With the verdict of Zimmerman already made, so are questions and answers. Particularly, the value of a black man in a legal system that hails its origins from a history of devaluing people who are black.
We already knew Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin, all evidence pointed to that clear fact, but whether or not he killed him was not the point. The point was to prove that it was justifiable for Zimmerman to go to such lengths–and according to the jury, it was. According to the jury, Zimmerman could racially profile Trayvon, hunt him down, instigate a fight, and when it didn’t go in Zimmerman’s favor, kill the boy. You don’t have to be intelligent, you don’t have to have a moral compass, and you don’t even have to not be a racist to see the contradictions behind this case. Racism permeated every aspect of it, regardless if the judge allowed race to be acknowledged or not.
It’s now legal to kill an unarmed black teenager in the name of self-defense. America has had a long history of systematically oppressing African-Americans through an unjust legal system, and the court has generally always favored against the interests of African-Americans. With the Dread Scott case, slavery and blackness were clearly defined. With Plessy v. Ferguson, the court ruled in favor of Jim Crow, reinforcing an overtly unequal, oppressive, psychologically damaging racial hierarchy–one which we are still recovering from today and seeing its reminiscence clearly outlined in black existence. Then with McCleskey v. Kemp, the Supreme Court reinforced mass incarceration, and we continued to watch millions of blacks being unjustly herded into prisons across the country.
And then, last month, we saw Affirmative Action put on life support, we saw The Voting Rights Act of 1965 slaughtered in front of our faces, and this week we saw a young boy’s legacy put in vain as a senseless murder was supported by the court.
So when I look back on history, yes, I am not surprised by the verdict, but that doesn’t mean I still can’t be heart-broken. I’m heart-broken because it has been made clear my skin–an attribute I had no more a decision over than the weather–has made me a third class citizen even when we have a black president. I am heart-broken because anyone who looks like me is devalued by the standards of the current criminal justice system. I am heart-broken because I am coming to terms with how evident racism is and that maybe true justice, under the current social structures and institutions, can never adequately exist.
This case is bigger than one individual killing another. It holds more significance than upholding justice, this case held the value of African-Americans in a country that claims to be past racism. Unfortunately, the tides did not move in the direction we had hoped. Justice did not prevail, because blacks–after 400 years and a black president–still are not in the vision of freedom, or included in “and justice for all.”
I’m not mad at Zimmerman, I’m mad at a society that produced the mindset he holds, I’m mad at organizations and media outlets that chose to support the modern-day lynching, I’m mad at a legal system that chose to back racism, and, most of all, I’m mad at country that has continued to allow all of these injustices to happen.