George Zimmerman Travesty: Why Florida Boycott Could Change Things There And Elsewhere
December 12 Movement's Omowale Clay. Photo credit: The Black Star News
[Black Star News Editorial]
Boycotts are legitimate forms of fighting injustice, especially laws that discriminate against people based on their ethnic-, religious-, gender-, national background or sexual-orientation.
Boycotts were very effective in breaking down oppression and segregation in the American South and in apartheid South Africa.
Florida's Stand-Your-Ground law is a form of discriminatory law. Studies show that more Whites who kill Black people and claim self-defense based on Stand-Your-Ground use the law successfully than any other ethnic group.
In the case of the George Zimmerman travesty of justice acquittal following his second degree murder trial for the killing of Trayvon Martin Stand-Your-Ground wasn't explicitly used by his defense. It was considered by the jurors and it certainly informed the jurors' mindset.
One juror, referred to as B29 said she felt her hands were tied but that George Zimmerman "got away with murder."
Millions of Americans feel the same way judging by the protests that followed his acquittal on July 13. People who are outraged by the verdict can become more pro-active instead of feeling helpless. They could support the boycott campaign directed at Florida until the State deals with the Stand-Your-Ground law.
Zimmerman had followed 17-year old Trayvon Martin because he saw a Black teenager and suspected he was a burglar. He complained to police that the "fucking punks" always got away; one look at the Black teen and he lumped in with all the previous burglary suspects.
Zimmerman was told not to follow Trayvon by the police dispatcher but the 28-year old Zimmerman followed anyway. He later shot the boy dead in the heart. He knew that Stand-Your-Ground would cover his murderous conduct.
Hundreds of demonstrations were held across the country to protest the Zimmerman verdict.
But protests come and go.
Right here in New York when unarmed Black men have been killed by officers of the New York Police Department (NYPD) there are protests and people say "never again."
There was Amadou Diallo whose body was riddled after police fired 41 times at him; there was Sean Bell, fired at 51 times or more by police officers hours before his wedding; and there are the cases of Patrick Dorismond, Ousmane Zongo, Timothy Stansbury, Ramarley Graham, Kimani Gray, and scores others.
After each incident there is outrage and emotional protest marches all over the City. People declare "never again."
But it does always happen again.
What can change all this? How can people in the African American community make it abundantly clear that the lives of Black males have value even as many battle against the odds?
Enter Stevie Wonder and his vow to boycott Florida until the Stand-Your-Ground law is scrapped.
He was roundly condemned by Right Wing talking heads. This is because the people who attack Stevie Wonder know that he's on to something.Florida, and other states like New York with discriminatory practices that encourage profiling and deadly incidents, can shrug off protests, not so for a concerted boycott that actually puts a squeeze on the economy. Right here in New York mayor Bloomberg's and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly'sdiscriminatory Stop-and-Frisk has led to racial profiling of hundreds of thousands of African Americans.
Clearly Diallo and Bell were both racially profiled before they were approached.
Legislators and politicians will pay more attention when people in the African American community respond to outrageous unlawful killings by taking action with their wallets and their purses and directing their dollars elsewhere or even refraining from spending it.
In Florida Harry Belafonte, a veteran of many marches, protests, and boycotts, including from the Civil Rights Movement and the anti-apartheid campaign in South Africa has now joined those promoting a boycott of Florida until something is done about Stand-Your-Ground. Other artists such as Chaka Khan, who says she cancelled a Florida concert, are backing the call.
It would also be good to see young celebrities such as Jay-Z, patch up any misunderstanding with Belafonte that's been the subject of recent media coverage and take a position on a critical issues that affects the lives of young Black males.
Right here in New York City, the December 12 Movement has been leading Sunday rallies at 6PM in front of the State Office Building on 125th Street in Harlem where participants discuss and strategize on how they can support the boycott of Florida. Omowale Clay led one such gathering yesterday afternoon where more than 60 people showed up in the rain.
Scores of participants took the microphone to express their outrage at the verdict and to offer suggestions on a path forward, including how to support the Florida boycott. All vowed to return with more people next week. The rally is to be held every Sunday at the same location.
Here in New York, for example, organizers could target for boycotts, for example, businesses near the precincts where an officer or officers involved in the unlawful killing are based, could be one option.
In California, there was outrage after the killing of Oscar Grant by a police officer in Oakland who may never have been arrested had there not been a video of the execution.Perhaps the folks in Florida and New York are starting what could become a national model, where outrageous and unlawful killings of unarmed Black males could spark, not only protests, but concerted boycott campaigns. Of course boycotts are disruptive and they cause economic pain to many people; but sometimes sacrifices are needed in order to counter and eliminate bigger evils, such as the systemic killings of unarmed Black men.