Friday, August 16, 2013

A Failed Honest Discussion

Like many people, the "collectible" hoodie covers caught my eye and I've been waiting patiently to read it for myself. It's a seventeen page spread that includes nine separate articles, a timeline, a poem, and a bizarre Q&A. To my recollection, this is the first time I've ever read Ebony Magazine, so I can't compare this particular piece to anything they've done previously, only to the facts of the case. I did my best to remain objective and throw my bias and my expectations to the side. While it's thorough and well-written, I have a few problems with it.

If you're not familiar with the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin saga, then look it up before you continue reading because I'm not going to rehash it. You can only beat a dead horse so many times before you realize it's dead. That's what Ebony Magazine is doing. The racism horse was put out of its misery before the case got started, but some are still cracking the whip because they swear they can hear it breathing. The central themes at play are white on black crime, racial profiling, and stand your ground. The irony is not a single one of these themes has anything to do with the case itself. George Zimmerman is Hispanic and there's no evidence of racial profiling. As a matter of fact, he states why he found Trayvon Martin suspicious:
This guy looks like he's up to no good or he's on drugs or something. It's raining and he's just walking around looking about...looking at all the houses.
You can read the entire transcript here. When asked about his ethnicity, he says apprehensively, "He looks black." CNN and other networks for months tried to play it off like he said "fucking coons" and NBC deceptively edited the call to make it sound like racial profiling. The perception of racial profiling is based on people's past experiences, not evidence. While many young black males are racially profiled, it's not crazy to think that's NOT the case here. George Zimmerman waived a Stand Your Ground (SYG) pretrial hearing, a smart move on his part, and the defense didn't use it as a defense. Al Sharpton in an interview with Nick Chiles says Stand Your Ground was "buried within the instructions the Judge Debra Nelson gave to the six woman jury." It wasn't buried. It's in the law. Though it's in the law it doesn't necessarily mean it applies to this case, which it doesn't.

If an honest discussion about race is to be had, it's not going to start with Ebony Magazine because the articles aren't really...honest. Day one of the timeline says Trayvon bought iced tea. It's a minor detail, but he didn't buy iced tea; he bought Watermelon Fruit Juice Cocktail. It also states Zimmerman called 911 and that he was told to "stand down" by police dispatch. Neither of these are true. Zimmerman called the non-emergency line and there's no proof Zimmerman continued to "follow" him once dispatch said "we don't need you to do that." Marc Lamont Hill says in his article, "In the case of Trayvon Martin, there was no evidence of criminal involvement, yet after he was killed, as a part of a routine autopsy, his body was drug tested. The police didn't see fit to drug test the man who shot him." George Zimmerman wasn't drug tested because of the fourth amendment. Enough said.

Many of the authors are under the impression the jury failed to see Trayvon's innocence. Marc Lamont Hill says in his article, "Black men are profiled and assumed to be associated with gang activity, drug dealing or other forms of illegal activity that make it easy to deny them social protection, support, or even outrage." He continues on and says, "From television to literature to public policy, the story of Black masculinity is one of natural immorality, violence and sexual misconduct." My question to Mr. Hill is this: Where do you think that image comes from? It's true that during slavery and during Jim Crow blacks were portrayed as something to fear, but we're past slavery and we're past Jim Crow. Have you ever walked through the African-American fiction section in a bookstore? It's usually pretty small, but on the same shelf as Their Eyes Were Watching God and Beloved, you'll see titles such as Welfare Grind part 3, Honor Thy Thug and Bedroom Gangsta. When was the last time you listened to a rap song or watched a rap video. Who was the last rapper to get a drug or a gun charge? How many young black girls still think Chris Brown is cute and Rhianna deserved it? These assumptions and profiles Hill talks about are images the black community has created through television and literature and it's perpetuated by black leaders in congress who like to pretend we don't have these problems. It's perpetuated by people like Marc Lamont Hill who pretend Travyon wasn't all those things he's talking about. Trayvon liked to do drugs and get high, he liked to fight and steal. He got in trouble at school for vandalism, and on his twitter and Facebook he liked to objectify women. The kid had mild liver damage. Either he drank too much or he liked to abuse codeine. It's ironic when men like Hill push against black stereotypes when their poster child is a walking black stereotype.

The entire spread shows a complete ignorance for our legal system, the Constitution, and the concept of justice (and the law in general). Justice isn't an outcome that pleases you, it's a process. They got an arrest. They got a trial. They got a verdict. Justice was served. If the FBI said a year ago no civil rights were violated on Trayvon Martin's behalf, then what legal remedy do you expect from Eric Holder? Our legal system serves to protect the defendant's rights, and Zimmerman has a good case for malicious prosecution. They overcharged to please an angry, racist mass screaming "RACISM!" The jury failed to see Trayvon's innocence because his innocence wasn't in question or in evidence. In an article called "Why Zimmerman Walked," Imani Perry says, basically, Zimmerman walked because of racism. Not one writer seems to have the spine to say the evidence wasn't there. There wasn't any evidence of ill-will, hate, spite, malice or evil intent to support murder in the second degree. There wasn't any evidence of criminal negligence to support a manslaughter charge. In fact, the evidence overwhelmingly supported his claim of self-defense. As for Stand Your Ground, which this magazine says should be repealed, it's irrelevant. Good, old-fashioned self-defense was on George Zimmerman's side. The Stand Your Ground portion of the law says:
A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony. (776.013-3)
Florida's Stand Your Ground law, an extension of the castle doctrine, isn't that much different from their regular self-defense law, but it doesn't really apply to a man who's being straddled and punched repeatedly. Repealing it wouldn't save "the next Trayvon" and not having it at all wouldn't have put Zimmerman behind bars. Charles J. Ogletree says, "African-Americans have used it repeatedly to protect ourselves when we've felt threatened by Whites." Slightly misleading. Instances have occurred with white on black, but it's mostly black on black. Blacks have a higher success rate with SYG than whites and are more likely to use it. SYG is beneficial to blacks who live in high crime neighborhoods where the police can't monitor 24/7. Speaking of ignorance, Imani Perry also states, "Those jurors saw him not as a child who was stalked and murdered, but rather as a potential threat." Stalking is a repeated action with the intent to cause harm and/or distress.

In one sentence, the basis for the spread is "What happened happened because Trayvon was black." There's no real look at the facts of the case or Trayvon's actions that lead to his death. Ebony Magazine asked ten seventeen-year-old boys:
  • Do you feel racially profiled?
  • Why do you think white people are afraid of you?
  • What are you afraid of?
  • Are you afraid of the police or white people?
Really? I'm guessing black empowerment died in the 70s because fear and victim-hood are the new thing. Seventeen-year-old Jason Smith boldly says, "I don't fear any man because we're all created equally and there's no need to fear...If I come off as respectful and not an angry Black male, they'll treat me how I'm supposed to be treated - like their equal." Blacks can't fight the presumption of fear if we don't stop pushing the image of something worth fearing. We certainly won't get anywhere if we don't speak honestly about the Trayvons in our country. Boris Kodjoe says, "One thing that shocked me was that essentially they found Trayvon Martin guilty. The fact that [George Zimmerman] is walking free means that Trayvon did something wrong." He did do something wrong, Mr. Kodjoe. He punched him in the face and slammed his head into the concrete. There is no legal justification for his actions, nothing he could have gotten away with in a court of law. Following is not stalking, nor is it provocation. Rachel Jeantal testified that Trayvon made it to his father's backyard which is a ways away from where the incident occurred. Zimmerman didn't testify to being chased, so at some point Trayvon went back. He made a decision the black community has failed to accept. Trayvon could have killed him that night. If he had, would Boris Kodjoe be screaming "Poor Trayvon" or would he pretend it never happened? An honest discussion about race starts with an honest discussion about this case, and Ebony Magazine fails. "Saving Our Sons" starts with saving them from themselves, not teaching them to be weary of white people. To be honest, we have to ask: How could Trayvon have prevented the situation? Hill invokes Emmett Till in his piece like it's a comparison, like Trayvon Martin will spark some kind of movement. Like I said...the horse is dead.

1 comment:

  1. I said I was looking forward to what you had to say regarding this article and you certainly didn't disappoint. Very spot on!

    ReplyDelete

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