Voices: Justice for Trayvon Martin [Racialicious]
And now, the waiting begins. Again.
Once again, a young person of color is dead, and hundreds of thousands of people are hoping for justice to be served. Less than a year ago, it was Troy Davis. This week, it’s Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old Florida boy shot and killed by George Zimmerman, who remains free after authorities were criticized for allegedly protecting Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch aptain.
Tuesday night, the U.S. Justice Department announced it would investigate the slaying of Martin. And, especially in light of what we’ve learned about not only Zimmerman, but the social climate around him that enabled him to not only feel justified in an abhorrent sense of paranoia toward young black men, but to continue walking the streets after bringing about the worst possible outcome of that entitlement, the question comes to mind again: Will they get it right this time?
The Love of Black Mothers and the Care of Black Children [Crunk Feminist Collective]
“Let’s face it. I am a marked woman, but not everybody knows my name.” Thus begins Hortense Spillers’s fascinating “Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe: An American Grammar Book,” focusing on the very specific, very particular material conditions of black people since historic passages through mediums and middles on bateaus, ketches and skiffs, named with conventions such as Jesus, or the Nina, Pinta, and the Santa Maria. Spillers prophesied the telling of Trayvon Martin’s murder to his parents: an unmarked, unnamed body, Trayvon’s father, Tracey Martin, “thought that he was missing, according to the family’s lawyer, Benjamin Crump, but the boy’s body had actually been taken to the medical examiner’s office and listed as a John Doe” for a day. Spillers’s being marked converges here with Trayvon’s being discovered, the normativity of the conflating of blackness and anonymity, enunciated and rehearsed by some people not knowing a name, by some people not giving a damn. It is important to note – as a sign of irrepressible, irresistible life – that Spillers says “not everybody” because if she is unknown, and if Trayvon is John Doe, this is limited and not absolute, no matter how pessimistic we may become.
Being marked, being discovered. What we have here is an ontological set of concerns. What when your marking is the point of your discovering; what when the thing that you constantly manifest is the thing that constantly must be found elsewhere? The manifestation of Trayvon’s being marked by George Zimmerman occurred through the refusal to be earnest. Rather, Trayvon appeared as “a real suspicion guy,” Zimmerman’s was a gaze attesting the idea that Trayvon was “up to no good” and that he seemed to be “on drugs or something.” Though raining and night time, in Zimmerman’s mind donning a hood was nothing more than an accouterment to such criminal behavior, grounded in the fact of Trayvon’s presence: “he looks black.” Literally walking down the street looking around, basic behavior in which many of us participate daily, was criminally suspect to Zimmerman, enough so that he called 911, registered a complaint, trailed Trayvon in a car, got out the car, confronted Trayvon, scuffle ensued, ending in two shots: one in the air, one in Trayvon’s chest.
There appears to be a conspiratorial nature to the Sanford Police Department’s engagement with this particular case. No longer, even no longer primarily, is this operative at the level of the individual and interpersonal, and thus, Zimmerman’s claim for “self-defense.” The institutional practices of justice are being obscured and obstructed from even an initial movement into the search for justice. The PD at best appears to be at best misinformed, at worst lying, about what occurred, when it occurred, who said what, and how they said it. The PD is covering up the fact of Zimmerman’s past in favor of saying that he had a “squeaky clean record.” The PD is not even willing to arrest because they feel they have no “grounds” upon which to act, though their inaction is justified only by their refusal to be earnest, to be truthful.
Meanwhile, the media coverage continues to be ridiculous. Check out, for instance, the way the Miami Herald reports on this new development (emphasis mine):
The U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and the FBI will investigate the killing of Miami Gardens teenager Trayvon Martin by a neighborhood watch volunteer, the department announced late Monday.
The announcement coincided with a statement from Florida Gov. Rick Scott asking the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to offer “appropriate resources” in the case.
The federal and state agencies are intervening in what attorneys call a botched investigation into the killing of the Michael Krop Senior High School student, who was killed Feb. 26 in Sanford, a town of 55,000 just north of Orlando. Trayvon, 17, on suspension from school, was staying at his father’s girlfriend’s house when he walked to a nearby a 7-Eleven store to buy candy and iced tea.
So, the shooter is a fine, upstanding neighborhood watch volunteer, and the victim is a troublemaker on suspension from school. Perfect.
But! If you’re one of those people who thinks that George Zimmerman, who identifies as white and Hispanic, may have acted rashly because of racism, that is a conversation there’s no need to have because, if there’s anything wrong with George Zimmerman, it’s not that he’s a product of a racist culture in which young black men are routinely demonized as dangerous thugs and in which non-black men obsessed with black criminality in states with lax gun laws are not seen as a grave threat to the black people in their communities, indicative of multiple institutional problems that make incidents like this one inevitable (and not totally uncommon); it’s that George Zimmerman exists in a fucking void and no one else has any responsibility and he’s CRAZY:
George Zimmerman, 28, a neighborhood watch volunteer with a long history of calling in everything from open garage doors to “suspicious characters,” called police to say he had spotted someone who looked drugged, was walking too slowly in the rain, and appeared to be looking at people’s houses. Zimmerman sounded alarmed because the stranger had his hand in his waistband and held something in his other hand.
No matter how many times shit like this happens, it’s never publicly discussed as a sickness in our endemically racist culture; it’s always about how the individual perpetrator, if found to be culpable at all, is mentally ill, unstable, reckless, personally weak and profoundly broken.
I will never look suspicious to you. Even if I have a black hoodie, a pair of jeans and white sneakers on…in fact, that is what I wore yesterday…I still will never look suspicious. No matter how much the hoodie covers my face or how baggie my jeans are, I will never look out of place to you. I will never watch a taxi cab pass me by to pick someone else up. I will never witness someone clutch their purse tightly against their body as they walk by me. I won’t have to worry about a police car following me for two miles, so they can “run my plates.” I will never have to pay before I eat. And I certainly will never get “stopped and frisked.” I will never look suspicious to you, because of one thing and one thing only. The color of my skin. I am white.