1. Guns, Skittles and Race Denying: The Civil War
By John Sims
Before the trial, before the verdict and before anger and rational thinking mixed to
produce a contra-jutxapositionalcolloidalcocktail of spiritual disbelief and
cognitisuspension, there wasthe pretext, that the American legal system, as amagical
space, would deliver transparency and justice for some and tricksfor others,
especially in Florida, the state where presidential elections can hang from chads, we
have more guns than pencils, and where the world’s largest Confederate flag used to
flyhigh on I-4 in Tampa.
As a the nation continues to toss and turn over the Zimmerman acquittal, we are
clearly in a crisis when a black teenager with skittles in his pocket can be profiled,
be followed, dare to stand his groundand then be murdered, and where a man with
a gun in his pocket can disobey orders, follow a stranger as a stranger, create fear,
engage an unarmed teenager, shoot and kill, be free of immediate arrest,and then be
acquitted of murder by an all women mostly white juryof 12 divided by 2.
This verdictgenerates a list of questions and thought experiments leading nowhere
but toa mountain of moral contradictions and the folk knowledge that black life has
less value, and that lighter ground is sounder than darker ground.Many of us have
wonderedabout all thewhat-ifs. What if Trayvon had been white and Zimmerman
black? What if Zimmerman had stayed in the car or had not had a gun? Or what if
Zimmerman had shot a warning shot? Would he have gotten a 20 years sentence
like the African American woman Marrisa Alexander did? And why did the Stand
Your Ground law protect Zimmerman and not Alexander? Or is it really Stand Your
White Ground?What if the jury had been a group of Black women? And what
happened to allthe white men as potential jurors, were they too busy watching the
Miami Heat play basketball, in a safe place far from American race-theater?
The verdict says many things: that it is better to kill than be killed for the dead
cannot speak their truth; that it is better to have guns than candy; and that race,
profiling and negative credibility are powerfully connected in the American
imagination even with a Black President in office. Credibility is always a two-way
conversation. Jury selection is always key. And to have such a homogenous jury,
abrogates and narrows the diversity of human experiences that factors in the
determination of reasonable fear and threat. And to suggest that race was no factor
is brutally dishonest and psychologically abusive- akin to Holocaust denying and
plays the White Card in spades benefiting the dominant culture’s fetish with
security, guns and class codes as it relates to race and supremacy. The
demographics of the jury and the attempt to character assassinate a dead person
and his girlfriend, while not questioning Zimmerman’s mental health speak to a Jim
Crow justice andOld South memories.
2. The Stand Your Ground law, can only make sense in the most abstract context and
under the heaviest sedation. While we should have the right to protect our space we
should resist laws that give free range to cradle the urge to blur the boundaries of
cops and robbers fantasies with basic common sense. While this law may aim to
protect one’s right to stand one’s ground, it will only shine more light on the politics
of fear that so divide us. And as tempting as it may seem for the black men to arm
themselves in response to Stand You Ground we know it was not written with them
in mind. And unless such laws are critically reviewed and revised along with
effective gun control policies, we will have more shootings, more deaths and more
opportunities to widen the lines that divide us as a nation.
Profiling in some form or another has been central to the African American
experience from the very beginning. This has lead to a responding profiling leading
many to be suspicious of the police, legal and legislative systems that shape the
complex journey from arrest to arraignment to conviction to prison to re-arrest.
Whether it is the Stop and Frisk policy of New York City or Forest Whitaker being
wrongly accused of shoplifting, people of color continue to tolerate but resist
profiling, the humiliation and the disrespect. And when there is no respect there will
be no justice.Add some police brutality with pathological vigilantism, andwe are
headedto social meltdown. And so it is clear why such laws along with the culture of
profiling create a pathway for protecting naked impulses and behaviors rather than
common sense public safety.
So when the gun laws are flawed, the courtroom players sleep, the jury
demographics stacked, and the police non responsive and race based profiling
continues – then we start multiplying fractions each less than 1, gettingus farther
from the unity of ONE and closer to an empty set of Zero.
The time is now to address the core issues of profiling, gun possession and mental
health issues that lead to death of Trayvon Martin and to not deny the importance of
race. The time is now to address the law and courtroom dynamics that lead to
Zimmerman acquittal. The time is now to restore non-gun based civilityand a sense
of social respect. The time is now to reflect on the hallowed ground of senseless
violenceand murder and to craft laws that make sense and protect us all. The time is
now to humanize the hoodies and the young black male. The time is now to end the
lasting reach of the Civil War and continue the daily “March On” the color line, gun
violence and xenophobia.