The Long, Long, Long Road to Justice for Trayvon Martin

The question raised by my colleague Jason Easley in his earlier post about whether or not there will be justice for Trayvon Martin is without question one of the burning questions raised by this tragedy. But it is not the only burning question.

The other issue one has to wonder about – and I don’t pretend to be the first and only one wondering this – is why it took all of this just to get George Zimmerman arrested on the evening of April 11, 2012. More than a month after he murdered Trayvon Martin in cold blood. More than a month after the Sanford, Florida police inexplicably and outrageously informed Trayvon’s parents that there would be no arrest in this case.

But, as Rev. Al Sharpton pointed out at the Wednesday evening press conference with Trayvon’s family and lawyers, the family  simply couldn’t stomach allowing the man who murdered their son to just walk around free as if all he had done was shoot a squirrel with a slingshot. At the very least the man needed to be arrested, and from the beginning that’s all the parents asked for. They didn’t ask for vigilante justice, and they didn’t swear revenge. All they asked for was the most elemental recognition from the justice system in Florida that something was wrong with this picture.  And since it was evident they weren’t going to get much in the way of justice from the Sanford Police Department, they broadened their reach and, with the assistance of their lawyers and others, began a campaign that steamrolled into what is becoming one of the largest, most potent news stories of the year. There have been marches, numerous displays of ‘hoodie’ solidarity, speeches, and countless hours spent debating the issue on news programs across the country. Rev. Sharpton practically dedicated his entire MSNBC show five nights a week to nothing else but the Trayvon case ever since the incident occurred on Feb. 26, 2012.

So on one level, it’s good to see that so many of all races were moved so strongly at such a gut level by this case. Moved not just to shake their heads in disbelief but moved to act and make demands. Focused, disciplined, unrelenting activism brought about a positive result, and that’s a good thing even if it is only the first step.

But what happens when the next similar miscarriage of justice occurs? Or to the one that’s occurring right now that none of us have heard of and aren’t likely to? Because I think we can all agree that Rev. Al Sharpton and National Action Network can’t be everywhere at once. And exactly how many marches are we prepared to engage in and for how many cases? How do we decide who merits the media blitzes and who doesn’t? Because I think it’s safe to say that what happened to Trayvon is not a rarity. Heck, members of the African American community in Sanford have said openly that what happened to Trayvon is merely symptomatic of what has been happening to black folks there for quite some time so this is nothing new to them. Only the notoriety is new. And that’s just in Sanford.

And if this is to be considered a teachable moment, are we to believe that, thanks to Trayvon’s tragic death, the justice system will now be administered more fairly for African Americans for now and evermore throughout the land? Or even in Florida? Or is the justice system doing what it’s supposed to do in this particular instance only because it was forced to by more than  a month of unrelenting pressure brought on by a fed-up community? A thorough reading of Michelle Alexander’s “The New Jim Crow” offers some rather troubling, and meticulously documented, answers to these questions.

The election of President Barack Obama in 2008 signaled a significant change in race relations in America, and I don’t think that can be disputed. Even the most optimistic among us never thought we would see that day in our lifetimes given this country’s brutal and bloody racial history. But it was this very same President Barack Obama who practically had to run for cover just for saying that if he had a son that son would look like Trayvon Martin.

In America. In 2012.


4 Replies to “The Long, Long, Long Road to Justice for Trayvon Martin”

  1. The question, as you noted, is how many other African Americans are murdered every day we never hear about. If the roles were reversed there would have been an instant arrest, subsequent trial, and conviction; that is America. Perhaps racism is not as blatant as in the past, but it is prevalent and seething in a bigger portion of the population than most people like to admit.

  2. I followed your link to Michelle Alexander’s site.

    In the mid eighties, one of the key points of the Iran-Contra dealings was pumping cocaine into the inner cities. That’s the same time we were hit with two other phenomena: the War on Drugs, and gangster rap. It crossed my mind that we were looking at the helotization of a designated underclass, and that forcing members of this underclass into criminality through a combined effort of helotization and closing off legitimate opportunity was a good way to disenfranchise them as felons. Yet, of all the malicious conspiracies I have suspected, this is one I only occasionally focused on consciously. Maybe the evidence was too nebulous, or the prospect too frightening. For that reason, I’m glad to hear other people say it. Nonetheless, I am reminded of what the psychiatrist said to his patient:

    “I have good news and bad news for you, Joe. The good news is, you’re not paranoid. The bad news is, they really are out to get you.”

  3. I recently read about a woman who ran a young black man off the road who was riding a go kart. She got out of the car and screamed that he didn’t belong in this neighborhood. He was injured to a degree but there were many witnesses. The police did not talk to the witnesses and made a point of not doing it, and had a nice time laughing it up with a woman who did what she did. She was allowed to drive on.

    I believe that what happened to Trayvon is symptomatic. You can’t live here in Tennessee and not know that that’s true. It doesn’t have to be physical violence because mental violence is just as bad( not a comparison to losing one’s life).

    This country has went from being a wonderful place to live to a bigoted society in many areas. Thank goodness there are still a great many people who are not this way, but if you look at the teacher who lost her job for standing up for Trayvon, that tells me this country is deeply in the wrong.

    George Zimmerman should’ve been arrested that night and he should’ve went to jail. It’s complete bull that his trial is going to be a month or more away. There is no way to collect all the information possible and take a month to do it. And all across the United States, every place that this happens there should be an uprising like there was for Trayvon. and while we know that right now color matters, the uprising should be regardless of color

  4. Breaking news from CNN. Florida investigators today in an affidavit said that Zimmerman profiled, confronted and shot Trayvon.

    Doesnt look good George Zimmermans

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