Racial justice

The U.S. v. Trayvon Martin: How the System Worked by Robin D.G. Kelley, huffingtonpost.com, July 15, 2012 …In our allegedly postracial moment, where simply talking about racism openly is considered an impolitic, if not racist, thing to do, we constantly learn and re-learn racial codes.…The successful transformation of [George] Zimmerman into the victim of black predatory violence was evident not only in the verdict but in the stunning Orwellian language defense lawyers Mark O’Mara and Don West employed in the post-verdict interview…And yet, it would be a mistake to place the verdict at the feet of the defense for its unscrupulous use of race, or to blame the prosecution for avoiding race, or the jury for insensitivity, or even the gun lobby for creating the conditions that have made the killing of young black men justifiable homicide. The verdict did not surprise me, or most people I know, because we’ve been here before…The point is that justice was always going to elude Trayvon Martin, not because the system failed, but because it worked. Martin died and Zimmerman walked because our entire political and legal foundations were built on an ideology of settler colonialism — an ideology in which the protection of white property rights was always sacrosanct; predators and threats to those privileges were almost always black, brown, and red; and where the very purpose of police power was to discipline, monitor, and contain populations rendered a threat to white property and privilege…If we do not come to terms with this history, we will continue to believe that the system just needs to be tweaked, or that the fault lies with a fanatical gun culture or a wacky right-wing fringe…Unless we challenge the entire criminal justice system and mass incarceration, there will be many more Trayvon Martins and a constant dread that one of our children might be next. As long as we continue to uphold and defend a system designed to protect white privilege, property and personhood, and render black and brown people predators, criminals, illegals, and terrorists, we will continue to attend funerals and rallies; watch in stunned silence as another police officer or vigilante is acquitted after taking another young life; allow our government to kill civilians in our name; and inherit a society in which our prisons and jails become the largest, most diverse institutions in the country. full text

The Truth About Trayvon By Ekow N. Yankah, New York Times, July 15, 2013 -THE Trayvon Martin verdict …what this case reveals in its overall shape is precisely what the law is unable to see in its narrow focus on the details. The anger felt by so many African-Americans speaks to the simplest of truths: that race and law cannot be cleanly separated...This is about more than one case. Our reasons for presuming, profiling and acting are always deeply racialized, and the Zimmerman trial, in ignoring that, left those reasons unexplored and unrefuted… every time a case like this offers a chance for the country to tackle the evil of racial discrimination in our criminal law, courts have deliberately silenced our ability to expose it. The Supreme Court has held that even if your race is what makes your actions suspicious to the police, their suspicions are reasonable so long as an officer can later construct a race-neutral narrativeThere is no quick answer for the historical use of our criminal law to reinforce and then punish social stereotypes. But pretending that reasonable doubt is a value-free clinical term, as so many people did so readily in the Zimmerman case, only insulates injustice in plain sight. Without an honest jurisprudence that is brave enough to tackle the way race infuses our criminal law, Trayvon Martin’s voice will be silenced again…I can imagine a jurisprudence that at least begins to use racial disparities as a tool to question the constitutionality of criminal punishment. And above all, I can imagine a jurisprudence that does not pretend, as lawyers for both sides (but no one else) did in the Zimmerman case, that doubts have no color.  full text

The Zimmerman Verdict Is a Wakeup Call to Address the Deep and Structural Injustices in America By Makani ThembaAlterNet, July 15, 2013   Makani Themba is executive director of The Praxis Project.- …It is wrong. It is an atrocity. There’s no way this verdict would have gone down if Trayvon was white. The legal argument that led to this verdict, which is centuries old, could not exist without de facto acceptance of racism as legitimate motive and Blackness itself as life threateningThe Zimmerman trial was essentially an opportunity to lay more legal groundwork to advance vigilantism. Let’s face it.   This is a standard ‘go to’ move in the white supremacy handbook because the vigilante state is particularly important when the “majority” becomes a “minority” as a way to hold power without the pretense of democracy…What is most important, however, is the structural analysis and strategy that undergirds their work. Much of our work – in stark contrast – is focused at the level of individual casework.  And it’s just not enough. We often labor under the mistaken assumption that law is created by case history and argued in courts.  As a result, the bulk of resources targeted for racial justice work are invested in groups engaged in legal defense strategies.  Yet, law is so much more than cases.  Law is a fluid amalgamation of principle – ideals like freedom, liberty, equality; public perception and meaning – how we come to understand what principles mean in our current context; code – the nitty gritty words and technicalities that make up how these principles are implemented to and for whom; andcoercion and intimidation – we follow laws that don’t work for us because we’d rather not deal with the consequences. The Right understands the importance of all these elements in the forging of law and social norms…Yes, we should support efforts to bring Zimmerman up on civil rights charges.….…. We must also be more adept at leveraging human rights tools at our disposal to take our efforts beyond the limited framework of the Constitution  and reimagine remedies at a macro-systemic level including, yes, even reparations. Ending this tragic history of murder and mayhem; ensuring that there are no more Trayvons or Oscars or Vincents or Addie Maes requires an upending of the deeply entrenched structures that led to their deaths in the first place.  Let’s hope that this latest wakeup call will inspire more of us to take on the deeper work of structural transformation to make tragedies like these a thing of the past.     full text      

The Zimmerman Acquittal: America’s Racist God by Anthea Butler, ReligionDispatches.com, July 14, 2013 – …The lamentation of the African-American community at yet another injustice, the surprise and disgust of others who understand, stand against this pseudo-god of capitalism and incarceration that threaten to take over our nation. While many continue to proclaim that the religious right is over, they’re wrong. The religious right is flourishing, and unlike the right of the 1970s, religious conservatism of the 21st century is in bed with the prison industrial complex, the Koch brothers, the NRA—all while proclaiming that they are “pro-life.” They are anything but…As a historian of American and African-American religion, I know that the Trayvon Martin moment is just one moment in a history of racism in America that, in large part, has its underpinnings in Christianity and its history. Those of us who teach American Religion have a responsibility to tell all of the story, not just the nice touchy-feely parts. When the good Christians of America are some of its biggest racists, one has to consider our moral responsibility to call out those who clearly are not for human flourishing, no matter what ethnicity a person is. Where are you on that scale? I know where I am. full text

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