Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Zimmerman Trial and Verdict: Some Leftist Perspectives


Here are a few thoughts from around the leftist Internet and blogosphere - both pre- and post-verdict.

The latest from Socialist Worker - A racist killer is acquitted:
THIS IS, of course, not the first time a Black man was murdered, and his killer or killers walked free--and were even celebrated as heroes. The U.S. has the horrific legacy of lynching to answer for, where the perpetrators of torture and murder were pillars of the community, never even arrested, much less put on trial.

This isn't a matter of ancient history. In December 1984, Bernard Goetz shot four young African American youths on a New York City subway. Their crime: Asking Goetz for $5. When one of his wounded victims tried to get away, Goetz followed him. "You don't look so bad, here's another," he said as he shot the young man in the side--Goetz's victim ended up in a coma that left him with permanent brain damage.

Goetz had been carrying a weapon on the subway because he was determined to "defend" himself in a city he said was "lawless." Like George Zimmerman, he became a hero to the right-wing media in New York and beyond. He was put on trial and found guilty--but not of murder, merely unlawful possession of a firearm, for which he served eight months.

Like Goetz, Zimmerman had powerful forces on his side, including the same conservative media that lionized Goetz as the "subway vigilante." Police bought Zimmerman's self-defense story from the start and let him go. Martin's body, meanwhile, was taken to the morgue, but no attempt was made to identify him--his father was still desperately calling 911 24 hours later to say that his son was missing.

Imagine for a second, had the roles been reversed, the odds of Trayvon Martin being allowed go home the same night he killed a neighborhood watch volunteer.

It took continual mobilizations in Sanford and increasingly angry protests around the country to force the appointment of a special prosecutor, who took over the investigation and eventually filed second-degree murder charges against Zimmerman. Without those protests, Zimmerman never would have faced a jury.

But that's cold comfort now that George Zimmerman has been acquitted.

Protests were already underway in cities around the country as this article was being written. There will be more in the days to come, and anyone horrified by Trayvon's murder a year ago and by the acquittal of his killer on Saturday night should participate and raise their voices.

That's in the days to come--Trayvon Martin's killer should be held to account. And in the weeks and months that follow, we need to channel anger at this latest example of justice denied into an increased determination to confront the system that let it happen. We need to build the broader challenge to a world where a young Black man's life is in danger because he was walking where someone thought he shouldn't be--and where the political and judicial establishment protect the racists, rather than the victims of racist murder.
A few days before the verdict, Margaret Kimberley of Freedom Rider|Black Agenda Report wrote:
In 2012 the Macolm X Grass Roots Movement published a report which detailed the extra judicial killings of black people by the police, security guards and self-appointed law enforcers like Zimmerman. In the first half of that year they reported that 120 black people were murdered in this manner, one death every 36 hours. That report was report was recently updated to show that modern day lynch law takes place every 28 hours.

 If Zimmerman goes free how will black people respond? There will surely be public expressions of anger and anguish, but there is a larger question. As a group, how will we react to the denial of justice for Trayvon Martin and the hundreds of others whose names we don’t even know? It wouldn’t be enough to tell people not to be violent, or to march in silent protest.

 There must be very public, very outspoken acknowledgement that our system demands that black people be victimized by those in authority on a regular basis. A volunteer security guard qualifies as an authority if he kills a black person. The songs, parades and kumbayahs should be kept to a minimum. Anyone who speaks about the case should be unafraid to tell the ugly truth about the many ways in which black people are targeted in this country.

 The well paid pundits and black misleaders should be called out if they aren’t willing to speak openly about why Trayvon Martin was killed. If the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement is correct, some 300 black people have died in the same manner since the day Trayvon was killed. Their names need to be known and there should be a frank discussion about why they died. Mealy mouthed platitudes urging us to “talk about race” and silly questions about why black and white people see things differently are an affront to intelligence and to justice.

Trayvon Martin is dead because lynch law still lives. If George Zimmerman is acquitted that simple fact ought to be spoken loudly and often. If it isn’t then the injustice is magnified for Trayvon Martin and the hundreds of other unknown victims.
 Red Sociology reminds us:
Whether Zimmerman is convicted or not the conditions that created Zimmerman, his mindset, and the environment that allowed him to kill Trayvon will be still be firmly intact. What really killed Trayvon was the structure of racism that includes the police, the courts, government, and the racist ideology of white supremacy/ black inferiority that backed Zimmerman when he decided to pursue Trayvon. That structure and system is working at 110% right now in America to the point that Trayvon’s murder isn’t even especially unusual. Last year when he was killed, he was joined by at least 313 other black people who were victims of racist police or vigilante violence. The Malcolm X Grassroots Movement has complied a report, which you can get here, that details each of these cases. Combine those with the equally numerous murders of other people of color and you will begin to paint a particularly gruesome picture.
Louis Proyect this afternoon offers some thoughts on a post-racial lynching:
In 2009, I wrote a review of David Roediger’s “How Race Survived U.S. History: from settlement and slavery to the Obama phenomenon” for Swans titled “Are We In A Post-Racial America?” I urge everybody to check out Roediger’s book that I described in my concluding paragraphs:
Despite the Democratic Party’s reputation for opposing racism, given a new lease on life with the election of Barack Obama, there are indications that not much has changed since the mid-19th century. The Democratic Leadership Council emerged in the post-Reagan era in order to woo the white “Reagan Democrat” back into the fold, which meant backing politicians like Bill Clinton who offered only the most tepid resistance to Republican assaults on affirmative action and who scuttled Aid to Dependent Children, a welfare measure that was perceived (incorrectly) as favoring people of color.

Even under the “post-racial” epoch of Barack Obama, there are few signs that the Democratic Party is willing to attack the institutional basis of racism as long as the party is under the control of Wall Street banks, real estate developers, and other sectors of the capitalist economy that prosper on the super-exploitation of non-white workers. Obama signaled his intention to adhere to the status quo even before he became president. In his speech to the 2004 Democratic Party convention, he stated “Go into the [blue] collar counties around Chicago, and people will tell you they don’t want their tax money wasted by a welfare agency or the Pentagon.” Considering how welfare budgets have been slashed in the past 25 years or so while the Pentagon drains tax coffers in order to fend off one enemy or another overseas (mostly people of color in the colonial world), Obama’s remarks can only be considered cheap demagogy.

Furthermore, his willingness to condemn Jeremiah Wright for alluding to the truths self-evident to everybody in the black community and receiving a scholarly treatment in Roediger’s book demonstrate that the task is the same as it was from the beginning: to unite the victims of the capitalist system against those who benefit from it. Since we have hundreds of millions that we can count on eventually against a tiny minority, our final victory is assured as long as we have the courage to march forward without illusions in temporary fixes.
This morning I heard the pundits on various Sunday morning talk shows stating that the Justice Department has plans to prosecute George Zimmerman for “hate crimes”. I will defer judgment on its effectiveness until the wheels begin to move, but I will say this. It is incumbent on the mass movement, especially its Black vanguard, to raise hell. If it took protests to bring Zimmerman to trial in the first place, it will take even more vociferous and more massive protests to put him in prison for the decades-long sentence he deserves.

The time for eating Lotuses is over.
The authors of Facts For Working People make the following statement after the news of the verdict:
But it’s not only Zimmerman and his family who were and are racist.  So are the prosecutors who dragged in every racial stereotype they could and the judge who determines what can or cannot be allowed in to the case and directs the affair. The Jury was also racist. Nobody could have listened to this case, where a young man who was doing nothing wrong was murdered walking home from the store, and not seen it was murder unless they were racist. This cannot be seen in isolation as young black men are murdered with impunity by the police in US society. And of course the US capitalist system and its so-called justice system is racist and biased. No one actually believes that we are all treated equally under the law. Young black men can be shot at will in our society and they fill the prisons in droves.
The above authors also admonish us to not let our black communities stand alone. I am in 100% agreement.

Finally, here's Deb of Let's Be Clear - also from a few days prior to the verdict:
My soul and heart are just completely overloaded with the fear that this murderer will go free.

 Why? Because it gives the "legally recognized" stamp of approval to a genocide that's been operating in plain sight, but ignored, for eons.

 I won't be long here but, my oldest son said to me today, "How is it legal, that a person, carrying a gun, with a bullet racked in the chamber, can follow you, walk up on you (a citizen in these alleged united states) -- and shoot you dead, just because??!! Why isn't the state continually hammering the plain illegality of that point?? What about Trayvon's right to defend himself??"

 Sadly, all I could say to him was, "Because of the game that is the just-us system in this country, Son."
News of the Restless dedicated their Music for a Sunday to Trayvon.

This is only the beginning of a great deal of fallout. The verdict was one that would have surprised very few of us. Rather than resignation, this is a clarion call to be outraged.

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