Analyses of Trayvon Martin’s Murder

Two important pieces on the broader issues behind Trayvon’s death. First, from the Crunk Feminist Collective:

In this 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.

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28 Responses to Analyses of Trayvon Martin’s Murder

  1. 1
    Eva says:

    Thank you.

  2. 2
    Ampersand says:

    Thanks for posting this. I’ve been following this case neurotically, but I haven’t been able to figure out what to say about it. It’s just so awful, and so over-the-top; if a liberal novelist wrote this as fiction I’d roll my eyes because it seems so unnuanced and unreal.

    In addition to your links, I’d highly recommend this Mother Jones page on the killing, which contains a lot of useful reporting and summary, especially in the extensive updates posted to the article.

  3. 3
    Robert says:

    I can’t comment on it coherently because it is just sickening on every level. I’m still a big proponent of self-defense and laws that recognize it, but this guy’s claim is so weak. I can understand that he wasn’t arrested right away; ok, he’s not a flight risk, and he says self-defense, so let’s check it out.

    That goes away at the point where you find out the kid’s most fearsome weapon was Skittles. He should have been in jail at that point while the DA decides which charge best suits the evidence.

    Man, (assuming that what I’ve heard in the media is accurately reported – Duke Experience Caveat (c)2012 Robert Hayes) – fuck you, George Zimmerman. Fuck you.

  4. 4
    RonF says:

    I haven’t followed this much. From what I’ve heard, there’s no way that a “stand your ground” defense should apply. It’s one thing to defend yourself with deadly force when you are confronted. You should always have the right to resist deadly force with deadly force rather than attempt to run away. But – absent the Duke Un-Rape Case exception – it appears that the person doing the shooting here was the one that caused the confrontation. I certainly hope that the facts come out and that any guilty party be punished to the fullest extent of the law (although I do oppose capital punishment).

    What the heck are “transformative models of justice”?

  5. 5
    Ampersand says:

    From that Mother Jones article I linked in my earlier comment:

    UPDATE 1, 12 p.m. EDT, Monday, March 19: More details on Florida’s self-defense laws

    Many readers have asked whether, given the 911 recordings, a case against Zimmerman would be easier than most homicides in which “self-defense” is cited by a defendant. In Florida, the answer probably is no: The courts’ interpretation of the stand-your-ground law has been extremely broad—so broad that, to win an acquittal, a defendant doesn’t even have to prove self-defense, only argue for it, while to win a conviction the prosecution has to prove that self-defense was impossible.

    Numerous cases have set the precedent in Florida, with the courts arguing that the law “does not require defendant to prove self-defense to any standard measuring assurance of truth, exigency, near certainty, or even mere probability; defendant’s only burden is to offer facts from which his resort to force could have been reasonable.” When a defendant claims self-defense, “the State has the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant did not act in self-defense.” In other words the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt never shifts from the prosecution, so it’s surprisingly easy to evade prosecution by claiming self-defense.

    This has led to some stunning verdicts in the state. In Tallahassee in 2008, two rival gangs engaged in a neighborhood shootout, and a 15-year-old African American male was killed in the crossfire. The three defendants all either were acquitted or had their cases dismissed, because the defense successfully argued they were defending themselves under the “stand your ground” law. The state attorney in Tallahassee, Willie Meggs, was beside himself. “Basically this law has put us in the posture that our citizens can go out into the streets and have a gun fight and the dead person is buried and the survivor of the gun fight is immune from prosecution,” he said at the time.

    (I was too lazy to reproduce the supporting links that were in the article, sorry.)

    There’s definitely no need for the person you killed to be armed for you to make a “Stand Your Ground” defense work in Florida.

  6. 6
    Grace Annam says:

    RonF:

    What the heck are “transformative models of justice”?

    http://lmgtfy.com/?q=transformative+models+of+justice

    Grace

  7. 7
    RonF says:

    Hm. Well, that’s not good. We’ll have to see what comes out in court on this.

  8. 8
    Simple Truth says:

    @Amp: I’m with you on not having words. I posted this on my FB, and this is really what hits so hard that I just can’t gather coherent thoughts to write on the issue: his mother heard him scream for help and then die when she listened to the 911 call.
    How utterly devastating. Your 17 year old, almost a man but still your baby boy, goes for Skittles and gets shot, and you hear his cry…ugh, I can’t type. It makes me tear up. This is a tragedy, full stop. It should have never happened.

  9. 9
    Grace Annam says:

    Simple Truth:

    This is a tragedy, full stop. It should have never happened.

    Yes.

    Grace

  10. 10
    Doug S. says:

    I feel the need to link to this cartoon drawn by a friend of mine.

  11. 11
    RonF says:

    It’s going to be interesting to see a) if this ends up in court and b) what comes out there if it does. I’ve been doing some reading and apparently at least one witness reported that Trayvon Martin was on top of George Zimmerman beating him up prior to the shooting, as it says here and here.

    That doesn’t yet prove that the shooting was justified. But it does indicate that presuming the narrative of “young black male shot down for being a young black male” is premature.

  12. 12
    Julie says:

    Okay… I’m pulling rank and declaring that future comments saying “but we don’t know it was racism” are banned. Yep, I’m censoring; yep, I’m stifling free speech; nope, I don’t care. If another blogger wants to start a thread on TADA, that’s great, but it’s not going to happen here.

  13. 13
    RonF says:

    Given the strong orientation towards fiction and comics among the readers here, I have to say that when I read Julie’s comment above a particular comic panel came to my mind. It was from The Amazing Spiderman back in the early ’70′s (yeah, I was reading Spiderman in high school and college back then). J. Jonah Jameson, as was his wont, had taken a recent incident and was blowing the whole thing up as evidence that Spiderman was a public menace and should be captured and thrown in jail forever. Robbie Robertson, his (black) editor, suggested that they were a little short on facts and perhaps J. Jonah was a little quick to judgement. J. Jonah replied “I don’t need any more facts, I know all I need to know!”

    As J. Jonah walked away, Robbie thought to himself, “God save us from people who know all they need to know.”

  14. 14
    RonF says:

    Hm. Actually it would more likely have been ’68 to ’70 – I probably wasn’t in college then.

  15. 15
    Lauren says:

    Even if the report of Trayvon beating his killer were true, it still wouldn’t change the fact that this is racism at its most horrific. Because these are facts that are not up for debate:

    Zimmerman was following Trayvon in his car. Zimmerman thought that Trayvon looked suspicious. He was so suspicious of him that he called the police. Trayvon was not doing anything illegal. The only thing that made him “suspicious§ was the fact that he was a black teenaged boy. He was not doing anything wrong.

    Zimmerman continued to pursue Trayvon despite the police telling him not to. He left his car and pursued the boy on foot. Trayvon was scared.

    Trayvon hadn’t done anything wrong. If Zimmerman came after him (with his gun!) and Trayvon tried to fight him? That actually was self defense. He, not Zimmerman, was defending himself.

    And if Zimmerman then shot him to stop him from defending himself? That doesn’t make what Zimmerman did self-defense in return. You don’t get to claim self defense if you were the one to attack.

    Even if that (one, somehow disappeared) report were right, it wouldn’t make what Zimmerman did- pursuing a black kid for supposed “suspicious” behavior when he had done nothing except dare to walk down a street as a black male teenager- any less racist.

    Neither would it change the fact that a witness who reported a different chain of events was “corrected” by the police. The same police who refused to arrest a man who shot an unarmed teenager. Who just happened to be black.

    Considering a black teenager walking down the street suspicious based on nothing is about as blatantly racist as it gets. No matter what the chain of events was after Zimmerman ended his call, the fact that he is a racist was proven by his phone call.

  16. 16
    Lauren says:

    Gah, I have no idea how the wrong spelling of Trayvon’s name got stuck in my head. Unfortunately, the editor is refusing to work for me.
    If a moderator could please either correct the spelling, or delete the post, I would be thankful.

    [Spelling corrected! --Amp]

  17. 17
    mythago says:

    RonF @13: Yes, anyone who dares to be outraged that the police let Zimmerman go and then doubled down on their non-investigation is a blowhard just like J. Jonah.

  18. 18
    Eytan Zweig says:

    RonF – do you know any Spiderman references where J. Jonah Jameson took one piece of (putative) evidence out of context of everything that happened before it and decided that the evaluation of the whole situation depended on that one piece of evidence, and not on all the rest of what has been independently established to have happened?

    Just wondering.

  19. 19
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    What happened DURING the encounter is mostly relevant to law. It goes to the issue of whether it was murder, manslaughter, or–thanks to that horrible Florida law–not criminal at all.

    However, what happened BEFORE the encounter is, irrespective of the actual facts of the encounter, sufficient to demonstrate that Zimmerman was acting out of racism. Similarly, what happened AFTER the encounter is, irrespective of the actual facts of the encounter, sufficient to demonstrate that the local police appear (absent further evidence) to be treating this in a manner which they’d be unlikely to do were the victim white: i.e., racism.

    So do the facts of the encounter matter? Yes, of course. but they’re not dispositive to the larger conversation, so they don’t matter as much as you might think. Even if it turns out that Zimmerman called Trayvon a n****, and Trayvon jumped him, and Zimmerman actually shot in some sort of self-defense–even then, at the very least, you can assume that, as a direct result of Zimmerman’s racism, Trayvon was involved in an altercation which he did not seek out, and which left him dead. That’s a huge problem. And of course there’s no evidence to suggest that Trayvon was the aggressor.

  20. 20
    RonF says:

    If Zimmerman came after him (with his gun!) and Trayvon tried to fight him? That actually was self defense. He, not Zimmerman, was defending himself. And if Zimmerman then shot him to stop him from defending himself? That doesn’t make what Zimmerman did self-defense in return. You don’t get to claim self defense if you were the one to attack.

    That I agree with. If George (if we’re going to be on a first name basis, we’ll do it with both) threatened Trayvon with his gun and then Trayvon, thinking his life was in danger, attacked George, then George was in the wrong and should be up on charges.

    But we don’t know that’s what happened yet.

    mythago:

    Yes, anyone who dares to be outraged that the police let Zimmerman go and then doubled down on their non-investigation is a blowhard just like J. Jonah.

    Fair enough. But I’m not seeing people on the streets saying “Investigate George”. They’re saying he’s a racist before an investigation is done. There’s a group prominently offering $10K for his “capture”. It sounds to me like they’re offering $10K to have him kidnapped, which I suspect is a criminal act. Others demand that George be arrested, but the last time I checked the way that works is that the cops don’t arrest someone unless they think they have a case provable in court, which takes (repeat after me) an investigation. Now, could the local cops be covering up for a local guy? Sure! Could that be due in part to racism? Sure! Let’s find out.

    The only thing that made him “suspicious” was the fact that he was a black teenaged boy.

    Was it? Was it the fact that he was a black teenaged boy? Or was it that he was someone in the neighborhood that George didn’t recognize, a neighborhood that reputedly has seen a hefty uptick in crime rates due mostly to young teenage boys (about 8 of whom George has been instrumental in the apprehension of).

    Yes, George described him as a black kid. The cops use a racial reference in every police report and every description of someone they’re looking for. The newspapers and TV stations use it to describe every person involved in a crime in every story. It’s part of a physical description that is always used when you’re telling someone what a person you want them to look for looks like. Telling the cops that you see a black kid you want them to look into doesn’t mean you’re a racist. It means you’re telling them what the kid looks like. If you saw someone running down your sidewalk after just snatching a purse and called 911, would you say “He looks like he’s 6′ 2″ tall with a medium build and a green jacket” but not tell them “He’s a white kid” or “He’s a black kid”? It’s a common part of a physical description and does not create a presumption of racism.

    Does George only follow black kids and not call in white kids that he doesn’t recognize? That would be racism, but we don’t know that’s the story yet.

    Question for you all, as an aside: how is it that all of you refer to the dead man in this case by his first name but the man who killed him by his last name? Is it because the young man’s first name is common to black people but the older man’s last name is common to white people?

  21. 21
    RonF says:

    Similarly, what happened AFTER the encounter is, irrespective of the actual facts of the encounter, sufficient to demonstrate that the local police appear (absent further evidence) to be treating this in a manner which they’d be unlikely to do were the victim white: i.e., racism.

    Ah. Really? What details can you link me to on that?

  22. 22
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    Let’s start with this:

    They’re saying he’s a racist before an investigation is done.

    Dude, you know that I am far from the super-likely-to-find-racism camp. But this? This seems so blatantly obvious I’m not sure how you can credibly argue with it.

    From what we know Zimmerman had zero reason to even bother the kid in the first place, other than the fact that he was black. When you do something bad–calling 911, following them, bringing a gun–specifically because someone is of a certain skin color, that is textbook racism under ANY definition. You don’t even need “privilege plus power” for that one.

    Not to mention that there’s no “investigation” of racism going on anyway. So why withhold judgment on it at this point?

  23. 23
    RonF says:

    Zimmerman continued to pursue Trayvon despite the police telling him not to.

    Was it the cops? Or was it the 911 operator? Here in Chicago, at any rate, 911 operators are not cops. They’re City employees and dispatchers, but they don’t work for the Police department at all. They can give advice, but they have no authority to tell anyone to do anything.

  24. 24
    RonF says:

    g-i-w (and you’ve GOT to tell me where that name comes from):

    When you do something bad–calling 911, following them, bringing a gun–specifically because someone is of a certain skin color, that is textbook racism under ANY definition.

    Yup. I agree.

    From what we know Zimmerman had zero reason to even bother the kid in the first place, other than the fact that he was black.

    I don’t agree with that, though. From a Miami Herald story printed over a month ago:

    The answer may lie in police records, which show that 50 suspicious-person reports were called in to police in the past year at Twin Lakes. There were eight burglaries, nine thefts and one other shooting in the year prior to Trayvon’s death.

    In all, police had been called to the 260-unit complex 402 times from Jan. 1, 2011 to Feb. 26, 2012.

    “He [George Zimmerman] once caught a thief and an arrest was made,” said Cynthia Wibker, secretary of the homeowners association. “He helped solve a lot of crimes.”

    Zimmerman told neighbors about stolen laptops and unsavory characters. Ibrahim Rashada, a 25-year-old African American who works at U.S. Airways, once spotted young men cutting through the woods entering the complex on foot, and later learned items were stolen those days.

    “It’s a gated community, but you can walk in and steal whatever you want,” Rashada’s wife, Quianna, said.

    Sounds to me that there’s plenty of reason for someone on the Neighborhood Watch committee to concern himself with a teenage boy walking through the neighborhood that he doesn’t know, regardless of his race. Does that mean that Trayvon was therefore a criminal? Hell, no. Obviously not. But it does mean that it’s invalid to presume, prior to investigation, that George followed Trayvon solely because of his race. Support for that assertion requires further inquiry – which I think is absolutely necessary.

    Where does this “George followed Trayvon because he was black!” presumption come from, anyway?

  25. 25
    Julie says:

    Am I speaking Klingon? We are not having this argument on this thread. These types of derails are upsetting to many people of color, and I want this thread to be a safe space. Further comments on the matter will be deleted. Debate it elsewhere.

  26. 26
    Robert says:

    Am I speaking Klingon?

    This made me LOL. No, if you were speaking Klingon, you would have eviscerated Ron for continuing to discuss it after being warned off.

    It’s an interesting subject, gentlemen, but that’s why Jesus invented open threads.

  27. 27
    RonF says:

    Simple Truth:

    How utterly devastating. Your 17 year old, almost a man but still your baby boy, goes for Skittles and gets shot, and you hear his cry … This is a tragedy.

    Then let me close by saying that this is indeed a simple truth and nothing about the circumstances changes that. My sympathies to this family for a horrific loss.

  28. 28
    DaisyDeadhead says:

    I have some pics of our local rally, “Justice for Trayvon Martin”. South Carolina, it should be noted, also has a “Stand Your Ground” law.

    Tellingly, a ‘Zimmerman apologist’ showed up on my thread, too… I think it must be a trend. (trigger warning)