While it is upsetting that such a fight—featuring a murder—would move forward, either now or at a later date, the reality is that, whenever (and if) the fight is held, people are going to talk about it—then people are going to watch it—and then they are going to talk about it some more.
*As part of his effort to put the focus back on the economy, and building the middle class, President Obama spoke with with the NY Times.
He expressed his worry that years of widening income inequality and the lingering effects of the financial crisis had frayed the country’s social fabric and undermined Americans’ belief in opportunity.
Upward mobility, the president said, “was part and parcel of who we were as Americans.”
He also tied it into racial tension increasing after the George Zimmerman verdict.
“And that’s what’s been eroding over the last 20, 30 years, well before the financial crisis,” he added.
“If we don’t do anything, then growth will be slower than it should be. Unemployment will not go down as fast as it should. Income inequality will continue to rise,” he said. “That’s not a future that we should accept.”
A few days after the acquittal in the Trayvon Martin case prompted him to speak about being a black man in America, Mr. Obama said the country’s struggle over race would not be eased until the political process in Washington began addressing the fear of many people that financial stability is unattainable.
“Racial tensions won’t get better; they may get worse, because people will feel as if they’ve got to compete with some other group to get scraps from a shrinking pot,” Mr. Obama said. “If the economy is growing, everybody feels invested. Everybody feels as if we’re rolling in the same direction.”
Get MORE of this article at NY Times.
*As much as some people might disagree with the not guilty verdict in the George Zimmerman murder trial nobody can change it. As hard as it might be to accept, even the parents of 17-year old Trayvon Martin, Zimmerman’s victim, are doing their part to bring attention to selective prosecution and conviction rates under the Stand Your Ground Law. They are the personification of the Prayer of Serenity: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.
Although it’s the end of the trial, it doesn’t mean that’s the end of the story. Here’s the rest of the story:
Aside from Florida twenty-three other states have enacted their own version of the Stand Your Ground law. In Texas where I reside it’s called the Castle Doctrine. What most of these state laws have in common is the general principle that people have the right to defend themselves against intruders in their occupied homes, cars, places of business or when someone is committing or trying to commit a crime against them. So if I’m inside my home or car or place of business and someone enters uninvited and/or for a criminal purpose I don’t have to run away; it is within my rights to fight back with equal force to defend myself.
Here’s where the statute becomes questionable: If a person is in a common area and force is used against that person which was not provoked the person against whom the force is used, and is not engaged in criminal activity at the time the force is used, he is not required to retreat before using force to protect himself. So if you are standing in your front yard, a mall, a grocery store, or a common sidewalk in your neighborhood, the law states you don’t have to retreat but may defend yourself if attacked. The burden of proof under the law favors the intended victim. And if you kill someone and your version of what happened is the only version available because there are no witnesses or video of the incident it’s no wonder that someone like Zimmerman can get away with murder. And if getting away with murder isn’t bad enough, in Texas the law protects the killer from civil lawsuits filed by the dead person’s family if a jury decides the death occurred from the lawful use of force. Again, each state law might be different.
Even if the person left standing is arrested and prosecuted, most jurors make judgements based on the race of the defendant. Statistics show black defendants are convicted more often than white defendants who use the same Stand Your Ground defense.
So who are these people who support such an ambiguous law that could leave innocent people dead and allow modern-day gun slingers to get away with murder? Lawmakers in various states have teamed up with organizations such as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to push legislation on the state level they know won’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of passing on the federal level. How do they get away with it? Most people pay more attention to federal politics than their own state politics making it easier to pass questionable legislation. Some of that questionable legislation includes tougher nationwide voter identification.
The website says ALEC organizers draft bills to “promote conservative initiatives,” then it lobbies to get the bills passed, mostly into state law. Most of the state laws ALEC promotes wouldn’t pass the scrutiny of a U.S. legislative and executive vote. But if enough states pass their own version of these controversial laws a federal version becomes irrelevant. Its network of membership includes more than 2,000 state legislators representing every state, as well as at least 99 former and current governors and members of Congress. Coca-Cola, Kraft Foods, Mars, McDonalds, Pepsi and Wendy’s are a few of the 300 corporations linked to ALEC. In essence, these companies are using your money to fund the creation of legislation that oftentimes is to your detriment.
The National Rifle Association (NRA) also has strong ties to Stand Your Ground. SYG sells more guns. So it’s no wonder the NRA is for it. Some watchdog groups have challenged ALEC’s non-profit status, accusing it of spending most of its efforts on lobbying which is against regulations for organizations with a non-profit label.
The Center for Media and Democracy created a website that lists the more than 800 pieces of legislation created by ALEC (http://prwatch.org).The anti-collective bargaining laws in Wisconsin and Ohio that made it illegal for public sector employees to have union representation started as ALEC model bills.
So what should we do to change this? The first thing we should do is change our perception of jury duty. Instead of trying to dodge your jury summons consider it an opportunity to be a part of the judicial process. And if you are chosen to sit on a jury remember, your presence could be the difference between justice served or justice denied.
Secondly, if you live in a state that has a ‘Stand Your Ground’ law or a version of it, get organized and get a petition that tells your representative to amend or abolish the law. And since most politicians won’t pay attention until their positions or paychecks are in jeopardy, a peaceful protest (not a riot, juror B37) and boycott of key businesses in your state probably will be necessary. Also, I’ve decided against spending any more of my money in Florida, which makes billions of dollars a year on tourism. A petition called Boycott Florida tourism is on Move.org asking for everyone to participate until SYG is overturned. That means no vacations, or family reunions or business trips to Florida. Also music icon Stevie Wonder and gospel duo Mary Mary said they won’t perform in Florida until the law is overturned. If we stop coming, they have no choice but to listen.
Thirdly, make sure you’re a registered voter. Do your homework to find out which of your state legislators supports this law that allows people to kill innocent victims with impunity. So you’ll know who to vote for or against in the next election.
This means less time to watch television or play video games. But if there ever was a reason to turn off the TV this is it. As we move closer to another election season remember it’s just as important to get involved with politics on the state level as it is on the federal level. If you don’t, it’s akin to guarding the front door while leaving the back door open.
Steffanie Rivers is a freelance journalist. Send your comments, questions and appearance inquiries to Steffanie at email@example.com
The ONLY solid evidence in this case was that Zimmerman stalked, approached, and killed an innocent Black child. That was proven.
Everything else was simply the word of a murderer trying to justify his crime. We didn’t have to prove that Zimmerman committed the crime. That was a fact in evidence. Thus, it was then up to ZIMMERMAN to prove that there were mitigating circumstances that justified his committing the crime, otherwise, he would have simply gone to jail. Thus, the case boiled down to who the jury chose to believe, a murderer trying to get off the hook, or their lying eyes, and due to their racist attitudes toward Black males, they chose to believe the murderer, in spite of the fact that every act he engaged in prior to the murder was improper. So it was a racist verdict – period.
To all those who are trying to bend reality and common sense by saying that the jury merely followed the law and jury instructions and came to a completely objective and color-blind verdict, I simply say the following. If that were indeed the case, it would be a matter of record that Black people and Whites get equal justice under the law, but every statistical study ever done on our judicial system clearly shows that’s the case.
All laws and jury instructions are open to interpretation. That’s why we have juries. In this case, this jury, chose to believe that Fred Flintstone actually existed and graduated from Yale in the Spring of 21000 B.C., and every non-racist, clear-thinking in America knows that, so you might as well stop trying to debate the issue . . . Get MORE at Watree.
Eric L. Wattree is a writer, poet, and musician. He’s also the author of “A Message From the Hood.” Contact him at Ewattree@Gmail.com
*It doesn’t have the cultural relevance of the September 11th attack but I vividly recall where I was when the New York police officers who shot and killed Amadou Diallo were acquitted. In the back of a van en route to a game with my teammates, the same expression of amazement came to all of our faces. And as black males living in New York City we all felt personally assaulted by the realization that our lives weren’t viewed the same as other city residents.
As time passed and I thought about the Diallo case more I came to a better understanding of how pervasive the problem was. Because there was certainly a problem with the four officers who felt the need to fire 41 rounds at an African immigrant who took our and dropped his wallet in a dark hallway; her was definitely a problem that the officers would automatically assume that Diallo was to be viewed with suspicion because of his skin color and the neighborhood he lived in. But the real problem was that the city of New York and its police department trained the officers to act in the exact manner they did. That’s why they were found innocent of any crime.
The Diallo incident revealed that as much as there has been lots of progress in race relations, institutional racism was still a force in 1999. At the end of the day New York City was OK with racial profiling and life or death decisions based on that profiling.
So I suppose in some sense I could thank George Zimmerman, the jurors of his criminal trial, and the state of Florida for making me feel young again. There can be no doubt that there is a problem that Zimmerman would profile Trayvon Martin as a potential criminal perpetrator based on nothing more than his complexion and clothing. But the real issue is that the state of Florida has created a reality in which someone can instigate a violent situation and then be justified in using deadly force. The statistics of convictions and acquittals in cases involving the “Stand Your Ground” law strongly suggest institutional racism is alive and well in Florida.
I wasn’t on the Zimmerman jury and I haven’t read trial transcripts, but all indications point to a few key facts: Zimmerman changed his version of events at least once; the physical evidence doesn’t support what Zimmerman has said; Zimmerman was acting against the advice of the 911 operator he called who said to stop following the victim. All of this information suggest that the confrontation occurred because of Zimmerman’s thoughts and actions, and that the confrontation escalated because of Zimmerman’s thoughts and actions. Yet somehow he isn’t being held responsible.
The lack of accountability is possible because of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law which allows individuals to use deadly force in response to what they believe to be an imminent , unavoidable and deadly threat. The problem is that this law empowers people with no law enforcement training to judge when they are in lethal danger, and when that danger is immediate and unavoidable. Such judgment is difficult for officers of the law (as evidenced by the Diallo case) and is that much harder by a scared civilian.
Ultimately the Zimmerman trial and verdict bring to mind three things. First – that it is difficult to navigate liberty when personal freedoms overlap and/or bump into one another. . In addition to possibly giving authority to those who should not have it, the “Stand Your Ground” law also strengthens the rights of the person who ultimately wins the standoff. However misguided his motivations Zimmerman had the ability to be in that neighborhood and the right to defend himself; Trayvon Martin also enjoyed those rights. But in the course of the trial only Zimmerman’s side of the story was heard because Martin was no longer alive and able to provide a counter narrative.
Second – O.J. Simpson. When he initially found not guilty of killing his Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman I was happy because I thought he was innocent. Then I realized he had to have known something and should be held accountable. Then I came to think he did it. Finally I thought back on the transformation of my feelings and concluded that it’s a shame that race holds so much weight in the justice system even if someone of my race happened to benefit in this instance.
Third – black men in American society have been alienated. Perhaps it is subconscious (I’m not sure and I’m not saying it is), perhaps we are simply dealing with the legacy of our racial past and its effect on American laws (I’m not sure and I’m not saying that is definitively what’s going on here), certainly it isn’t logical, but somehow black men are not part of the default picture of American society by those in positions of leadership. So there is not much value placed on our lives and there seems to be an inherent fear of us.
To lynch simply means to implement justice without giving the accused the benefit of a trial. Martin had a trial so this incident doesn’t fit the classic definition. But when you allow one person (Zimmerman) to determine the crime, determine the guilt, determine the sentence, and carry out that sentence – we aren’t far off from lynching.
Rest in peace Trayvon.
Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War. His writing has appeared in The Journal News. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @historictrev.
Had prosecutors charged him with manslaughter instead of murder, Zimmerman might be in a cell today instead of walking free under God’s sunshine. George Zimmerman was acquitted, but he is guilty. Guilty of racially profiling an innocent 17-year-old kid and provoking a confrontation that ended with him shooting the boy to death.
The simple reality is this: Trayvon Martin would still be alive if Zimmerman had followed the instructions of the 911 operator, stayed in his car, and left Trayvon alone. Deeper still, Trayvon Martin would be alive if George Zimmerman hadn’t decided that Martin was a dangerous criminal simply because of how he looked. (Zimmerman didn’t describe any suspicious behavior when he talked to 911; he said Martin was “just walking about…looking at all the houses”).
George Zimmerman had no legitimate reason to call the cops on Trayvon Martin. The mere fact that he made the call, coupled with the words he used while talking to the 911 operator (e.g.: “He’s got his hand in his waistband. And he’s a black male,” “These a**holes, they always get away,” etc.) demonstrate the foulest form of racist profiling. The overzealous, paranoid, gun-toting community watch volunteer wrongly decided that Trayvon Martin had no business being in the neighborhood (which he did), decided that he was dangerous (which he was not) and decided that he needed to be confronted (which the cops told him not to do). Zimmerman, in a rage which I am convinced was fueled by racism, violated the explicit instructions of the emergency services operator and followed Trayvon Martin. This is what led to the confrontation that resulted in Martin’s death.
If Zimmerman’s claim that Martin started the fight is true (highly unlikely especially since Zimmerman told 911 that the teenager was moving away from him) he did so as a preemptive act of self-defense against a stranger who was trailing him with no good intent on a dark and rainy night. Again, blame Zimmerman.
George Zimmerman is another agonizing and infuriating reminder that – although we enjoy the fruits of freedom and opportunity secured for us through the sacrifices of our forebears – we still live in a nation that is disgracefully plagued by the fear-fueled evil of racism. An evil which forces black men to live under a unique set of biased preconceptions which, in the twisted minds of men like George Zimmerman, justify calling the cops or pulling out a gun, even when we aren’t breaking the law.
Thanks for listening. I’m Cameron Turner and that’s my two cents.
Please contact me at TurnersTwoCents@yahoo.com. Subscribe to my YouTube channel and like my official Facebook page.