Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged?

The decision in the Florida murder trial of George Zimmerman is being treated as a case of racism, but while the murder itself could well have been motivated by race, the jury decision hardly needed to have been.

The crippling social disease of American racism is all too often dumped on individuals or groups or locales thereby leaving the social order relatively unquestioned and allowing certain Americans to feel free of the disease and superior to those who seem to more obviously suffer its worst aspects. Thus we have divisions of the public into “minorities” and Red state – Blue state and ethnic-religious-sex Balkanized groups. These prevent coming together as a democratic majority to confront and solve social problems for the benefit of all and not just a minority of rich people and their professional class multi-cultural servants who help perpetuate their system.

While Trayvon Martin’s death seems an obvious outcome of racism in America, the jury decision finding George Zimmerman innocent is no more obviously racist than the jury decision was in the famous O.J.Simpson case. The law itself – and it should be remembered that the law’s purpose is the foundation and maintenance of the system, not its replacement or radical change – and the ineffective and amateurish performance of the prosecutors may have played as big a role for Zimmerman as that of the prosecution in the Simpson murder case in which many believed the decision of innocence was for reasons of…reverse racism?

Much of the “white” public was convinced of Simpson’s guilt, partly because he was “black”, while much of the “Black” public was convinced of his innocence, also partly because he was “black”. Did racism play a role in creating that dichotomy? Does a snake have wings?

While a highly paid defense team, greatly aided by another group of ineffective and amateurish members of a prosecution team, convinced a jury of Simpson’s innocence, many still believe he got off because of race and not evidence. Is there a relationship between the two cases? Is a bluebird blue?

What some called an affirmative action decision for Simpson could be seen as exactly the reverse for Trayvon Martin. His representation (?) was as botched as that of the two murdered “white” people in the Simpson case, but with a jury of none of his peers, while there was allegedly racial fairness in the O.J. jury. But just as Affirmative Action has been to the great advantage of a small minority of beneficiaries while totally neglecting a great majority who truly need help to overcome socially created obstacles, the legal-judicial process has hurt far more than it has aided while strengthening a failing system that punishes more while it rewards less. That point may be lost in the individual focus on one victim or assailant that misses the social victims who pay a heavy price of being assailed systemically, and not only by a jealous ex-husband or wannabe-vigilante.

Trayvon Martin was killed because he was young and black and thereby considered a menace by a self appointed protector of his community from such “criminal types”. But Zimmerman was hardly alone in accepting that characterization and, in truth, many American communities with signs claiming “neighborhood watch” or “we report suspicious activity” would have found middle class dwellers phoning the police to report a young black man wandering “their” streets. And one of those callers might well have been an upper middle class “black” wondering what that person was doing in his or her upscale neighborhood. The confrontation between Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin might have been unique in its terrible outcome, but the suspicions that created it are far too common in America.

The repeated characterization of Trayvon as a “child” and not simply a minor only helped to twist material reality almost as much as the other side’s depiction of him as a thug because he had gold teeth and smoked pot. The infantilization of this young man might have provoked him into cursing someone out if it had been done to his face, and in truth hardly any seventeen year old would like being called a child. But Trayvon certainly was not killed because he was a child. He died because he was seen as a young black man and thereby as a potential criminal threat, with no more evidence for that suspicion than the fact that he was: a young black man.

That crippling social disease is hardly a problem for only Florida, or one vigilante, or an alleged racist jury, which though it contained absolutely none of Trayvon’s peers could easily under the circumstances find the killer innocent of murder and do so without any trace of overt racism.

The crime itself was an aspect of racism in the USA – not just Florida – but the jury decision was hardly an expression of the white-is-evil analysis coming from too many who strengthen continued divisions among Americans and make it more difficult to bring about real and not cosmetic social change by acting as a people and not just a gang of minorities in endless combat with one another. That is the law of the marketplace, but it has nothing to do with a democratic system that not just theoretically but in practice treats all people equally. Identifying some of us as being more if not totally responsible for problems that all of us share is a program for continued and greater social stress that will make solutions less possible. That’s exactly what our rulers want and what we should work against.

Those ignorant enough to think Florida is uniquely racist should remember that Oscar Grant was not murdered in Florida, but in the “hip” Bay Area. Those who think Oakland, Grant’s hometown, is uniquely racist should remember that Amadou Diallo wound up with nineteen bullets shredding his body, and he was in “hip” New York City. The idea that one locale or community is somehow better or worse than another in matters like race relations makes it easy to continue the disrespect and contempt that too many Americans hold for their fellow citizens.

The ugliness that led to the killing of Trayvon is a national problem. It closely concerns our history and divisions of class that make it possible for some people – of all alleged minorities – to make it, often big-time, while most people struggle to survive. The strugglers need to identify the roots of their problems, and simplistically reducing them to skin tone, immigration status, sexuality or dress code will do nothing but add to the woes we face if we don’t change an environment that threatens all of us by hyphenating our citizenship and reducing us to minorities. We are the majority and we need to start acting that way.

A more direct focus on the political economics at the root of our society’s problems would be a bigger help in ending racism than any false concentration on only certain political parties, geographic regions and demonic individuals as being responsible for all that is wrong with America.

Frank Scott writes political commentary which appears in print in the Coastal Post and The Independent Monitor and online at the blog Legalienate. Read other articles by Frank.