Attorneys, like me, have been trained and conditioned to view things through a very particular legal lens objective and desensitized.
This is not necessarily a bad thing since it can sometimes stop us from judging, or getting too emotionally involved with our clients. As we all know, emotions can often affect our decision-making, and negatively impact our work.
That said, we are human and as African-American lawyers, we are often faced with the unique challenge of being a part of a system of justice that is largely designed to monitor and control Black people some might even say oppress us.
When it comes to the ruling in the Trayvon Martin case, I could professionally and justifiably say, “Well, you know, the prosecution really didn’t present an effective case, and therefore the resulting verdict is appropriate…”
But personally, as an African-American mother, I feel very different and yes it is personal. You see, Trayvon was on trial long before George Zimmerman ever was… long before he decided to walk to the store for some candy and a drink.
Make no mistake, Trayvon was on trial — because of centuries of negative stereotyping of black people– for being young, black and male; he was charged with the crime of ‘walking while young, black and male’; and he was quickly executed for his crime by George Zimmerman.
And Florida enabled this execution by way of the racial and, yes, legal tone it set a long time ago for Zimmerman to kill, to avoid arrest for two months, and to get acquitted.
Didn’t matter that Florida’s so-called ‘Stand Your Ground’ law was not used during the trial since it had already served its purpose. Zimmerman, a wannabe cop, was likely aware of it, and under the law, the police won’t arrest if there is quote-unquote “probable cause” the person “acted in self-defense”.
And the police simply took Zimmerman’s word for it since Trayvon was, well, dead and could not speak.
Unfortunately, in America, justice is far from blind. Trayvon, apparently, did not have the same right to stand his ground since we know for a fact he was approached by an armed aggressor.
In this country, which so often treats black people as “less than” other people –we also know that―if the roles were reversed and Trayvon had been white and Zimmerman black―an immediate arrest would have been made. And Florida likely would have sought the death penalty.
I’ll leave you with this timely quote from Enola Aird, founder and president of Community Healing Network that speaks to the need for us to look at the underlying causes of racial injustice. She says:
“We can debate. We can legislate. We can litigate. But this time we should also focus on the root cause of what happened to Trayvon Martin: the fact that for nearly four hundred years Black people have been seen as less than human. It is well past time for us to address the root cause.