Sunday, July 14, 2013

No Innocence Here

One of my colleagues tweeted last night "The American Justice System has just told Black mothers your sons are not safe." Sadly, Black mothers and fathers already knew this. They know that the law is constructed in such a way that a man can stalk and threaten and shoot to kill a 17-year-old boy walking home from the store with nothing but a packet of Skittles in his pocket, and that man can be found Not Guilty. I have no words to write about the verdict in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, or rather I have too many words, and they spill through my head and chest with such force of emotion that I cannot make them march in orderly fashion.

So I will borrow the words of journalist and historian Jelani Cobb, who I think framed the whole tragic story exactly right in Blood on the Leaves, his New Yorker post this morning.

And I will also share the words of author and educator Tim Wise in No Innocence Left to Kill, about the moment last evening when he watched his 12-year-old daughter grasp America's sin.

I will also note what commentator Melissa Harris-Perry said right after the verdict, that you know this case was about race because of the fear and sadness Black families are feeling today, and because of the fact that Trayvon Martin, a Black teen with no criminal record, was effectively tried and convicted for his own murder. The travesty is not so much the dehumanizing stereotype of Trayvon that the defense put forward, but that the prosecution let it stand—did not challenge in any meaningful way the transformation of an innocent child walking home from the store into the scary Black bogeyman of some people's nightmares.

We won't talk about my nightmares.

In retrospect, it's clear that the prosecution had no intention of ever winning this case. Overcharging Zimmerman with second-degree murder was the first clue. There was always going to be reasonable doubt, because only two people were on that sidewalk that night, and one of them is dead. Manslaughter was the charge that applied. No doubt Florida State Attorney Angela Corey knew that. Her demeanor after the verdict came down, her "We are so proud to stand before you tonight..." press conference was just surreal. I had to keep asking myself, Wait, isn't she on the side of the prosecution? So why all the glee and self-congratulation? Didn't you just lose the case?

And another thing: Why didn't that Stand Your Ground law apply to Trayvon Martin's defending himself against a stranger with a gun who was following him in the night? Why was this argument not made by the prosecution and only mentioned in passing in the closing arguments? Oh, I could go on and on, but what's the use? This happened.

Hold your babies close.

Photo: New Yorkers marched from Union Square to Times Square and up to 125th Street to protest last night's verdict. There were similar peaceful demonstrations all around the country.


  1. Our two minds are one, our two hearts are one. Hold them closely. I am grieving so, too, and completely agree with all of your points. As always.


  2. Both of those articles are true and right and what you say is too. A travesty has been made of the word "justice" here and again, it has made with race as a backdrop which cannot be colored over. You know, usually in situations like this I feel (and this may be logical or not) that because I am white (or at least, beige) I need to apologize for the cruelty of my race but in this case it goes beyond that. There is no apologizing. There is no way that I can identify with whatever process went on in that situation which led to the outcome.
    It was (is) just too vast and obvious a miscarriage of justice for me to feel anything but angry and saddened and horrified and enraged about. As every person of every skin color should very fucking well be feeling right now.

  3. This all leaves me speechless, but not surprised.

    So much hate, and at what cost, and to what end?

    Begin each day with love, and carry on in that sense
    to the very end.

    Sometimes I believe that it's all I can do — try to make a difference on this planet of 7 billion people, in this messed-up country, by extending love to everyone, and everything.

  4. Once again you have spoken to my soul. I just hope nothing horrific will happen because of this. I'm having LA riot flash backs.

  5. I too was struck by the total lack of effective prosecution, and your point: if "stand your ground" was to be invoked, it was Trayvon who was walking to his own house; it was his ground.

  6. smdh this is so maddening and frightening all at once. like you said, we are in a state of fear for our lives by simply LIVING.

  7. Thank you for the excellent links and your own words. My own are not necessary.

  8. That verdict was a travesty. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised, but I was. I really thought manslaughter was just so obvious.


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