Trayvon was not the victim of a mugging, carjacking, drive-by shooting, or random act of gang violence. He was the fatal victim of a neighborhood watch activity carried out by Zimmerman.
Trayvon had no criminal record, nor did he commit a crime on the night of his execution. He was alone and unprotected.
Trayvon was not peeping into the homes of others in the neighborhood, nor was he casing places to burglarize. He was talking on his cell phone to a friend while walking home. He was not bothering anyone in the neighborhood.
What was his crime? He was black in America and happened to be doing the right things in the wrong place at the wrong time. What was his punishment? A cold-blooded, execution-style death near his home. Why was he executed? Trayvon, who was wearing a hoodie when Zimmerman spotted him, didn’t look like he belonged in this mostly white, middle-class, Florida neighborhood.
Why did Trayvon resist Zimmerman? Trayvon was an unarmed innocent teenager who was being followed, approached, and confronted by a stranger with a gun. Of course, we never got Trayvon’s version of the events because Zimmerman silenced him, forever.
Let’s be clear. Trayvon was not followed and stopped by a police officer, nor was Zimmerman making a citizen’s arrest for a crime committed in his presence. Trayvon was killed because Zimmerman thought he did not belong in this neighborhood.
What does last night’s jury verdict in Sanford, Florida tell us about the status of blacks in America?
First, the verdict made it absolutely clear to all Americans (and global citizens) that blacks, for the most part, are alone and unprotected in this country. There is no adequate and functioning system of justice that protects us from this type of unchecked violence, whether we live in Sanford, Florida, where Trayvon was “lawfully” executed during the administration of “neighborhood watch” justice, or we live in Chicago – the gang-banging, murder capital of America.
Governmental officials at all levels give us with plenty of lip service about fighting crime and providing us with safe neighborhoods, but our reality is far different from these empty campaign slogans and promises. For the first time in our history in America, no one in a position of authority seems to care enough about our lives, safety and welfare to protect us from the George Zimmermans of the world or the murdering thugs and gang members on Chicago’s West and South sides.
This is not a Democrat or Republican issue. This is a widespread failure of leadership issue. Most of these officials don’t seem to care anymore. They routinely offer the families of the victims “prayers” and attend some of the funerals of victims. Then, life just moves on, and we become less secure, less safe, and less important to most of them.
Just three weeks ago, the U.S. Supreme Court dramatically freed voter discrimination from the effective prison of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. As caricatured in a Star Tribune cartoon, many governmental officials, particularly in Southern states, were jubilant over this devastating 5-4 court decision. Those who are prone to discriminate against blacks in America’s voting process were handed a sweeping victory in the furtherance of their cause.
Forty-eight years of Federal protection for black voters from engrained voter discrimination in Southern states and other covered jurisdictions went out the window with this one decision. We are back where we were before 1965 – alone and unprotected.
The message in all of this – from the unleashing of voter discrimination to Trayvon’s tragic death – is captured in a phrase memorialized in a 1857 U.S. Supreme Court case. In Dred Scott v. Sandford, Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, speaking for the Court’s 7-2 majority, wrote that the framers of the Constitution viewed all blacks as:
“beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations, and so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.”
Trayvon Martin’s execution and jury verdict further evidences our sad and painful returned to Dred Scott status. In essence, we have no rights that white people are bound to respect. Even if we have equal rights on paper (much like Dred Scott claimed in 1857 under the “all men are created equal” phrase of the Declaration of Independence), very few officials in positions of authority today have the courage, determination, or political will to enforce them.