly the frustration caused by racism and discrimination towards blacks has actually been displaced and taken out on our own.  If black-on-white crime were at the levels of black-on-black crime, then this fear might be legitimate.

With regard to Trayvon Martin, he may have uttered the phrase "creepy-ass cracker."  But what did he do next?  He ran.  Zimmerman's own statements corroborate Ms. Jeantel's testimony that he ran.   Running away when afraid is a natural reaction.  Fighting back when attacked is also a natural reaction.  However for people of color as means of survival, we have been trained as evidenced by the civil rights movement, to react in a non-violent, non-aggressive manner when encountering a dicey situation with a white person because we will not win in the end.  If Trayvon had in fact attacked Zimmerman first, though I do not believe he did, then this case yet again is evidence of how this fear is irrational because once again we will lose.  So for those that are not convinced that we are not interested in exacting revenge on white people, you should take heart if Zimmerman is not held accountable for taking Trayvon Martin's life.  The law is on your side because the law allows for a man to instigate a hostile situation, take a life, and plead self-defense. Don't trip though thinking that the converse validates the irrational fear.  If a predominantly white jury finds Zimmerman guilty of murder or manslaughter, it is because he is indeed guilty.


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