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ROBINSON: Denied the right to be young

Eugene Robinson

Eugene Robinson

WASHINGTON -- Justice failed Trayvon Martin the night he was killed. We should be appalled and outraged, but perhaps not surprised, that it failed him again Saturday night with a verdict setting his killer free.

Our society considers young black men to be dangerous, interchangeable, expendable, guilty until proven innocent. This is the conversation about race that we desperately need to have -- but probably, as in the past, will try our best to avoid.

George Zimmerman's acquittal was set in motion on Feb. 26, 2012, before Martin's body was cold. When Sanford, Fla., police arrived on the scene, they encountered a grown man who acknowledged killing an unarmed 17-year-old boy. They did not arrest the man or test him for drug or alcohol use. They conducted a less-than-energetic search for forensic evidence. They hardly bothered to look for witnesses.

Only a national outcry forced authorities to investigate the killing seriously. Even after six weeks, evidence was found to justify arresting Zimmerman, charging him with second-degree murder and putting him on trial. But the chance of dispassionately and definitively establishing what happened that night was probably lost. The only complete narrative of what transpired was Zimmerman's.

Jurors knew that Zimmerman was an overeager would-be cop, a self-appointed guardian of the neighborhood who carried a loaded gun. They were told that he profiled Martin -- young, black, hooded sweatshirt -- as a criminal. They heard that he stalked Martin despite the advice of a 911 operator; that the stalking led to a confrontation; and that, in the confrontation, Zimmerman fatally shot Martin in the chest.

The jurors also knew that Martin was carrying only a bag of candy and a soft drink. They knew that Martin was walking from a 7-Eleven to the home of his father's girlfriend when he noticed a strange man in an SUV following him.

To me, and to many who watched the trial, the fact that Zimmerman recklessly initiated the tragic encounter was enough to establish, at a minimum, guilt of manslaughter. The six women on the jury disagreed.

Those jurors also knew that Martin, at the time of his death, was just three weeks past his 17th birthday. But black boys in this country are not allowed to be children. They are assumed to be men, and to be full of menace.

I don't know if the jury, which included no African-Americans, consciously or unconsciously bought into this racist way of thinking -- there's really no other word. But it hardly matters, because police and prosecutors initially did.

The assumption underlying their ho-hum approach to the case was that Zimmerman had the right to self-defense but Martin -- young, male, black -- did not. The assumption was that Zimmerman would fear for his life in a hand-to-hand struggle but Martin -- young, male, black -- would not.

If anyone wonders why African-Americans feel so passionately about this case, it's because we know that our 17-year-old sons are boys, not men. It's because we know their adolescent bravura is just that -- an imitation of manhood, not the real thing.

We know how frightened our sons would be, walking home alone on a rainy night and realizing they were being followed. We know how torn they would be between a child's fear and a child's immature idea of manly behavior. We know how they would struggle to decide the right course of action, flight or fight.

And we know that a skinny boy armed only with candy, no matter how big and bad he tries to seem, does not pose a mortal threat to a healthy adult man who outweighs him by 50 pounds and has had martial arts training (even if the lessons were mostly a waste of money). We know that the boy may well have threatened the man's pride, but likely not his life. How many murders-by-sidewalk have you heard of recently? Or ever?

The conversation we need to have is about how black men, even black boys, are denied the right to be young, to be vulnerable, to make mistakes. We need to talk about why, for example, black men are no more likely than white men to smoke marijuana but nearly four times as likely to be arrested for it -- and condemned to a dead-end cycle of incarceration and unemployment. I call this racism. What do you call it?

Trayvon Martin was fighting more than George Zimmerman that night. He was up against prejudices as old as American history, and he never had a chance.

Comments

Haughton 1 year ago

Ah, yes. Mr. Robinson's neighborhood. The perfect media picture of a "skinny boy armed only with candy" that was set to quickly become a young man armed with a gun.

http://www.cnn.com/2013/07/13/justice/zimmerman-it-firing/?hpt=hp_t1

The tragedy of Travon Martin was set into motion long before February 26, 2012.

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R 1 year ago

I thought he just did ...

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NewsReader 1 year ago

LOL, Yep, what Karl and R said...I just can't articulate my sentiments any better than they just did!

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rocket1350 1 year ago

While I feel for Mr. Martins family, this young man followed a thugish life style as demonstrated by his own actions captured on video, pictures and facebook postings. How many black on black crimes (Chicago comes to mind, the gun control capital of the country) get the same attention as this case. I can't think of any. Why the rage on this man, Mr. Zimmerman. Evidence and testimony were heard by the jury and in the end, George Zimmerman was found not guilty. Evidence that Mr. Martin was the aggressor came to light. You can't expect anyone to sit by, taking a beating (provoked or not) and not defend themselves.

Mr. Zimmerman followed the law and when asked by police not to follow, he turned around and headed back to his car. That is when Mr. Martin came at him and it was Mr. Martin who started the physical altercation.

If Mr. Martin had a gun or took Mr. Zimmerman's and Mr. Zimmerman, we wouldn't be talking about this at all, would we? Zimmerman feared for his life. Yes, a young man is dead. All I can hope is that parents talk with their teenage kids and tell them to use their intellect before using their fists.

Cause, not everyone that has a fist fight come to them going to use just their fists. Mr. Martin learned that lesson the hard way.

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JV 1 year ago

Mr Robinson doesn't want justice, he wants a conviction despite lack a of evidence that Zimmerman committed the crimes he was accused of. He wants to lynch the guy, not with a rope but with a lengthy prison term, despite the fact that the state utterly failed to prove a weak case that arguably should not have been filed in the first place.

Travon Martin did not deserve to die, that's a given. However to depict him as some kind of blameless angel is just plain dishonest. The known facts surrounding the case indicate justice was done, despite a massive leftist media attempt to crucify George Zimmerman without a trial. A boy is dead and that is a tragedy, to advocate for the public lynching of Mr Zimmerman, as many in the media are covertly doing, only makes matters worse.

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FordGalaxy 1 year ago

This is very well stated, JV.


The state over-charged by reaching for second-degree murder. Once they realized their folly, they began to grasp at every imaginable straw, even considering charges of child abuse.


I would go so far as to say if Eugene Robinson actually wanted justice, he wouldn't just decry the Zimmerman case, but he'd also call out the 4 black gang members who killed a white teenager in Mableton, the 2 black gang members in south Georgia who shot a baby in a stroller, and the over-abundance of black-on-black crime in Chicago and other major cities. But those escape media attention. It's only when someone who can possibly be identified as white commits a crime against a black that it garners such media attention. That's a gross injustice in itself.

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notblind 1 year ago

No American of any race has truly realized the implications of the George Zimmerman trial. An innocent man, George Zimmerman, has been attacked by his own federal government. In the George Zimmerman case, ONE man was targeted. One INNOCENT man, as all credible evidence proved. Even the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES jumped on the bandwagon. Barrack Obama's immoral and unethical statements directed at this case show an incredible disdain for the rights of all citizens. His minions sent federal agents to Florida to undermine this citizen's Constitutionally guaranteed civil rights. George Zimmerman's own state government acted in bad faith in their attempt to deny him his civil rights.

Such treatment of a US citizen should be a chilling thought for every US citizen. There is NO greater threat to every individual US citizen than an Executive Branch so run amok that it now feels safe in attacking individuals.

Fortunately a jury of his peers stopped the government, for now, from carrying through this evil act. BUT, even now they are attempting to use it for further attacks on our Second Amendment. The very Amendment that most likely saved George Zimmerman's life.

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NewsReader 1 year ago

Eugene, any time you want to have a serious discussion about race relations in this country, by all means, let’s do it. Let’s start with this one: In a society where everyone is to be treated equally, when one segment of society determines that it is necessary to segregate themselves in order to receive preferential treatment, all the while demanding that they be treated equally, you can never resolve the inequality that exists between segments of a society because one becomes the beneficiary at the expense of the other. And until your resolve and rationalize this difference, you can never achieve harmony between segments in a society.

It is no secret that I despise you and everything you write and stand for. Personally, I fail to understand why GDP continues to publish and perpetuate the endless nonsense you tend to write. Nonetheless, address this one item, and then we can have meaningful discussion about the rest.

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notblind 1 year ago

It's always good to know what the enemy is thinking. We need to thank the GDP for giving us these insights into the thinking of those with an agenda inimical to this country.

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LilburnLady 1 year ago

Statistics from 1993 show that while blacks constitute 12 percent of the American population, they represented 58 percent of the persons arrested for murder, 41 percent arrested for rape, 62 percent arrested for robbery and 40 percent arrested for aggravated assault. Blacks are also disproportionately more likely to be victims of black criminals. In that same year, 94% of black murder victims were killed by another black person. (84% of white murder victims were killed by another white person.)

Males are more likely to commit murder or other violent crimes than females. In 1993, 91% of the people arrested for murder were males and the majority of those arrested were between the ages of 15 and 34. So, the facts show us that young, black males are not only committing a high percentage of violent crimes, they are also eight times more likely to die of a homicide than a white male, most of which, will die by the hands of a fellow black male. Where is the outrage from the black community about this inconvenient truth? Why is the black community not marching and protesting about this? The fact that they are not is hypcritical and shameful. Whites and/or the government cannot change the fact that 1 in 4 black babies is born to a teenage mother and that two thirds of all black children (male and female) are born outside of marriage and will never live under the same roof as their father. Black americans need to look to themselves to take stock of how they came to be in this situation. Taking away guns will not stop the violence. Locking up one hispanic man will not stop the violence. Pouring more money into the 50-year-long "War Against Poverty" will not stop the violence.

Restoring a respect for the sanctity of marriage, restoring a respect for men as integral and needed partners in raising children and establishing stable homes, restoring respect between black males in the black community and turning away from things that cheapen the value of black males and females like gangster rap, the "thug life" and the glorification of drugs, money and violence as symbols of male success would go a long way to stopping the young black male embrace of violence and death.

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notblind 1 year ago

Another chilling aspect is the way the executive branch and the media manipulated this case into a race issue between whites and minorities. By every definition you will find, George Zimmerman IS a minority. The executive branch of the federal government is doing everything in it's power to deny an American minority his civil rights. Where is the outrage ??? Is this America ? It's Barrack Obama's America and people like Mr. Robinson are cheering him on.

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kevin 1 year ago

Glad to see that justice was served. The Liberals asked for a trial and got it!!! Why did Martin attack Zimmerman in the first place? Why don't you ask his supporters that question? I'd shoot also if I were attacked and carried a legal gun. Why carry it if you can't use it? That law is to protect us innocent folks. Sorry old man, your articles are always filled with inaccurate facts and are so biased, it causes us to laugh all the time. Go ask Obama and Eric Holder why they doesn't yell and put on a "show" for their voters about Chicago murders of black on black. The Liberals stay away from that because they can't make money and publicity over those killings. You Liberals are showing your true colors.

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Say_that_again 1 year ago

The above comments are indicative of the extremism we have in this country. Repeated implications that Zimmerman had more rights to defend himself because he carried a concealed weapon. The "assault" started when Zimmerman started following Martin in his vehicle. What would you do if a strange vehicle were following you while you walked home? Then Zimmerman osculated the "assault" when he got out of his vehicle and chased Martin. If you were being chased by some unknown person - no uniform - nothing to indicate any type of authority, what would you do? After Martin couldn't successfully hide from him, he then took advantage of the "stand your ground" law and confronted Zimmerman with the question "Why are you following me?" From this point, we can only surmise what happened but it is obvious that Zimmerman did not answer the question appropriately. Too many people above seem to think that Martin, being black and integrated into the wrong black youth culture indicated some possible future law breaking and thus justifies getting shot. That is blatant racism. The "stand your ground" law does not give one the right to preemptive murder because you suspect wrongful activity in the future. Thus, the pictures on the phone should not be admissible evidence, especially since such pictures are often just staged and not factual. Of more consequence would be the former arrests of George Zimmerman illustrating a violent nature. If this had been known by the jury, outcome well could have been different. Yes, I know I will receive multiple childish insults for stating the truth. Try to at least make them something original and entertaining.

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JV 1 year ago

"Try to at least make them something original and entertaining."

Says a lot about what you value.

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Haughton 1 year ago

"I know I will receive multiple childish insults for stating the truth."

Your Opinions are not the Truth.

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FordGalaxy 1 year ago

Zimmerman never followed Martin in his truck. He stopped and watched Martin, and then followed for a moment on foot. Martin ran away. At that point, the police operator that Zimmerman was on the phone with requested (but not ordered) that Zimmerman not follow Martin. Zimmerman complied and turned back to his truck. At least two minutes later, after Zimmerman finally got of the phone with police, the confrontation began. According to all the evidence, Zimmerman had retreated back to his vehicle to await the police, and it was actually Martin that confronted him, even though Martin had "run off" two minutes earlier, and was only a few hundred feet from his townhome, an easily covered distance for an athletic 17-year-old. And yet, somehow a confrontation ensued. Trayvon's friend told him to run. He ran off into a cold rainy night. And yet, the evidence shows that he confronted Zimmerman and then he, Martin, threw the first punch. If Zimmerman did indeed retreat, as the evidence shows, and Martin then became the aggressor, then Martin was no longer under any type of self-defense. It was then Zimmerman who was defending himself.


See, I offered a rebuttal with insulting you. It's kind of sad that you think so little of your fellow comment-writers.

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Say_that_again 1 year ago

Yes, I am aware that you do usually respond without insults. Unfortunately, many respondents seem to think the only way to carry on a discussion is to copy insults that they heard from people like Rush and apply them to other side. It is not my lowly opinion of them but their own ineptness at a true discussion like you and I have. Your scenario has ignored what was heard on the other side of Trayvon's conversation and blindly accepted that described by Zimmerman, who had great self interest in spinning the tale to better justify his actions. His friend testified to hearing Trayvon say "Why are you following me" after she heard him running away. If Zimmerman were no longer following him, the question would not have been the same. I have not seen a layout of the crime scene that showed the location of Zimmerman,s truck but have seen photos and map of the actual point that Trayvon was shot. It was on a walkway between buildings and not near a street where Zimmerman's vehicle could have been parked so he obviously had not "retreated back to his vehicle".

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FordGalaxy 1 year ago

Fair points, but consider this: have you ever been in a fight? I haven't, though I've seen them. Rarely does a real fight stay within a two-foot radius of where it began. They move. One guy might try to get away. One guy might throw the other a short distance. Such a possibility allows for a Zimmerman-Martin fight to begin at Zimmerman's vehicle, or nearby the vehicle, and then to move elsewhere on the property. It's also possible that Zimmerman retreated to his vehicle, then walked a short distance away to try and catch a glimpse of Martin and where he might be hiding.


To your point about his friends telling Martin to run, and then hearing him say "Why are you following me," I'd be curious to know exactly what time that was said. The police have a detailed record, complete with call times, of Zimmerman's call to the non-emergency hotline. Halfway through that 4 minute conversation, Zimmerman states that Martin has run off. He is heard to be following him until requested not to, at which point, per the phone call (police record) Zimmerman breaks off his movement.


Consider, too, that, while the defense team tried to make Zimmerman look better, the prosecution likewise would do the same for Martin. By that reasoning, it is possible that the friend on the phone would say just that, as there are no witnesses nor record to verify her story, other than her testimony.


As you can see, it's a very convoluted pile of evidence. The simple fact of the matter is the prosecution overcharged by going for second-degree murder. Then, during the trial, they didn't have enough evidence to prove that, thus leaving a reasonable doubt ni the mind of a jury. If there is reasonable doubt then conviction is impossible. Not Guilty was the only logical verdict to the trumped-up charge of murder-two.

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Say_that_again 1 year ago

From the crime scene photographs and the charts displayed in court, this is not a matter of a few feet but, estimating from the photograph, a minimum of 50 feet from the nearest street. From the chart displayed in, seems like further than that. We do know that Zimmerman misrepresented some facts and exaggerated others. His lawyer also lied about things not in evidence, for instance the ridiculous claim that Trayvon Martin could run a 4 minute mile. If he could, he would be in the record books since no high schooler in the USA has managed that feat. I see that neither of us has heard the entire 911 recording nor listened to the entire trial which puts us in a position of not having all the facts available and sometimes relying on some press release to fill in the gaps, therefore argueing the exact actions of Zimmerman and Martin are mute. But the fact remains that Zimmerman began the entire problem by getting out of his truck and following Trayvon while armed with a gun for which he should not have been licensed because of his previous arrests for assault. His previous arrests are public record and available on the internet, took me five minutes to find them. To help you, his full name is George Michael Zimmerman arrested in Orange County Fla.

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FordGalaxy 1 year ago

I know that Zimmerman had been arrested in the past. Like you said, that's public information. I also know that Zimmerman was trying to become a police officer. He was also probably hyper-sensitivie to anyone in the area that he felt was out of place. Consider the situation...the neighborhood had seen several break-ins in recent days and weeks. As a neighborhood watchman, you see a young man "walking about." It's cold and rainy, so just walking about doesn't seem the wisest thing to do. Once the young man notices you watching him, he takes off running. At the time he starts running to the time you hang up with the cops is two minutes. Heck, I'm overweight and have a bad knee and back, but if given the proper motivation I could cover a lot of ground in two minutes. Surely enough to hide out of harm's way, perhaps even enough to run the few hundred feet to my house. But you se this kid run away and you don't know what he's up to. The cops request that you not follow. You comply. Perhaps, however, during your wait for the cops to arrive, you walk several feet away to try and catch of glimpse of where the kid ran off to. You're not brandishing a weapon, so the kid has no reasonable way of knowing you have one. As you walk around to try and see where he went, he steps out of the shadows and confronts you. A struggle ensues and he ends up on top of you, pummeling you with his fists and smashing the back of your head against a concrete sidewalk. What does a reasonable person do? Just lay there and take the beating (assuming yourself to be in the wrong because you grew suspicious of someone you didn't know in an area in which several robberies had occured)? Or do you do whatever it takes to save your own life? This is not about "stand your ground." This is about straight-up 'self-defense.' Zimmerman had not brandished a weapon at Martin. The biggest threat he was to Martin was that he was following him. If "following someone" is now grounds for the followed to turn and beat them up, then I should get to attack anyone who simply follows me down a hallway at work.


We'll never know who started the confrontation. The evidence was not strong enough to convict Zimmerman of 'murder-two.' The jury got it right, no matter who much Hollywood, athletes, the Congressional Black Caucus, and the NAACP refuse to see it.

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NewsReader 1 year ago

Why would Zimmerman's previous arrests be of any more consequence than that of Martin's history? Either put all of the cards out on the table or suppress them both.

As to your comment about "...blatant racism...", it is unfounded when you start off with "...Too many people above seem to think..."! Seriously, how do you know what these people think?

You see, I didn't insult you at all, now did I? See if you can answer these questions with something that resembles a fact rather than an opinion.

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kevin 1 year ago

Nope. The "assault" started when Martin started jumping and attacking Zimmerman. Boy how Liberals change the facts to suit them. I would have fired the first shot if this happened to me and cold have cared less who the attacker was. Race was not in play here. Haven't you folks changed the story enough times and you still will not change the correct verdict? Are you calling the FBI liars after verifying that Zimmerman was not a racist? You just can;t live with the truth can you?

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Haughton 1 year ago

"But the fact remains that Zimmerman began the entire problem by getting out of his truck and following Trayvon while armed with a gun for which he should not have been licensed because of his previous arrests for assault. His previous arrests are public record and available on the internet, took me five minutes to find them. To help you, his full name is George Michael Zimmerman arrested in Orange County Fla"


Both GZ and TM had legal rights to do what they were doing. Assault is an Act, and anything leading up to that is mute. When TM acted and phyically assaulted GM, that is where the legal side of this tragedy starts and ends. Period.

GZ and TM were equally at fault - nothing illegal - at all points leading up to the physical assault on GZ. GZ is not the entire problem, as the TM was not where he should have been. Suspended from school, a guest in a home in a high crime neighborhood where he did not legally reside, out at midnight dressed in clothing to disguise ones appearance.

GZ has every right to carry a firearm. Arrests are not Convictions. Law enforcement and legal system are overrun with claims of dometic violence and abuse that are false. One can only assume that the judge and prosecution in this case saw no merit in GZ's alleged past "violent nature".

http://www.saveservices.org/camp/faam-2011/false-accusations-of-domestic-violence-by-the-numbers/

By law, GZ's gun was returned to him.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/13/george-zimmerman-gun_n_3593185.html

The continual assumption and whining that both GZ and his attorneys lied and misrepresented the FACTS could be placed on the prosecution side as well. The lies, coverup, and legal responsiblitity to hand over evidence and information to the defense team is more problematic.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/07/16/us-usa-florida-shooting-lawsuit-idUSBRE96F1EL20130716

http://www.cnn.com/2013/07/13/justice/zimmerman-it-firing

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notblind 1 year ago

The only actual eye witness to the crime scene has TM on top of GZ pounding his head into the sidewalk. Why do some people accept this as the only credible account of that night and others act like it never happened ??

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LilburnsFuture 1 year ago

To put this trial into perspective of the Jurors, one only needs to ask one thing. What if George Zimmerman was a woman? All of the jurors except for the back up, were women. Each woman only had to imagine if a man, any man or woman was on top of them beating them regardless of the events leading up to it what would they find reasonable. If they had a weapon, they would use it to defend themselves and end a fight.

If you grew up in the hood, you know there is what is called skreet justice. The use of k is intentional. It refers to a different kind of hood world and justice associated to it. Gangs are notorious for not asking who is really at fault. They simply say, you get my guy, I get one of yours. Usually, they wonder into territory they are not supposed to.

With that being said, skreet justice would say that Trayvon was heading to his house but not through any other gang territory. This is why so many are upset.

What happened to Trayvon is a very sad tragedy. What will happen to Zimmerman will be equally so if not worse. The difference is that Trayvon will be remembered as a kid who will rest in peace. Zimmerman will never find peace until his end. Until then he will be looking over his back as well as his entire family.

To conclude, skreet justice HAS been served not in the way you think it is. One will rest in peace the other will know he is doomed to fear for his life and the lives of his family like everyone else that lives in a gang controlled neighborhood.

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kevin 1 year ago

Liberals can't stand the truth when they lose. They asked for the trail, remember. Justice prevailed, as usual, just like in the OJ Simpson trial.

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