George Zimmerman gets away from justice
By Akwasi Evans
Special to NNPA from NOKOA
“Knock, knock, who’s there? George Zimmerman. George Zimmerman who? Congratulations (your skin is White) you’re on the jury.” That joke was the opening remark of attorney Don West as he addressed the jury of six Florida White women at the opening of the trial of George Zimmerman. The defendant was on trial in Stanford, Fla. for the February 6, 2012, shooting death of 17-year old Trayvon Martin.
West’s joke fell flat, but his message must have resonated with the jurors who found his defense more compelling that the lukewarm prosecution. West had reason to be overly confident. He understood that it was highly unlikely that an all-White southern jury would find a part-White man guilty of killing a Black child if the killer claimed self-defense.
The fact that Zimmerman racially profiled Martin, followed him when police said not to do so, and shot the unarmed teenager was of little consequence to the jury. They rendered a 21st Century Dred Scott decision reminding the world that “A Black man has no rights that a White man is bound to respect,” in America. Those were precisely the words uttered by Chief Justice Roger B. Taney in the 1854 Dred Scott decision of the U.S. Supreme Court that held that although Scott had lived as a free man in the north he was obligated to be returned to enslavement in the south. Constitutional guarantees available to Americans from Europe were not applicable to Americans from Africa.
The killing of Trayvon Martin and the acquittal of George Zimmerman are not aberrations in America; both outcomes could have been anticipated. We live in a sick society ruled by leaders unwilling to address our ugly past and incapable of admitting that our present cultural mindset is as misguided as our past. There will be more Trayvon Martins although most of the future George Zimmermans, many on police forces. It has been open season on African American males whose skin color presents a threat to a society that loves to put artificial colors in its food and on its people.
I’m old enough to remember hearing when “if you are White, you are all right; if you are Brown, stick around; if you are Yellow, you’re mellow; but, if you’re Black stay back.” That mentality may have been muted, but it certainly has not been silenced. Racism is as viral today as it was on June 11, 1963, when Alabama Gov. George C. Wallace tried to block entrance of the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa to prevent the enrollment of two African American students.
On July 26, Fruitvale Station opens nationwide in movie stations. The movie is about the 2009 New Year’s Day shooting death of Oscar Grant by BART officer Johannes Mehserle. Grant, 22, and a Latino passenger on a Bay-area train got into an altercation. At the Fruitvale Station stop, the men exited the train fighting and were apprehended by Bay Area transit officers. When Mesherle and a partner took Grant to the ground, the young man struggled and Mesherle pulled his revolver and shot the young father in the back. Mesherle told the court he thought he was reaching for his taser.
On Nov. 19, 2011, Vietnam War Hero Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr.’s medical alert necklace inadvertently went off. When White Plains, N.Y. officers responded to the alarm, Chamberlain told them he was fine and did not need help. Disregarding Chamberlain’s statement, police broke down his apartment door and began tasering the 69-year old retired marine. The police say that Chamberlain came at them with a butcher knife although their guns were drawn. As officers subdued Chamberlain officer Anthony Carelli shot Chamberlain at close range cursing him and calling him the n-word.
On May 11, 2011, Byron Carter, 20, and a teenage friend drove down to 6th Street in Austin, Texas looking for a party. When the pair learned that the party was in East Austin, they returned to their vehicle to leave. When the 16-year old started the engine, two large men dressed in all Black approached the vehicle. It was approximately 11:30 p.m. and the frightened kids tried to pull away. As the teen began driving away officer Nathan Wagner assumed his partner’s life was in danger because the vehicle brushed his knee so Wagner opened fire striking Carter, the passenger, four times killing him and hitting the teen with one bullet. A grand jury found that Wagner was right to shoot the unarmed Black youth who were not involved in any crime the same way the White Plains Grand Jury found that Carelli was not culpable and the Florida Southern Belles found George Zimmerman not guilty of murdering Trayvon Martin.
The reality is that America as a whole still considers everybody of African descent worth less. Everything that African Americans own, offer, contribute or do is devalued. A recent survey revealed that White America actually believes that Black people don’t feel pain like they do. Trayvon Martin, Kenneth Chamberlain and Byron Carter are dying proof that bullets not only hurt, they kill. Their families are still struggling with the pain of their loss.
One possible silver lining in the George Zimmerman acquittal is that it has already sparked a debate across the nation about race. That debate needs to continue and it needs to be open and honest.
We need to ask ourselves why White privilege and Black disenfranchisement are two sides of the same coin. We need to question why people from Europe adopted White as their cultural color after forcibly requiring Africans to accept the status of being Black. If you are reading this article in a newspaper, not one person reading this paper looks like the paper it is written on and nobody reading this article looks like the ink on the page. I asked a friend of mine Monday night how many White soldiers died in the 100-year war between Great Britain and France and he immediately gave me the correct answer: None. Every casualty in that 100-year war was English, French or a mercenary of either army. So the two questions that stimulate my consciousness concerning race are why do people of European descent so desperately need to see themselves as “White” and why must the multi-hued Africans all be “Black”?
If Asians could shed their Yellow label and Latinos could cast off their Brown label why are Europeans and Africans clinging so tenaciously to their White and Black labels. And if the simple answer is privilege and disenfranchisement maybe we should all be as proud of our heritage as Latinos and Asians. Until we abandon the inappropriate colors we label ourselves, people considered White will always be given the benefit of the doubt and people considered Black will always be considered criminals. And even worse, paraphrasing the prophetic words of George Zimmerman, “F’n Racist, those a..holes always get away with it.”
Akwasi Evans is the publisher of NOKOA newspaper in Austin, Texas. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org