White Female Jurors and Florida Justice
Thinking like Trayvon means that I first have to know how I am different than him, and then maybe also similar. So I have to try really hard to imagine what it feels like to a young black man/boy who is racially profiled and wary of a man who is stalking him. Whatever the provocation and the series of events that led to his death Trayvon was not initially the predator, or stalker, or gun carrier. It really is just not fair that Trayvon, who is dead has the total burden of proof at his end—so he has to be beyond doubt faultless. It is impossible to be a young black man and assumed to be faultless in this country. There is no neutral/objective starting point for this legal case so the best that the jury could do is try to become neutral and not think like a “white racist.” That did not happen.
If you are thinking “like a white female”—which would mean that you do not think you need to be self-conscious about this limitation for seeing and hearing and listening to the facts about an assault that involves racial profiling—then you are not able to see the difference between reasonable doubt and racism. If you see “racially” to begin with, “like a white female” with no recognition of white privilege, then you won’t see the racial motivation in the killing. If Trayvon Martin were white, he would still be alive. And if Zimmerman were Black he almost assuredly would have been arrested immediately and found guilty of murder. What more does one need to know here?
Of course I know almost nothing about these women of the jury other than what we have been told which is hardly anything. But I can wonder what they were not thinking about when they followed the strictures of the court the way they did. This same wondering should be applied to the white female judge who gave a total endorsement to the stand your ground law in her instructions to the jury along with her insistence that racial profiling was disallowed as a term in her court.
No one is bias free. And no one in this country is racially bias free. But you have a chance at controlling the limitations of bias if you recognize it, name it, and curtail for it.
I hate the fact that the jury’s race seems to have trumped their gender—they could not see themselves like Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon’s mother. Instead they allowed a piece of sidewalk to be a weapon; as though Trayvon had done something to cause his own death. Instead of “imagining” themselves as a Black mother (maybe) these women allowed their own fears about (sexual) assault by a black male youth to stand in for the actual crime. We will not know given that racialized viewings and their sexualized meanings remained silenced and “irrelevant.”
I am wondering if they ever wondered if they were Trayvon what they would have done? Or what their child would have done if caught in such a circumstance.
(In)justice and White Privilege
The U.S. justice system in unjust. It is rooted in law that pretends to be impartial and objective and rational when it simultaneously protects inequalities of race and gender and sex and class. Ta-Nehisi Coates writes of the trial and the verdict, that it is “not a miscarriage of justice but US justice itself”; that it is not a mal-functioning of law, but its effective functioning.
I live with my spouse who is an attorney. For the past 28 years I have heard about “beyond a reasonable doubt,” the “burden of proof,” “insufficient instruction to the jury,” and “procedural (in)justice.” Given Florida’s stand your ground law many have argued it was impossible to find Zimmerman guilty beyond a “reasonable doubt.” There is no reasonable doubt that Trayvon Martin was racially profiled. The facts by now are well known. Martin was doing nothing out of the ordinary. Zimmerman had a thing about Blacks in his neighborhood.