“Only in America can a dead black boy go on trial for his own murder.” – Syreeta McFadden
On Saturday, in the state of Florida, George Zimmerman was acquitted of all charges in the death of Trayvon Martin.
On Friday, a black woman in that same state was sentenced to a 20 year sentence for firing warning shots at her abusive spouse. She was denied protection from the very same law that protected Zimmerman. Not only was he protected under the guise of this predicament, but it was weeks after the killing that he was arrested after a public outcry demanding his arrest. In the months that followed, his defense attempted to paint a portrait of Trayvon as a menace to society, spreading reports of alleged of juvenile petty theft and marijuana use.
When I heard that Zimmerman was acquitted of all charges, I was stunned. Given the evidence of what happened on that day, a guilty verdict seemed obvious. And then I immediately felt naÃ¯ve because the verdict shouldn’t come as a surprise. The message is clear – you can stand your ground, but if you’re a black American, you have no ground to stand on.
It teaches us that there is nothing more dangerous than walking around as a black male. There is a long history of racially charged killings. We are taught about the murder of Emmit Till in 1955 (a case which has drawn many comparisons to Trayvon”˜s, and with good reason). When we think about that case, we’re supposed to think of how far we’ve come since then. But apparently, we haven’t gotten very far. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream, but more and more it is looking like a nightmare.
There are many people who don’t understand how meaningful this verdict was or how the precedent that it sets is so very dangerous. This ruling sends the message that it’s okay to threaten, beat and kill minorities, and that there wont be any consequences for such actions. What’s more, the outcome of firing warning shots at a person who present a real threat demonstrates that if you’re a minority, you don’t have the right to protect yourself. People of color have one prevailing thought in mind: This could have been our children. Or our brothers. Or our nephews. Or even us.