The George Zimmerman “Not Guilty” Verdict: Why Outrage Turned To Rage
This is not the time to say, “I told you so,” as the truth doesn’t make the travesty of justice any less real, nor Trayvon Martin’s death any less settling. A month ago I told you, in this column, they were preparing to set George Zimmerman free. Now it has happened. We now know “death by confrontation” has been legitimized simply by saying you feared for your life, and violence can be escalated once you start losing the fight. Case law usually prohibits the escalation of violent force. You can’t pull a knife in a fist fight, or a gun in a knife fight without being, minimally charged, with aggravated assault or attempted murder. Now you can.
“Stand Your Ground” is nothing more than legalized murder to fit the benefit of xenophobes and racial-phobes in this increasing “browning” American culture. “Race law” is always tested on black people first. You only have to go back to the Constitutional Convention of 1787, the 1857 Dred Scott decision and the Redemption Era politics of the 1880s to see the history of targeted race law. Those 1880s laws lasted nearly 90 years—well into the 1960s and were effective for two-thirds of the 20th Century. History tends to be cyclical. We are seeing it.
A half century later, in the second decade of the 21st Century, race laws are being reintroduced as mechanisms of social control. And now one of them has withstood its first major legal test, which now makes it case law. So we are in a new era in America, the Zimmerman era and there’s already indication that Stand Your Ground will be selectively applied, based on race.
The same week Zimmerman was exonerated, a Florida black woman received a 20 year sentence for standing her ground when she fired a warning shot at her estranged husband with a history of domestic violence. A Florida black man was convicted of assaulting a teenager who attacked him first. Both stood their but it didn’t matter. So we can see how this is about stack up along racial lines. Some new cards have been added to America race deck. The U.S. Attorney General’s office will have to work overtime to trump this card. Zimmerman may face civil rights violations but the horse is out the gate. There will be hundreds of baby Zimmermans coming after this travesty. Every black man is a target. The only way to stop it is by changing the law.
And law change is in order. To change the law, you to change a nation’s mindset. Legislating social bias has always proved difficult.
The Zimmerman acquittal is outrageous. The people’s outrage is legitimate and we have the “right to protest for right,” as Dr. King once said. But protest takes many forms and that’s where we have to be wise. We can’t let emotion dictate the very real realities of the situation. It’s okay to be in solidarity with Trayvon and his family—but make it change the situation. The law is still on the books. Marching is a visual demonstration of outrage against injustice but it only works when it’s non-violent and the crowds can be controlled. Marching has historically had mixed results as demonstrated in Birmingham, Selmaand Memphisin the 60s. People fail to realize that the 60s was a half century ago. The elements of American culture are different now.
Calling people into a space and not knowing whose going to show up has massive risks. Malcolm X once warned us that the “Prophets of Rage,” future generations of change activists, would not have the tolerance for non-violence that the then generations were (partially) demonstrating. That, by and large, has held true. One of the elements that has been lost in the conflicts of the last half century, is that of the hidden hand that has destroyed every mass black movement in American history, starting with the Niagara (Anti-lynching) Movement in 1906. Agents and provocateurs sunk the Garvey Movement in 1921, Elijah’s and Malcolm’s movement in 1965, King’s movement in 1968, the US movement in 1974, the Panther Movement in 1978, as counter intelligence (COINTEL-Pro) became an effective tool for political disruption and mass dissention in the African American community in breeding distrust and grassroots conflict.
We witnessed peaceful protests everywhere in the nation, except Los Angeles. Los Angeles has its own set of complexities, largely set in its multi-raciality, the absence of leadership and preponderance of interlopers in its activist community. The provocateur element in the Los Angeles activist community is substantial. In some instances, the agents are out front.
The agenda of the provocateur is to disrupt and cause dissention among various segments and manipulate them into fighting one another. If you are not wise, you will fall into the trap that so many of our leaders and teachers have fallen into the last century. When you combine that with varying levels of sophistication (and un-sophistication), you set the stage for community sabotage and provocateur disruption. You also cannot use the media irresponsibly to call the people to the streets and not know who’s gonna show. Nor can you insult their intelligence and put an agent up in front of them and expect them to follow him. They come out the jails too. They know “who’s who.” That’s when you can almost be certain that outrage will turn to rage.
The streets were too hot to be calling “rallies.” The Monday night was a signal as to the temperature of the streets. There are people who want to join our outrage in solidarity. They showed up in Leimert Park and got run out (talking about it’s a “black thang). Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere. Injustice effects everybody, and if people want to join our cause, they shouldn’t be run away. Unsophisticated and unintelligent advocacy does none of us any good.
KJLH did an excellent job of cleaning up…I mean, cooling down the streets. But the reoccurring theme both the announcers (Tammie and Don) and the community was that Los Angeles has no leaders that the streets are bound to respect. Justice for Trayvon will have to come in a different form of expression. Boycotting Florida for example. Floridais a tourism state. This summer alone, three major black organizations had or have their national conventions in Florida. The National NAACP this week. The National Black Journalist Association (NABJ) next month and the Association For The Study of African-African Literature and History (ASALAH) in October.
Black people will drop upwards of $30 million in Floridathis summer alone. It would have been a bold move for the NAACP to cancel their convention this week…maybe NABJ and ASALAH will consider it. But their 2014, 2015, 2016 and beyond until they change the law. Just know, like segregation laws spread, 30 other states have Stand Your Ground too. We need to closely examine this national movement.
We can call for other entertainers to follow Stevie Wonder’s lead not to perform in Floridauntil the “Stand Your Ground” law is changed. It worked in Sun City, South African in bringing down apartheid in the 1980s. It worked in getting Arizonato honor the King holiday (finally) in the 1990s. If you wanna bring something out of the 1950s and 1960s, bring that because it did work in Montgomery andBirmingham. Economic boycotts work.
The civil rights violation charge will work. They worked in the Rodney King case and they worked in prosecuting the killers of Medgar Evers and other civil leaders decades later. Attorney General, Eric Holder, has been all over television this week (at the Delta and NAACP conventions) promising to review Stand Your Ground. But he hasn’t promised to file civil rights charges on Zimmerman. The pressure should be on the federal government and federal courts to review this law and file charges on this case. President Obama’s speech on race was necessary.
Equate it to President John Kennedy’s speech after Vivien Malone and James Hood was denied their right to pursue their education at the University of Alabama. He pricked the nation’s conscience fifty years ago asking Congress to introduce a Civil Rights bill. Five days later, Medgar Evers was killed in his driveway in Mississippi.
Trayvon Martin died in that same vein. The cause is the same, the right to live, move and survive freely in American society. President Obama had a responsibility to remind the nation that it was the law that failed Trayvon as much as the man that pulled the trigger. He, like Kennedy, pricked the nation’s conscience to think.
We must DEMAND that right is wise and appropriate ways—not foolish ones.
There was Rev. Sharpton’s 100 city rally project—that will seek to educate more than just march. Sharpton said this has to be more than just throwing “a fit.” It has to be a movement. I agree, as long as the agents aren’t in the mix (upfront). The sophisticates will have to be wise. There’s Minister Tony Muhammad’s rally on July 28th for peace, jobs and freedom. The agents can show up there if they want to. They got something for em. Again, sophisticated advocacy.
We have to do all things to ensure our outrage is not misconstrued. The media loves the opportunity to construe black people as a bunch of wild, out of control “savages,” justifying a need for them to “stand their ground.” Why give them the opportunity to misinterpret our outrage as unbridled rage? It’s foolish on our part. And we can’t let fools walk us into these traps.
Our outrage should be demonstrated for what it is—solidarity for injustice in the taking of Trayvon Martin’s life, not the rage expressed by the provocateurs and those frustrated by the system’s deception and repression. Let our wisdom guide our actions in Justice for Trayvon.