"Coon" Slayer: The Racism That Creates People Like Zimmerman

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However, it would be a mistake to blame this tragedy totally on Zimmerman. Zimmerman was created by a country still plagued with prejudice, institutional racism and notions of White supremacy

[Speaking Truth To Power]

This week, represents one month since 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was executed on a cold street in Sanford, Florida by 28-year-old George Zimmerman—who remains at large.

But while many people across the nation rail at Zimmerman’s murderous action—and those on the do-nothing Sanford Police Department—shouldn’t we use this case to re-examine how American racism takes the lives of so many Black people?

On Monday, The Orlando Sentinel reported that police are alleging new details support the story of George Zimmerman: that he acted in self-defense when he shot and killed Martin. According to police, Martin, supposedly, surprised Zimmerman, who claims he was about to get into his car, when he was knocked to the ground with a single punch. This version asserts Zimmerman needed first aid for a fat lip, a bloody nose and a cut at the back of his head.

Much is also being made about the fact that the teen had been serving a school suspension for allegedly having an empty bag of marijuana. "Even in death, they are still disrespecting my son, and I feel that that's a sin," said Tracy Martin, Trayvon’s father. "They killed my son, and now they're trying to kill his reputation," added mother Sybrina Fulton.

The teen, who was visiting his father in a gated-community in Sanford, was killed by Zimmerman on Feb 26. Martin had left his father’s girlfriend house to go to the store, prior to the start of  that evening’s 2012 NBA All Star game. A bag of Skittles and a soda was found beside the dead teen’s body.

The case has galvanized many—even across racial lines—and several marches have taken place and, on Tuesday, a Congressional panel heard testimony relating to the Florida case. Under pressure, Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee Jr. has stepped down “temporarily” due to the furor he created by his mishandling of the case. Many people have harshly criticized the Sanford Police Department for failing to do their jobs by not properly investigating what happened—especially since Zimmerman wasn’t arrested. Apparently, he’s now in hiding.

President Obama felt compelled to weigh in on the incident saying “When I think about this boy, I think about my own kids…I think all of us have to do some soul-searching to figure out how does something like this happen…But my main message is to the parents of Trayvon Martin. If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon. And I think they are right to expect that all of us as Americans are going to take this with the seriousness it deserves, and that we're going to get to the bottom of exactly what happened.”

The Justice Department is also now involved in the case. The killing is causing many to scrutinize Florida’s controversial Stand Your Ground law. The law was proposed by the NRA and signed into law by former Florida Governor Jeb Bush. However, Bush had this to say about the Trayvon shooting: “This law does not apply to this particular circumstance. Stand your ground means stand your ground, means stand your ground. It doesn’t mean chase after somebody who’s turned their back.”

Prior to the shooting, Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, called 911 to complain that he saw Martin walking around, on a rainy night, wearing a hoodie looking “suspicious” as if he was on drugs. After Zimmerman admitted to the 911 operator that he was following Martin, he was told by the operator “we don’t need you to do that.” According to police there’s a one minute gap where they say they’re unsure of what really happened.

Quite frankly, how can we be sure of anything the Sanford Police Department says? First of all, they tell us Trayvon knocked Zimmerman to the ground with one punch. How the hell do they know this? We’re told of injuries that, supposedly, Zimmerman received. Are they trying to tell us these injuries are only consistent with Zimmerman’s mendacious fable? Couldn’t those injuries have been incurred because Trayvon was fighting desperately to preserve his life?

(But now the revelation yesterday of the Police video on ABC TV  showing Zimmerman in custody and apparently with no visible wounds on his face or head undermines the story about him being beaten by Trayvon Martin).

The Sanford Police Department’s dereliction of duty here is unconscionable. Besides Chief Bill Lee, other big police heads should roll. Hopefully, the Justice Department examines whether Sanford police did anything remotely resembling an investigation. Also, did police engage in a cover-up? Ironically, this case highlights a stark contrast to the Aug. 9, 2006 Long Island New York case of John White, who shot and killed 17-year-old Daniel Cicciaro as he trespassed on White’s property—with deadly intent. The teen and his gang of thugs arrived at the White residence after calling ahead threats they would assault Mr. White’s son, Aaron, and rape his wife. Yet, although White acted in self-defense to protect his family, he was arrested and convicted of second-degree manslaughter and third-degree weapons violations. He later received a pardon from former New York Governor David Patterson.

Given the circumstances here, how can anyone justify not arresting Zimmerman and processing this case through the legal channels? If Trayvon was white—and Zimmerman Black—does anybody think the Sanford police would not have arrested Zimmerman?

Now, let’s be clear: Zimmerman is a bigot, who racially profiled Trayvon. What made Zimmerman say he thought the teen might be on drugs? What made Trayvon so “suspicious?” Wearing a hoodie while walking in the rain? Or, walking while Black so close to a gated community? Isn’t it strange cops use similar excuses after executing Black men with 41 and 50 shots? If Zimmerman was so afraid why did he disobey the 911 dispatcher and follow Trayvon? Is the American justice system now going to allow non-Black civilians to indiscriminately kill Blacks whenever they feel threatened?

Moreover, this man called 911 approximately 46 times with similar tales of “suspicious” men—all apparently Black—roaming around his neighborhood. This killing looks like cold, calculated murder. Tellingly, Zimmerman studied criminal justice. It seems probable Zimmerman intended to attack a “coon,” and used his criminal justice training to concoct a plausible alibi to get away with murder.

Unfortunately, Trayvon became the unwitting victim straying into Zimmerman’s murderous sights. However, it would be a mistake to blame this tragedy totally on Zimmerman. Zimmerman was created by a country still plagued with prejudice, institutional racism and notions of White supremacy. One essential question is: what more must we do to treat the racial sickness that extinguishes African-American lives like Trayvon Martin’s?

"Speaking Truth To Empower."

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