Everything that is immoral is not illegal—nor should it be. I want to live in a society that presumes innocence. I want to live in that society even when I feel that a person should be punished.– Ta-Nehisi Coates, on the killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman. (via theatlantic)
In the full post, which you should read, Coates also recommends reading New Yorker posts by Jelani Cobb. Some or all of those might be behind a paywall, so I’m posting an excerpt here. And remember that, increasingly, newsrooms and periodicals have fewer voices of color (is that a thing?) at a time when they’re needed more and more.
We can take from this verdict the understanding that it means validation for the idea that the actions George Zimmerman took that night are those of a reasonable man, that the conclusions he drew are sound, and that a black teenager can be considered armed any time he is walking down a paved street. We can take from this trial the knowledge that a grieving family was capable of displaying inestimable reserves of grace. Following the verdict Sybrina Fulton posted a benediction to Twitter: “Lord during my darkest hour I lean on you. You are all that I have. At the end of the day, GOD is still in control.” The Twitter account of Tracy Martin, Trayvon’s father, features an image of him holding Trayvon as a toddler, a birthday hat perched on the boy’s head. At trial, they sat through a grim procession of autopsy photos and audio of the gunshot that ended their son’s life. No matter what the verdict, their simple pursuit of justice meant amplifying the trauma of their loss by some unknowable exponent.
There’s fear that the verdict will embolden vigilantes but that need not be the concern: History has already done that. You need not recall specifics of everything that has transpired in Florida over the past two hundred years to recognize this. The details of Rosewood, the black town terrorized and burned to the ground in 1923, and of Groveland and the black men falsely accused of rape and murdered there in 1949, can remain obscure and retain sway over our present concerns. Names—like Claude Neal, lynched in 1934, and Harry and Harriette Moore, N.A.A.C.P. organizers in Mims County, killed by a firebomb in 1951—can be overlooked. What cannot be forgotten, however, is that there were no consequences for those actions.
Perhaps history does not repeat itself exactly, but it is certainly prone to extended paraphrases. Long before the jury announced its decision, many people had seen what the outcome would be, had known it would be a strange echo of the words Zimmerman uttered that rainy night in central Florida: they always get away.
July 14, 2013
September 28, 2012
May 22, 2012
May 21, 2012
February 21, 2012
February 21, 2012