Keep Your Hoodies Up: Zimmerman Trial Verdict Drops “Not Guilty”
By Muna Mire
Until the killing of Black mother’s sons are as important to the country as the killing of a white mother’s son, those who believe in freedom cannot rest. —Ella Baker
The U.S. justice system has failed Trayvon Martin.
The verdict in the Zimmerman trial was just read: not guilty. Not guilty of murder or manslaughter. Not guilty.
On the television screen, the judge dismisses the jury of five white women and one woman the network says is of “indeterminate race” and the spectacle finally comes to an end. Zimmerman is released to a tearful family; they embrace one another. He takes several deep breaths of relief, smiling at his attorney and the people gathering to surround him.
The pain of this historical moment is palpable.
By the time the network cuts to a panel of news anchors, commentators and pundits, who each have something to say, social media is on fire with people expressing their pain, anger, disgust, and disbelief. Trayvon Martin now joins the list of Black bodies the U.S. justice system has found disposable.
In the end, we not only put a Black boy on trial for his own murder, Martin’s murderer was found not guilty. The months of deliberations, the various public displays of racism — everything that Rachel Jeantel and Sybrina Fulton had to endure — it was all for nothing.
Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon Martin’s mother, speaks to the courtroom
Trayvon is a symbol. His tragic death can be located at the intersection of the violence the state allows to be inflicted upon the Black bodies it deems disposable and the institutionalization of a lethal post-racial myth. At a time when racism increasingly inflicts material and structural violence on Black bodies, we are institutionalizing a uniquely colourblind brand of racism. We are turning away and ignoring the escalating crises in our nation.
On some level, we know this is wrong. There is a generalized and pervasive sense of a growing white anxiety. There is a demographic change coming precisely at the moment when racialized people in America are being disenfranchised in so many different ways. The gutting of the Voting Rights Act and various state measures to restrict voters of colour, the school to prison pipeline that leads the economic collapse that has so disproportionately impacted people of colour, the various reproductive assaults that legislators are attempting to inflict on primarily women of colour — there is a concerted institutional effort that spans federal and state governments, the court system, the financial sector, and so many other aspects of “the system” that does not work for us.
After the verdict was read, Mark Lamont Hill remarked that “We live in a country where it is not only illegal, but lethal, to be young and Black and outside. Trayvon is our nation’s metaphor.”
If everything that happened to Trayvon Martin, everything he became after his death and the court case that brought his life into the public eye, are a symbol for our nation, then it is clear. The system isn’t broken: it is working exactly as it was intended to. The system is racist. These institutions are racist, and no longer working for us.
This should no longer come as a surprise.
The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.
Follow Muna on Twitter @Muna_Mire.