Two important pieces on the broader issues behind Trayvon’s death. First, from the Crunk Feminist Collective:
post-most-racial moment*, we must seriously re-evaluate this narrative of linear historical progress that we are beholden to. No, Black men don’t routinely find themselves hanging from trees. But that might be less an evidence of progress and more an evidence of white racial adaptation.
Perhaps a hip-hop metaphor is more appropriate. Present white racial violence frequently samples its own racial past, but packages the narrative in ways that make us think we are making progress, that we are doing a new thing. But this shit ain’t original.
And Chauncey DeVega’s take at We are Respectable Negroes:
Black people live a paradox. We are simultaneously both children and adults in the white racial imagination regardless of our age.
Black people are treated as adults even when they are minors. In the courts, black young people are disproportionately subjected to punishments which are typically meted out to adults. As research has repeatedly demonstrated, to be young and black is to be an adult for purposes of arrest, the gas chamber, or imprisonment.
Historically, black people have been treated by whites as though they are children in regards to political matters. Thus, the contemporary rhetoric from conservatives that African Americans are childlike, zombies, on a plantation, or somehow hoodwinked or tricked into supporting the Democratic Party. Despite all of the available evidence, grown folks who were either heirs to, or participants in, a Black Freedom Struggle that salvaged and saved American democracy from its own weaknesses, lies, and hypocrisies, are depicted as naive infants, unable to be full and equal political actors.
By the way, I realize that it’s problematic that most sources are referring to George Zimmerman as white, when he may be Latino. I say this before it appears in the comments because I fear that movement away from a simple African/Anglo dichotomy will derail the discussion from the crucial point: Trayvon was killed, and the investigation obstructed, because he was black. The white racial violence that Crunktastic is talking about isn’t just a single man with a gun who may or may not identify/be viewed as white–it’s an entire system fervently devoted to the control and arbitrary erasure of black lives.
I also realize that many people, myself included, have ambivalent feelings about a justice system that involves simply sticking yet another body into the prison industrial complex. However, in transformative models of justice, the wishes of the survivor or family are paramount, and I think the same priorities apply here. (The same goes for the petition, whether or not one million signatures will make a difference. This is something we can do, at the very least, for his family.)
As for the simple fact that a 17-year-old died violently and alone, I don’t think there’s anything I can say that hasn’t already been said. I look at his face and it pierces my heart.