Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman, and "The Retreat at Twin Lakes"
I stopped following the Trayvon Martin story as soon as I read that Zimmerman, carrying, followed Martin even when the dispatcher told him not to. [But read on....] Because, come on, who doesn't want to whack an uppity nigra? And then walk? So, because I haven't mastered the material, I'm not sure if the jury's verdict is -- as a verdict -- right or wrong, if that's the most important part of the story, which I'm not sure it is. So I'd like to give a number of perspectives.
First, young black men:
The Zimmerman Jury Told Young Black Men What We Already Knew
It is a complicated thing to be young, black, and male in America. Not only are you well aware that many people are afraid of you—you can see them clutching their purses or stiffening in their subway seats when you sit across from them—you must also remain conscious of the fact that people expect you to be apologetic for their fear. It’s your job to be remorseful about the fact that your very nature makes them uncomfortable, like a pilot having to apologize to a fearful flyer for being in the sky.
If you’re a black man and you don’t remain vigilant of and obsequious to white people’s panic in your presence—if you, say, punch a man who accosts you during dinner with your girlfriend and screams “Nigger!” in your face, or if you, say, punch a man who is following you without cause in the dark with a handgun at his side—then you must be prepared to be arrested, be beaten, be shot through the heart and lung and die on the way home to watch a basketball game with your family. And after you are dead, other blacks should be prepared for people to say you are a vicious thug who deserved it. You smoked weed, for instance, and got in some fights at school (like I did)—obviously you had it coming. You were a ticking time bomb, and sooner or later someone was going to have to put you down.
Second, the quality of Zimmerman's Defense team:
(And did the Prosecution really think a jury composed of 5/6 white women was ideal for a verdict in its favor?)
Third, the jury. I hate to link to Buzzfeed, but:
A key to deciding if Zimmerman was guilty of second degree murder was whether the defendant had malice or ill-will toward Trayvon Martin. This was on display as the prosecution’s opening salvo was what Zimmerman said when he called 911 the night of the shooting: “Fucking punks, these assholes always get away.” The jury did not see this as an example of malice towards the victim.
Like the typical plot trajectory of the simplest Hollywood movie, the conclusion in the Zimmerman trial ended exactly like it was supposed to. The jury in the Zimmerman case was left with their hands tied after the specifics of the trial played out. The jury only had three options to convict Zimmerman with: murder, manslaughter, or not guilty.
Media outlets like the one above completely miss the point of the verdict. When it came time for the jury to make a decision, the story was no longer who killed Trayvon, but what state of mind the shooter (Zimmerman) was in.
Second degree murder necessitated "a depraved mind without regard for human life," which the prosecution could not prove. With manslaughter, the jury would have to believe that Zimmerman's shooting of Trayvon was "neither excusable, nor justified."
But the Zimmerman defense made clear that the shooting was "justified" — necessary self-defense of a man being attacked.
The jury apparently pondered manslaughter the heaviest, but in the end wasn't convinced that Zimmerman wasn't himself in immediate danger, thus necessitating the use of force.
Thus the not guilty verdict. ...
In a trial where details are hazy and interpretation critical, the jury had to see through a fog of arguments and make the best possible decision. They did that with the information they had, based on the narrow definition of Florida law in a case that had major local and national implications.
Fourth, the facts of the case as presented to that jury. I'm outsourcing this to the great bmaz at emptywheel, who's fought the good fight on any number of occasions:
I have said this from the get go: In the case of State of Florida v. George Zimmerman, under the actual facts of the case from the State of Florida’s own disclosure, as opposed to hype from Benjamin Crump and his public relations team, who have self interest from representation of family members in a civil damages case, not to mention well meaning, even if uninformed, mass and liberal media, there has never been a good factual rebuttal to George Zimmerman’s own account of self defense. You know why? Because there is not any compelling rebuttal within the facts as adduced in the investigation and entered in the record at trial. And the presumption of innocence and burden of proof in the American criminal justice system still mean something.
Yes, I know what I am saying runs counter to the popular meme and what people emotionally feel and want to hear. But everything I have noted from the start of this case has been borne out in the trial evidence and resulting posture as the case heads to closing arguments and to the jury for deliberation. ...
Did you know that powerful local mayoral office politicians involved themselves, by meeting with only the victim’s family and their attorneys, in an improper ex-parte manner, to go over the most critical evidence during the early stages of the investigation and before said Martin family members’ statements were relied on to file charges? I bet you did not, but that has been the testimony in the trial record.
Did any of you see the other neighbors, of all races, in Retreat at Twin Lakes who testified on Zimmerman’s behalf about the the facts of the case, that Trayvon Martin was the aggressor on top of Zimmerman when the shooting occurred, and the crime afflicting the neighborhood and the need for the neighborhood watch program? My guess is you did not. But that, too, is part of the evidence in the trial record.
Did any of you see the parade of witnesses that laid the foundation for the fact Trayvon Martin was the aggressor in the actual critical physical encounter between him and Zimmerman, and was on top of Zimmerman, and beating Zimmerman, both moments before, and at the time of, the key gun shot? And supported by both the case detectives and one of the foremost expert pathologists, Dr. Vincent di Maio, in the world? My guess is you did not. But that, too, is in the trial record as hard evidence.
And outsourcing to Jeralyn, who I also trust on these matters and who is, one might remember, a defense attorney:
Here's what I wrote last week on the legacy of the George Zimmerman case. It's as true today as it has been for the past 16 months.
The legacy of this case will be that the media never gets it right, and worse, that a group of lawyers, with the aid of a public relations team, who had a financial stake in the outcome of pending and anticipated civil litigation, were allowed to commandeer control of Florida's criminal justice system, in pursuit of a divisive, personal agenda.
Their transformation of a tragic but spontaneous shooting into the crime of the century, and their relentless demonization of the person they deemed responsible, not for a tragic killing, but for "cold-blooded murder," has called into question the political motives and ethics of the officials serving in the Executive branch of Florida's government, ruined the career of other public officials, turned the lives of the Zimmerman family, who are as innocent as their grieving clients, into a nightmare, and along the way, set back any chance of a rational discussion of the very cause they were promoting, probably for years. [More....]
Fifth, systemic racism in statistical terms. Frontline frames this data in "Stand Your Ground" terms, which as bmaz points out, is irrelevant. Nevertheless:
Pretty appalling. Just like this is appalling.
Zimmerman fired the gun. But who really loaded and cocked it? I'll helpfully mark the ugly parts:
Problems in the 6-year-old community [so-called; 6 years is not long] started during the recession [recession is ugly], when foreclosures [foreclosures are ugly] forced owners to rent out to “low-lifes and gangsters,” [gangs are ugly and racism is ugly] said Frank Taaffe, a former neighborhood block captain.
Taaffe sounded chagrined [still ugly] when he noted that the complex is now majority-minority. Census figures show Retreat at Twin Lakes is 49 percent white, non-Hispanic, 23 percent Hispanic, 20 percent African-American and 5 percent Asian.
He suspects Zimmerman got tired of thugs “and reached his breaking point,” Taaffe said. “But why was he carrying a gun? [FL gun laws are ugly] Why not carry pepper spray or a Taser? That’s bizarre-o.” ...
It’s unclear what Zimmerman, who is married, does for a living [DISemployment is ugly], although he once owned a pressure washing company [more ugliness].
"The Retreat at Twin Lakes" sounds like a little corner of hell, and in hell, people behave hellishly. But built made the hell? Looks to me like "The Retreat" is awash in pain and suffering from the recession, foreclosures, DISemployment, and all the evils that come from that, including racism, gangs, and free-floating guns.
Zimmerman pulled the trigger. But the 1% who own and run this country put the gun into his hands -- through recession, foreclosure, and DISemployment -- and then stood back. I mean, of course somebody is going to get shot. Somebody black.
Seventh, the more I blog, the more I see the elephant in the room: Nobody wants to talk about how people make their money -- that is, their relation to the means of production -- or talk about what the new normal of savage inequality and second- or third-world jobs and living and working conditions is doing to people. Everybody wants to talk about something else, especially race, no matter which legacy party your talking about. But race is a fictive construct -- albeit with real world effects (rather like money, if you think about it). So why are we talking about it?
‘Why I Don’t Want to Talk About Race’
Tom, I don’t want to talk about race because it gives weight to a fiction that was created to oppress. It has no basis in biology and is a social construction in this country that was engineered to maintain access to free labor. The fiction created by race distorts the reality in which we live.
Plus, as a black person, I am called on often to speak for my “race.” I can never give an opinion without it being assumed to be that of a multitude. So when a white person asks me my opinion about an issue that can be related to race, I suspect that there is going to be a moment later when that white person is going to say, “Well, I have a black friend, Steve, who says…” And that will be the black authority on the subject.
Black people can’t talk to white people about race anymore. There’s really nothing left to say. There are libraries full of books, interviews, essays, lectures, and symposia. If people want to learn about their own country and its history, it is not incumbent on black people to talk to them about it. It is not our responsibility to educate them about it. Plus whenever white people want to talk about race, they never want to talk about themselves. There needs to be discussion among people who think of themselves as white. They need to unpack that language, that history, that social position and see what it really offers them, and what it takes away from them. As James Baldwin said, “As long as you think that you are white, there is no hope for you.”
When you went to Africa, you said “you were the minority for the first time in your life.” That’s not true. You have been the only adult in a room full of children, the only man in room full of women, the only non-incarcerated person in a jail. In America if you were a minority at a hip-hop concert in Compton, you would still have the privilege that accrues unbidden to persons designated as white, with all of the political, social, and economic access that comes with it.
What you experienced in Africa, Tom, was that the apparatus that supports the dominance of white skin was absent. It has nothing to do with being a minority someplace, you were free of the prison that is whiteness in America. You could have brought all that privilege with you and manifested it when you saw Cole with Protus, but you didn’t. Letting go of that allowed you to show Cole that he can connect with another person independent of the color of their skin.
Do you remember how Clinton was vilified for wanting to have a national conversation on race? People thought it was unnecessary, that he was a “race traitor,’” that it would lead to reparations for slavery, that it would make white people feel bad for things that were not their fault. White people don’t want to hear about race because the don’t want to be called “racists” or they cannot see how they are responsible for something they didn’t do. That report talks a lot about white privilege. It was no surprise to me that it was not widely read and discussed.
Whiteness to me is oppression. And it oppresses not just black people, but people who think it offers them something other than dominance over their fellow man. Poor white people have been sold a bill of goods that offers them white supremacy and takes away jobs and economic growth.
Tom, I have never, not once, thought of you as white. I think of you as a father, a husband, a brilliant businessman, a feminist, a Quaker, and most of all as a friend. You have never treated me as whiteness demands that you treat me. I don’t want to talk about race because if I do, I stop being an artist, an educator, a godfather, a gay man, and most of all, human.
Finally, I hope people will pardon my cynicism, but I'm not into Strategic Hate Management, even against people who are worthy of hate. I cannot bear to be told to feel in a certain way, even if I agree that I ought to feel that way. So manufactured outrage, even when the outrages are real leaves me cold. In the Trayvon Martin case, in FL -- just as in the Wendy Davis case, in TX -- we would be wise to remember that the case file for Strategic Hate Management is held by the Democratic nomenklatura,* who have done squat for blacks, very little for women, and who have reinforced the power of the FIRE class who own "The Retreat at Twin Lakes" where George Zimmerman so usefully killed Trayvon Martin, and, as they owned it, made it what it is today.
Because maybe, just maybe, if Obama's HAMP program hadn't been deliberately enginered to make home-owners worse off and to "foam the runway" for big banks, The Retreat at Twin Lakes "community" would have been spared the stress of foreclosure after foreclosure (2009; 2013), Trayvon Martin might be alive today, and George Zimmerman wouldn't be a killer. Something to ponder.
NOTE * We might even wonder if we're seeing Obama's Southern Strategy.
UPDATE Speaking of "Who owns The Retreat at Twin Lakes?"
Of course, this is screen shot from Zillow today, and not from the time that Zimmerman killed Martin. Nevertheless, the image shows a community under stress not of its making, from the ongoing foreclosure crisis. Crabs in a bucket.