Everyone is trying to figure out what to do to fix the egregious injustice done to the country (yes, it happened to all of us) in the Zimmerman verdict, myself included. There’s talk of pushing the DOJ into bringing a new case against Zimmerman. I understand that reaction, but I don’t think that’s the way to go.
I don’t think that DOJ has enough to successfully bring a hate crime case against Zimmerman. I know that a lot of people want to see sufficient evidence in his prior overtly racist comments, and his cousin who flat out says he hates black people, but I don’t see enough there to successfully prosecute a case. In my opinion, the worst thing that can happen to the state of racism in America would be for Zimmerman to be acquitted again. He would be seen as a “victim”, being hunted down by a justice system motivated by race. I don’t want to see that happen. Trying Zimmerman is not, in my opinion, the right way to go.
I hope that the Martin family decide to file a wrongful death civil suit against him, just to make sure that he never collects a dime of money from a book deal or speaking engagements, or whatever else he decided to do to earn some cash. But that’s as far as “punishing” Zimmerman can go. As much as I hate it, he got away with murder. We just need to accept that.
That said, don’t get me wrong, I’m not feeling hopeless. I do think that there are some things that we, the American people can do, and I have a few ideas. Step 1; donate to Marissa Alexander’s legal defense fund. Marissa Alexander is spending twenty years in jail for firing her gun at the wall next to her abusive ex-husband, who she had an order of protection against. There was a mountain of paperwork to back up her assertion that her husband abused her, and that she legitimately feared for her safety when he was near her. She was not allowed a “stand your ground” hearing, which would have averted the farce of a trial that ended in a jury deliberating for twelve minutes before convicting her. I’ve spent more than twelve minutes choosing which restaurant to eat dinner in. We can’t do anything for Trayvon, but we can get Marissa a rock star attorney to file her appeals. If there’s one thing we’ve learned in America, it’s that money buys you the verdict you want.
My second step is to make sure that all of the Trayvon Martins become national conversations and get their day in court. We need to be vigilant against corrupt police forces that sweep the murders of black men under the rug. Remember, George Zimmerman wasn’t charged for forty-four days. It wasn’t until we all got involved, that the justice system finally took action even though some of the investigators involved wanted to charge Zimmerman that first night. We can’t continue to accept racial disparity in how criminals are treated. Here, for instance, is a case we should all collectively focus in on now.
We need to shine a light on these cases, not just to right the wrongs in our justice system, but also to change our culture.
In listening to juror B37 talk about the trial, it became obvious to me that she could not relate to a black teenager. She thought he was acting suspicious by “walking slowly” “late at night” (unless you’re a fucking farmer 7 pm is not late), “looking into houses” (based on nothing other than Zimmerman’s word, and who the hell doesn’t look into windows when they’re walking?). She seemed to give Zimmerman every benefit of the doubt, buying everything he said (even though his story changed dramatically), and believing everything his friends said. Who doesn’t assume that any defendant in a case like this isn’t highly motivated to twist events around in order to avoid years in prison? She ignored the fact that every single person who identified the calls for help on the 911 calls as being Zimmerman, went on to say preposterous things. For example, his coworker claimed she had no idea why George wasn’t at work after the incident. All she knew was that he was on FMLA. Are you fucking kidding me? You work in the only company in the world that has no rumor mill, and no access to local news? Or Zimmerman’s elderly friends who weren’t following the case at all. Your friend is on trial for murder and you’re not scouring the internet for information every day? Preposterous! She didn’t find Rachel Jeantel credible. Are you shitting me? I’ve never seen a more honest testimony from anyone in a trial, ever. So what accounts for this lack of common sense and disregard for plausibility?
Relatability. She related to all of Zimmerman’s friends so much so, that she didn’t see how preposterous their testimony was. She flat out told you she couldn’t relate to Rachel or Trayvon, referring to “their world”. Is that racist? I don’t know, you decide.
But I think it’s important to bring national attention to as many of these cases as possible. We need to give people enough exposure to “their world” (whatever “their” is for each individual) as possible, until they realize it’s “our world”. We need to change our culture. We need to start exposing even the most sheltered Americans to the reality of our country. We need to make people aware of the fact that their experiences aren’t all of the experiences in America. In short, we need to start busting bubbles all across the country until people like Rachel Jeantel and Trayvon Martin are no longer “others”, but “ours”.
I know that I sound like a sunny optimist, but I firmly believe that you change a culture by proactively changing it. When I say proactive, I mean vigilant. We need to be vigilant about changing things in America. We’re the only ones that can change it. We can tear down age old prejudices and social constructs. We can stop accepting the fact that different races and different classes in America have different justice systems. We can demand equal justice for all races. We can demand equal justice for all classes. It’s time to stop accepting that rich people get away with anything, and that poor people get less justice, and that’s just the way it is.
Enough! It is in our power to level the playing field. It’s time we stop being complacent and use our power.