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Because I Want to Talk About Race, not Trayvon, or My Answer for Trever

I had no intention of wading into the murky waters of this national conversation, but Trever asked a question of me, and well, I tend to run long on my answers. Quite frankly, I wish more Americans would run long on their answers; at least then I'd know whether they understood the complexity of the problems about which they opine or if they just love the sound of their own words exiting their mouths. Trever offered a variation of "the jury had to do what it had to do," and I completely agree, but it's way more complicated than that. This isn't a debate about whether or not America has a race problem; anyone attempting to argue that America doesn't is either an idiot or so entrenched in privilege they can't see the world through non-White eyes. This isn't a protracted discussion about liberal gun laws and Stand Your Ground laws. No sane society can long maintain civility in a country where Stand Your Ground is the rule of law. If you want to read more about that, my friend Scott Jones talks about Locke and Kant and self-defense in reference to the Trayvon Martin case here. It goes without saying that I agree with his assessment. So, the very next sentence is the beginning of my rather lengthy answer.

I tend to agree with the legal issues here. Unfortunately, juries can't convict on intuition. I'll say this again. The problem is the Stand Your Ground law. It's stupid and dangerous. Remove that law from Florida's books and GZ is guilty of manslaughter at a minimum. The jury and the judge have to follow the rule of law, and in this case, the rule of law failed a teenager. I wish we could make a very simple connection here, and I believe my friend Scott Jones is right when he says that an armed man shooting a teenager after the armed man initiated a conflict is the exact inverse of self-defense. The only one with a right to self-defense here was Trayvon Martin. However, the jury can't convict on the grounds that John Locke is right, and that sucks. Hard. The racial component, though seemingly central, was an unfortunate complicating factor to the real central question, which is about self-defense and liberal gun laws, but that complicating factor caused the African American community no small amount of consternation, with good reason.

It's possible that if the roles were reversed, a jury could easily be swayed by the racial element to ignore the rule of law. It's only happened like 9 billion times in the former slaveholding states when people of color were convicted by juries of all white male "peers," or when white men were acquitted for raping or murdering people of color despite all evidence for their guilt. The failure to understand this dynamic is because Cracker America (really White America overall) doesn't have to care. We have been conditioned as people of privilege to discount claims to historical abuse, segregation, and injustice. We fail to understand that the experience of non-White America has been one of always trying to get an even playing field, all the while we blithely widened or narrowed the field depending upon what was best for us. One of the ways in which minority communities establish identity and unity is through racial (cultural) memory; this also serves as a means of character and identity formation. Think of the Black mother explaining to her sons what the rules are when they are pulled over late at night by a White cop. 

The problem with White, really Cracker (there is a difference), America is that we have no racial memory, no cultural history that informs our understanding of context. The context does not need to be filtered, because as people of privlege, the context serves us, and in most cases, it serves us because the privileged class create the context. When white people are furious that OJ "got away with it," we engage in faux rage because the context, which is always present for Black Americans and filtered through the lens of cultural memory, betrayed us this one time. This would be amusing if it weren't nearly always at the expense of a minority. For every one time the context betrayed White America, minorities have been betrayed countless times. Where was all this outrage when young black men were being falsely imprisoned? Where is it now with discrepancies in racialized drug laws? Where is it when judges work with corporate prisons to lock up poor minorities for minor offenses? Where was it when Jim Crow and segregation were the "natural order?" A famous black man gets away with murder and suddenly the phenomenon of "privilege distress" eats at Cracker America's innards.

Now, take that racial memory into court where a teenage boy who was racially profiled and unarmed is dead. Do you suppose the outcome is somewhat more important to African Americans than Whites? Do you suppose they are hoping for some form of justice? Black America has long-since learned there will not be justice, or if there is, it's based on money, or fame, or some capricious dispensing of sheer fucking luck. Justice is not what happens at the end of a trial; it's a real standard that exists irrespective of the results of a trial. Justice in this instance should have been GZ in prison. It can't be, though, because the very rule of law that ought to protect Trayvon's rights are the same which guarantee GZ's right to a particular set of procedures and rules of evidence. I'm not going to make that speech to Black America, though, as they have every right to ask when we'll stop talking all this legalese bullshit and make sure teenagers aren't shot in the street by cowards with guns. The only possible justice at this point is two-fold: GZ loses a civil trial and pays for the rest of his life for the life he took, and legisltures everywhere realize Stand Your Ground is a stupid, dangerous law, that when applied, cannot be applied without the complicating factors of race and class and age and gender and fear. 

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