Tag Archives: Trayvon Martin

Systematic racism: RIP Trayvon Martin

Like most other thoughtful people I had little to contribute to the public discussion about the killing of Trayvon Martin.  I deleted an initial angry post that included a forceful discussion of systematic racism and some very inflammatory graphics.

I think I should have kept that angry post.

Systematic racism: hierarchy between races is built into our educational system, governmental policy, policing, and amplified in mass media.  Systematic racism means that you might learn prejudice and not think  that you were prejudiced.

Most people could identify a time in the past where their nation embodied systematic racism.  Maybe . . . it’s still bad?  Can we acknowledge that we teach exclusion and sustain privilege in a little cushion of bogus justifications?

The Trayvon Martin case suggests that the forces which amplify ignorance and hatred have been more effective than those of us proposing compassion and critical thinking.

Juror B37 who has given an interview about her reasoning about the case and her justifications are simply terrifying.   Here are a handful of quotes organized and archived by Igor Volsky at Thinkprogress.

1. Martin was responsible for his own death.

JUROR: It was just hard, thinking that somebody lost their life, and there’s nothing else that could be done about it. I mean, it’s what happened. It’s sad. It’s a tragedy this happened, but it happened. And I think both were responsible for the situation they had gotten themselves into. I think both of them could have walked away. It just didn’t happen.

2. Juror felt just as sorry for Zimmerman.

COOPER: Do you feel sorry for Trayvon Martin?

JUROR: I feel sorry for both of them. I feel sorry for Trayvon, in the situation he was in. And I feel sorry for George because of the situation he got himself in.

3. Zimmerman should continue to serve as a neighborhood watchman because he has learned his lesson about going too far.

COOPER: Is George Zimmerman somebody you would like to have on a neighborhood watch in your community?

JUROR: If he didn’t go too far. I mean, you can always go too far. He just didn’t stop at the limitations that he should have stopped at.

COOPER: So is that a yes or — if he didn’t go too far. Is he somebody prone, you think, to going too far? Is he somebody you would feel comfortable —

JUROR: I think he was frustrated. I think he was frustrated with the whole situation in the neighborhood, with the break-ins and the robberies. And they actually arrested somebody not that long ago. I — I mean, I would feel comfortable having George, but I think he’s learned a good lesson.

COOPER: So you would feel comfortable having him now, because you think he’s learned a lesson from all of this?

JUROR: Exactly. I think he just didn’t know when to stop. He was frustrated, and things just got out of hand.

4. Verdict hinged on “Stand Your Ground” law, even though Zimmerman did not use it in his defense.

COOPER: Because of the two options you had, second degree murder or manslaughter, you felt neither applied?

JUROR: Right. Because of the heat of the moment and the Stand Your Ground. He had a right to defend himself. If he felt threatened that his life was going to be taken away from him or he was going to have bodily harm, he had a right.

5. Zimmerman was only guilty of using poor judgment and was “egged” on to follow Martin by the 9/11 operator.

COOPER: Do you think he’s guilty of something?

JUROR: I think he’s guilty of not using good judgment. When he was in the car and he called 911, he shouldn’t have gotten out of that car. But the 911 operator also, when he was talking to him, kind of egged him on.

6. Race played absolutely no factor in Zimmerman’s profiling of Martin.

JUROR: I think just circumstances caused George to think that he might be a robber, or trying to do something bad in the neighborhood because of all that had gone on previously. There were unbelievable, a number of robberies in the neighborhood.

COOPER: So you don’t believe race played a role in this case?

JUROR: I don’t think it did. I think if there was another person, Spanish, white, Asian, if they came in the same situation where Trayvon was, I think George would have reacted the exact same way.

COOPER: Why do you think George Zimmerman found Trayvon Martin suspicious then?

JUROR: Because he was cutting through the back, it was raining. He said he was looking in houses as he was walking down the road. Kind of just not having a purpose to where he was going. He was stopping and starting. But I mean, that’s George’s rendition of it, but I think the situation where Trayvon got into him being late at night, dark at night, raining, and anybody would think anybody walking down the road stopping and turning and looking, if that’s exactly what happened, is suspicious. And George said that he didn’t recognize who he was.

COOPER: Well, was that a common belief on the jury that race was not — that race did not play a role in this?

JUROR: I think all of us thought that race did not play a role. […]

COOPER: It didn’t come up, the question of, did George Zimmerman profile Trayvon Martin because he was African-American?

JUROR: No, I think he just profiled him because he was the neighborhood watch, and he profiled anyone who came in acting strange. I think it was just circumstances happened that he saw Trayvon at the exact time that he thought he was suspicious.

7. Zimmerman’s history of reporting black men to the police and his decision to follow Martin played no role in the verdict.

COOPER: So whether it was George Zimmerman getting out of the vehicle, whether he was right to get out of the vehicle, whether he was a wannabe cop, whether he was overeager, none of that in the final analysis, mattered. What mattered was those seconds before the shot went off, did George Zimmerman fear for his life?

JUROR: Exactly. That’s exactly what happened.

via 7 Mind Blowing Moments From Zimmerman Juror B37’s First Interview | ThinkProgress.

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Trayvon Martin and victim blaming for hate crimes

Plies is one of the least conscious rappers I know.  Despite his cultural fifteen minutes crossing over with Gucci Mane’s fraternity party anthem “Wasted,” Plies has made music discussing his problems associated with the representation of young black men and violence. His song about Trayvon Martin covers some of the predictable landscape and I find surprisingly poignant.

Perhaps the massive resonance of the murder of Trayvon Martin is because the crime is so obscene.  The victim seems so innocent and the killer seems so enthusiastic to kill.  The crime is enraging because of the 911 tapes, the images of Martin in his football uniform, and his desperate phone call to his girlfriend.  We are invited to view a real injustice.

But of course racist killings take place all the time.  The difference is the victims are often blamed for their killing.  The usual way this is done is to associate some socially unacceptable behavior (sex, drugs, rap music, clothing) with the murdered victim and call them a “suspect.”

For people who regularly experience police harassment, the inaction taken probably seems like a confirmation that the system works against you.  For people who do experience privilege of not having to regularly deal with police (corrupt and otherwise) the inaction taken against Zimmerman probably seems like a grotesque aberration of the system.

Both of these groups of people will don hoodies to march for justice for Trayvon.  A big part of that anger is fueled by the perception that this violence was exceptional.  I would argue that it is ordinary.  What is exceptional in the Trayvon Martin case is that the victim blaming is particularly hard. *

Lets take a quick look at the ways the press and police did Sean Bell dirty after he was killed.  Undercover police officers shot fifty bullets into Bell’s car the night before his 2006 wedding.

Five of the seven officers investigating the club were involved in the shooting. Detective Paul Headley fired one round, Officer Michael Carey fired three, Officer Marc Cooper fired four, Officer Gescard Isnora fired eleven, and veteran officer Michael Oliver emptied two full magazines, firing 31 shots from a 9mm handgun and pausing to reload at least once.

via Sean Bell shooting incident – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Although Sean Bell’s case is used as an example of police misconduct, there was a lengthy series of public relations attempts to blame Bell for the murders.

Initially it was claimed that the officers were afraid of gun violence from Bell and his companions.  Never found a gun or evidence that there had been a gun in the car.

Then the press and police pointed out that that Bell had been legally intoxicated at the time he took the wheel, usually adding in that he was drunk at a strip club.    In essence suggesting that Bell had been shot because he had been drinking and driving or cavorting with strippers.

Michael Wilson from the New York Times makes this idiotic statement:

Further, trial testimony showed that Mr. Bell may have played some role, however unwitting, in the shooting, as he was drunk by legal standards when he pressed down on the accelerator of his fiancée’s Nissan Altima and struck Detective Isnora in the leg in an attempt to flee.

via Sean Bell Case.

Despite being a poster case for injustice, the victim blaming helped to let the police killers go free.   The cops were acquitted because they were found to be confused and it’s okay to kill people if it’s a mistake.  Scratch that, it’s okay to empty your magazine into a car and then reload and empty the second magazine into the car before figuring out what is going on.

But yesterday something interesting happened.  The cops who killed Sean Bell, some eight years ago were finally released from their jobs as cops.  One is getting fired!  Huh?  I wonder if the public scrutiny in the Trayvon Martin case raised up enough public discussion to pressure the New York Police Department to clean house.


For an interesting view on the construction of public information.  Check out the discussions about the editing of the Sean Bell Wikipedia page.  Note the battle over how to talk about Sean Bell’s arrest record.  Fascinating discussions about what to include and how to write the information.   A great place to view the articulation of victim blaming.


* Of course victim blaming isn’t impossible in the case of Trayvon Martin.  Check out Geraldo Riviera making the worst version of this argument.

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Jasiri X: Trayvon

Check out the colors of change campaign for Trayvon.

There is an interesting campaign to mail a package of skittles the police chief who chose not to arrest Zimmerman.  I’m thinking about mailing some skittles to US Attorney General Eric Holder.

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