“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.” -Elie Wiesel

Protest I shall.

Trayvon Martin
By Shepard Fairey

A teenage boy was walking home. He had something in his hands. He was wearing a hoodie. He was black. This was all that George Zimmerman knew about Trayvon Martin when he called 9-1-1 as a ‘concerned citizen’ and neighborhood watch chief. Trayvon looked at the man staring ominously at him. Maybe Trayvon saw George’s lips form the words, “These assholes always get away.” Perhaps it was simply instinctual when the teenager started to run.

George pursed the nameless teen. What had Trayvon done to arouse such suspicion in Zimmerman? “Just staring…looking at all the houses.” A lot of people said that this case had nothing to do with race. I have to disagree. Walking down a street and looking around is not inherently suspicious. Strolling around wearing a hoodie and black skin apparently fits the suspicious bill.

George Zimmerman made a choice. He chose to follow a child, gun in hand. The 9-1-1 dispatcher had sent police to hassle the kid for no apparent reason, but that wasn’t enough.

A physical altercation occurred. Screams for help went unanswered. Zimmerman was bruised, Trayvon was dead.

I do not know George Zimmerman. I do not know the thoughts that went through his head then or the ones that go through it now. But I do know that he had a gun and confronted an unarmed kid just trying to get home. I know Trayvon Martin tried to defend himself.

Florida laws decided that Zimmerman had no obligation to retreat and his lawyers argued that he acted in self-defense. You are not defending yourself when you stalk your victim even when instructed to stop. You are not defending yourself when you bring a gun to confront an unarmed person. Zimmerman acted as the worst kind of vigilante- puffed from the pride of being called ‘chief’, empowered by the law that told him there was no need to stand down, and certain that he had correctly profiled a boy he did not know.

Only George Zimmerman is privy to his intentions that night. But I know that no matter what the law says or the lawyers pushed, he took a fight to an innocent kid and killed him. He is guilty. I hope he feels his guilt like an unscratchable itch, a bloated belly, a festering wound, a cracked spine. Justice has not been served. Mercy is not deserved.

I cannot know the contents of Zimmerman’s heart, but I know the contents of Trayvon’s pockets that night. His hands held Skittles and iced tea.

Trayvon’s killer walks free so we must seek justice elsewhere. Fight the Stand Your Ground laws, they are distinctly racist. Raise hell for cases like that of Marissa Alexander. Battle with your own prejudices and win.

14 thoughts on ““There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.” -Elie Wiesel

  1. “For me, forgiveness and compassion are always linked: how do we hold people accountable for wrongdoing and yet at the same time remain in touch with their humanity enough to believe in their capacity to be transformed?” ~Bell Hooks

    Trayvon Martin stood his ground too, only he was unarmed. Our system is diseased, and sending Zimmerman to prison would have done nothing to cure this cancer. It wouldn’t eliminate the race problem in our country. Having the highest incarceration rate in the world, our U.S. prison system is filled to the rim due to a barbaric ‘justice’ system, birthed out of the Iron Age. A system which never addresses the root causes, only makes things worse. It only sees punishment as the solution, which is no solution at all. Violence experts have shown evidence time and time again that punishment stimulates violence. http://youtu.be/eMSsi4Krd5Q (2 min). Violence experts also state that prisons don’t rehabilitate, they are graduate schools for violence. http://youtu.be/qiCg9f4fsC4 (50 sec clip)

    Bottom line, our system is dysfunctional and profit driven. Power addicts are creating laws that undermine society and encourage “for profit” prisons promising 90% occupancy to investors. Had the situation been reversed, I feel certain Trayvon would have been convicted and incarcerated. Would justice have been served?

    “Thanks to everyone who are with us and who will be with us si [sic] we together can make sure that this doesn’t happen again.” Tweeted by Tracy Martin, (Trayvon’s father)

    My deepest condolences to the Martin family. If anything good can come from this, it’s the hope that Trayvon’s case will be the beginning of the end of laws that encourage profiling and further promote violence and instability. I stand with you, the Martin family and others to make damn sure nothing like this ever happens again.

    1. I know that I wouldn’t have really felt justice was served even if he was pronounced guilty. There can’t be justice in such a case, especially given the way our system works.

      This whole thing garnered attention because it is so symptomatic of everything that is wrong with us as a society.

      I wish we focused on rehabilitation. I wish Zimmerman saw something wrong with what he did. I hope Trayvon will be remembered and that his death will help change our laws, our justice system, and our thoughts and hearts.

      I thought of you last night because I started to wonder if the mindset of jurors is changed by high-profile cases. Their privacy may be respected and they may know nothing going in but dozens of media outlets in the courtroom have to change a person’s perceptions, right? Why can’t they use a few unmarked cameras and release it after the trial? Profit is all that comes to mind…

      1. Studies show that jurors turn inward to their own experiences to evaluate the case. Mock jury research shows that jurors view the facts of a case through their own cognitive or selective “filters.” Jurors’ life experiences influence their perceptions of the events… Research further shows that information that is consistent with one’s beliefs is processed quickly and remembered better than inconsistent information.

        This article from Psychology Today is interesting. Excerpts:

        “When psychologist Robert Bothwell asked 10 mock juries to look at the Kobe Bryant case, he found that people with a healthy respect for authority, who might be expected to punish the defendant, actually blamed the victim.”

        “Can juries really be stacked? Potential jurors fill out questionnaires and are interrogated by the judge or attorneys, a process called “voir dire.” If the attorneys feel a potential juror is biased against their side, they “challenge” by asking the judge to excuse him.”

        “Jury consulting has become a big business over the past three decades. Hundreds of firms now rake in several hundred million dollars a year. Many offer “scientific jury selection” services, deploying demographics, statistics, and social psychology to cull potential jurors and engineer the perfect panel of people. But…

          1. Well, I’m sure it has to have a psychological impact. But what’s even more interesting to me is how media publicity during the pretrials seems to impact jurors.

            “A meta-analysis (Steblay et al.) of 23 such studies published between 1966 and 1997 offers some well-documented findings on this question. First and foremost, it is clear from the studies that jurors exposed to negative pretrial publicity are more likely to judge defendants guilty compared to jurors exposed to less pretrial publicity or at least more neutral pretrial publicity.

            Of critical importance, these studies collectively confirm that the impact of pretrial publicity on individual juror judgments about defendant culpability carries through to the collective verdicts… rendered by juries remedial efforts employed by courts (e.g., brief trial
            continuances, expanded voir dire, judicial instruction, trial evidence, and jury deliberation) do not effectively counter the biasing effects of pretrial publicity Instead, pretrial publicity exerts a disproportionate imprint on juror memory compared to the evidence actually presented at trial.”

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