dear liberal public: there is nothing shocking about the george zimmerman verdict

Dear liberal public,

The internet tells me you are shocked - shocked and outraged - about the verdict in the George Zimmerman case.

Seriously? You are shocked?

You have lived in the United States or Canada all your life, and you are shocked that a white man who killed a black child in the state of Florida has walked free?

I can only scratch my head in wonder. There is nothing shocking about this not-guilty verdict. Indeed, it was the most expected and the most typical outcome possible. I would have been shocked if the verdict had been any different. That's the problem.

What's that you say, you thought things had changed, because a black man lives in the White House? Because the corporate media told you that a black man being elected to the highest office in the land proves that the United States has moved beyond racism?

That is very sad.

Perhaps this verdict will move you to become more informed about the world around you, to rely less on public relations and on blind faith, to shed the belief that the United States is a democracy where all are treated equally under the law. Perhaps this verdict will move you to learn more about how millions of your fellow Americans live, every day.

If that happened, then I'd be shocked, too.

The NAACP is circulating a petition asking the Department of Justice [sic] to open a civil action against George Zimmerman. I share it here out of duty. It takes only a moment to click. So please click. But really, we don't need a new petition. We need a new system.

And now that you've clicked, you can go back to sleep.

Yours truly,

A former liberal, now a leftist


James Redekop said...

Gary Younge posted an excellent article at The Guardian, but it was pulled down shortly after. It's reproduced here.

laura k said...

Thanks for posting that, James. I was just reading that on Facebook.

James Redekop said...

In the mean time, a black woman, also in Florida, gets 20 years under mandatory sentencing for firing a warning shot at her abusive husband:

Huffington Post

laura k said...

Yup. That was my next comment!

laura k said...

Also, after I posted the petition, I realized it is from MoveOn.org, an organization that I loathe. I never would knowingly support anything of theirs, but I believe the NAACP is just using MoveOn's petition platform. I hope.

Kirby Evans said...

I grew up in the US amid the civil rights movement and still nothing about the so-called "Home of the Free" would surprise me. The verdict didn't surprise me, it only saddened me and put one more notch in my cynicism. The US is a society crumbling and at the brink of disintegration. Racism is deep-rooted and systemic and the culture of violence is so rampant that it is surely beyond redemption. I have not returned to the US in fourteen years and I will never go back even for a visit.

laura k said...

The story is back up at The Guardian and its no less powerful: It's Open Season on Black Boys.

johngoldfine said...

I wouldn't argue against the idea that racism is endemic in the USA or that justice is racially biased.

But one case is an anecdote telling us nothing. You offer up George Zimmerman; I counter with OJ Simpson.

laura k said...

OJ is certainly in the category of Rich Buy Themselves.

In the other category, my lord, John, shall we make a list?

Shall we start with Oscar Grant? Or Rodney King? Amadou Diallo? Abner Louima?

Maybe the more than 10,000 young black men lynched in the US?

Or these 7 men?

Knowing as much as you do about US history, you act as if this is a one-time anecdote?

Or are you chiding me for not writing more? In which case, please, by all means, write yourself a big juicy blog post somewhere. This is what I was feeling this morning, so it's what came out. I'm not under contract.

johngoldfine said...

I can't be a leftist because I can't live in the USA with as corrosive a vision as the one you describe. But I am awake, and if liberal incrementalist and meliorist steps seem trivial responses to the horrors we have perpetrated, they still seem to me more likely to occur than will a radical and universal awakening of freedom and justice.

laura k said...

I don't concern myself with what's likely to occur. I'd rather consider what I believe in.

I feel fairly certain that no great change would have ever occured in the history of humanity, whether for good or ill, if the creators of that changed first weighed and measured what seemed possible.

laura k said...

OJ is certainly in the category of Rich Buy Themselves.

* Justice

Rich Buy Themselves Justice

deang said...

Though I shouldn't have been, I was actually surprised by the complete acquittal of the murderer. Surprised and deeply pained, even though I know enough about white treatment of blacks and other dark-skinned people throughout the world (including the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement's finding last year that a US cop or vigilante kills a Black every 28 hours) that I should have been prepared for the worst.

But so many justice-minded people were readying themselves to protest a manslaughter verdict instead of a murder verdict that I was really expecting that, too. And that would have been bad enough.

Here in Austin, there was a protest against the verdict, roughly five hundred people in front of the capitol building, but I was too upset to go. Some of my ISO friends were there, but I honestly felt completely hopeless.

Tim Wise posted this on ZNet about the verdict and its impact and I think people should see it.

(And sorry this is late.)

James Redekop said...

A big problem here is that, under Florida law, the verdict is "correct". It is legal to pick a fight, then kill your target in self-defence if they fight back. This isn't even because of the infamous "Stand Your Ground" law -- Zimmerman's defence opted not to use that at all. This is just the standard Florida laws about self-defence.

Of course, if a black man picked a fight with a white teenager, then shot him in "self-defence", you can be sure that the whole thing would have gone down differently. He would have been charged immediately, convicted in short order, and wouldn't be walking around free and getting his gun returned to him, promising to resume carrying it.

laura k said...

deang, a friend on FB said she was not surprised but deeply shocked. Your comment helps me understand what she meant. Thanks for the link to Tim Wise. I saw it on FB but haven't read it. (And you're not late.)

James, part of the problem is definitely the Florida law. The law set it in motion and the racism, as you point out, sealed the deal.

James Redekop said...

Having read a few legal commentaries on the verdict, I'm thinking it's the other way around: Zimmerman's racism set it in motion, and the law sealed the deal. Without any direct record of what actually occurred -- and, possibly, inept prosecution -- the jury was backed into a corner by the law that's on the books.

The media certainly hasn't helped. A lot of people are outraged by the role of the "Stand Your Ground" law -- which is genuinely awful -- in the verdict, without realizing that it didn't have a role in the verdict. Fixing the "Stand Your Ground" law won't fix the problems which led to this verdict.

One of the biggest problems here is the entrenched notion that it's up to random individuals to protect themselves, leading to self-styled vigilantes like Zimmerman deciding for themselves who's "suspicious" -- based on any number of prejudices -- and taking the law into their own hands. Stephen Pinker points out in The Better Angels Of Our Nature, which I've just finished, that Hobbes's idea of Leviathan -- specifically, the state being given the monopoly on the use of force -- has turned out to be one of the most important causes of the massive decline in human-on-human violence over the past few thousand years. Vigilantism is uncivilizing, and verdicts like this don't help in the slightest.

(One of the reasons I've always been more of a fan of the underdog-outcast comic books like X-Men than the super-powered crime fighter ones like Batman is that I just don't trust the judgement of a millionaire with abandonment issues who dresses like a bat when it comes to deciding who's a Bad Guy...)

James Redekop said...

Here's my favourite statement on the verdict so far, via Dispatches form the Culture Wars:

If Trayvon Martin had been born white he would be alive today. That has been established beyond all reasonable doubt. If he had been white, he never would have been stalked by Zimmerman, there would have been no fight, no funeral, no trial, no verdict. It is the Zimmerman mindset that must be found guilty – far more than the man himself. It is a mindset that views black men and boys as nothing but a threat, good for nothing, up to no good no matter who they are or what they are doing. It is the Zimmerman mindset that has birthed a penal system unprecedented in world history, and relegated millions to a permanent undercaste.