Saturday, April 7, 2012

Trayvon Martin: Stand Your Ground, Political Agendas and Justice

I think you may have heard about Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman. Without getting too far into the details, Zimmerman shot Martin in the chest which resulted in his death. The incident has sparked a lot of attention and heated debates. Personally, given what I have heard thus far, Zimmerman clearly was the aggressor from the beginning and due to sloppy police work, not specific laws, he is still walking around as a free man. We shall see what the grand jury comes back with on April 10th of this month.

Stand Your Ground:
The media's attention and a lot of liberal focus has been on 'stand your ground' laws. These laws exist in a number of states and they are designed to protect good citizens defending their property or family when faced with a threat. They are not designed to shield failed security guards or people who could not hack it on the police force so they become 'neighborhood watchmen' and tail Black folks. Nor are they applicable to people who just want to start shit just for the fun of it. Given the 911 tapes and Zimmerman's own words, he can claim 'stand your ground'(simply due to being able to claim anything in a court of law as a defense) but the tapes point to him as the aggressor. The problem, as it's been erroneously framed, is not 'stand your ground', but terrible police work. Simply because the police did not do their job, we should not conclude that the law is bad. The police still should have done their job. They should have drug tested Zimmerman, spoken to the witnesses in a timely manner, shook down his vehicle as well as impound the police vehicle upon which he was transported to the police station that evening. They failed. If the grand jury does not find enough reason to charge him and proceed with a criminal trial, it's because of a bad police investigation and not because of 'stand your ground' laws. Even the Republican drafters of Florida's stand your ground law said Zimmerman is not covered by it. No need to take aim at the law because of this case. 

Political Agendas:
Unfortunately political games have taken over when the real fight has nothing to do with specific legislation, whether proposed or already on the books. Many folks, especially white liberals have used this tragedy as a means to take aim at guns, the NRA, legislation, and to strip this case of race. There have been conservative voices who've presented red herrings with respect to 'black on black' violence(some liberals and Black folks have pushed up this non-sense too) which is not the issue in the Martin case. Quick note; People usually kill others who look like them and live around them (this is not new information). Some have even become angry with President Obama for answering a question he was asked about the Martin case. He was prompted and spoke as a father. If you have a problem with the NRA or you want less guns on the streets, fine but do not latch that agenda onto this case. Play your political games elsewhere. It's wholly divisive and only serves your purpose and not the Martin family. If you have an ax to grind with Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson for being 'media hounds', fine. This incident is not a springboard for you to place your angst with them as individuals within the context of this case. Nor is it an opportunity for you when Black folks present observations in terms of treatment and action within the legal system and all of it's parts, to conclude they are whining. Making observations is not whining. You may firmly believe they're(Sharpton, Jackson and whomever else) always waiting for racial tension to occur so they can get their 10 minutes but how does that get the Martin family to justice? Furthermore is it Sharpton and Jackson who clamor for the attention or do the cameras only come around when this kind of tension(racial) happens? Making claims such as 'I don't see the same kind of fervor dedicated to Black on Black violence' is wholly ignorant. Even if you believe you as an individual focus on 'black on black' crime, that misses the point entirely here. The focus should be on helping the Martin family and not making elitist claims promoting your own importance. You may not see the same type of media coverage offered but you ought not think such dedication is absent. You just don't know about it and that could easily be your fault. Keep your political agendas at home. This is not a political football.

Removing Race from the discussion:
I'm tired of hearing claims such as 'this could have happened to anybody'. It didn't. I normally hear such talk from seemingly well to do white liberals who've bought into the rhetoric that to stand for justice in this case, you must strip the racial component in order to include yourself. It's color blindness at it's core. Martin was not killed because he was wearing a hoodie or carrying skittles and some tea. He was killed because he was a Black kid who was in a neighborhood with a racist vigilante with an itchy trigger finger. Removing race to include yourself is totally selfish. You are not on the side of seeking justice in this case when your first move is to strip it of it's definite tone. Also attempting to remind people that Zimmerman is Hispanic does not mean he's not a racist. Listen to the 911 tapes. Brown skin does not equal not a racist. 

If I'm going to take my cues from anyone, it will be Trayvon Martin's parents. They have simply asked that justice be carried out for their son. They have not asked for a review of the 'stand your ground' laws like Bill Clinton did. They have not fused this case with politics, games, smoke screens and the various side shows that have developed. They want answers and they want to know why their son was not given a fair shake. Their concerns are legitimate(I wish I didn't have to say that). Yes there have been miscarriages of justice throughout this country's history regarding Black folks but we should not conclude the entire system or that justice is something we should not fight to protect. There have been bad laws and bad people interpreting them with the intent to not be fair in their distribution of sentencing, lazy/lying ass police officers, gathering evidence, lawyering, judicial review, protecting overzealous prosecutors, etc. If anything the Martin case ought to be a call to you to demand more of the system. Yes, injustice happens. It's a fact of the matter. Corruption exists but we have to do our job to root it out as citizens and stop expecting perfection and this Utopian sense of law and justice. There are plenty of cases wherein the system does work and bad people are adequately punished for their crimes. I understand people are pissed off but don't call for silly solutions such as getting rid of the police, or throwing out our entire legal framework. It's just not a good solution and it's not even close to being practical at all. There is definitely a problem in that PART of the legal system wherein the Martin case, at least given the sloppy handling of it by the cops, did not do what it's supposed to do. There you demand better officers and more accountability and getting shitty ass people out of important positions. You may argue that my thoughts are themselves Utopian and me seriously thinking people are going to take the time to evaluate, investigate and hold people in important positions accountable for what they do will not happen. I don't know if I'd agree with that or not but I will say, fight on anyway. Get involved in Innocence Projects in your area. Volunteer your time and expertise. 

I don't know what will happen in this case on the 10th. I hope the Martin family gets the answers they seek. They matter and they need closure. I hope they receive it in a timely manner. To be continued.....

P.S. Yes I am aware of some dumbass regional NRA chairman saying some horrible things. He's a horrible person. 

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