The trial of George Zimmerman for the murder of Trayvon Martin concluded with a not guilty verdict. But Zimmerman is far from innocent and the entire case reminds us of the pervasive nature of racism in the U.S.
Zimmerman racially profiled 17-year old Trayvon Benjamin Martin. When he saw this African American teenager innocently strolling through his neighborhood, unarmed, he concluded, “There walks a criminal.”
Carrying a concealed weapon, Zimmerman proceeded to follow. When told by the 911 operator to get back in his car, this wannabe cop instead confronted Trayvon, ultimately firing his gun point blank, taking the teen’s life.
Local prosecutors initially did not pursue the case. But nationwide protests led to the gunman’s prosecution by the State of Florida.
Zimmerman’s acquittal now sets a dangerous precedent and gives new legal cover for open acts of racist violence under the guise of “self defense.” The basic thinking behind the law goes back to Jim Crow and lynch mob “justice.” It is part and parcel of the extreme right’s attempt to turn back the clock on social progress.
But this is is not solely a case of individual bigotry. It highlights the complex interplay of segregation, institutional racism, cultural bias, rightwing laws and a policing and justice system stacked against people of color.
At the same time there is a broad sentiment across the majority of U.S. people for justice and fairness and a growing anti-racist consciousness.
It is no coincidence that the Tea Party and the extreme right are pushing austerity and the criminalization of the working class and poor especially in the most impoverished Black and Latino communities and at the same time advocate mass proliferation of fear, guns and vigilantism among whites.
It is clearly indicative of a high level of desperation. Racism has been the main weapon of division in U.S. capitalism since slavery and so it remains today.
That is why it is so important that tens of thousands of all races and nationalities have already hit the streets to protest the verdict. Hundreds of thousands more have signed petitions demanding the U.S. Justice Department file a civil rights suit against Zimmerman.
The National Action Network and other civil rights groups are calling for “Justice for Trayvon” rallies and prayer vigils at federal buildings in 100 cities across the country on Saturday, July 20.
In addition, a large coalition of civil rights, labor and religious organizations are advocating a massive march on Washington D.C. on August 24 to commemorate the great 1963 March for Jobs and Freedom.
In reaction to the Zimmerman verdict, a new multi-racial, anti-racist, pro-justice and equality movement for all people is taking shape across the country. Along with it comes the possibility of a new level of unity.
This movement is setting the stage for a big push at the polls in next year’s midterm election.
The Republican right helps create the atmosphere conducive to open racism. They represent the most reactionary section of the 1%. They are the ones pushing attacks on voting rights, gutting social services and starving city budgets. They are the ones pushing the spread of unconstitutional “stop and frisk” and “stand your ground” laws and undermining civil rights generally. Not to mention they are on the attack against abortion rights, marriage equality and immigrant rights as well.
It’s time to push back: put on your walking shoes, the stakes couldn’t be higher.
Come to Washington DC on August 24 to commemorate the historic “March on Washington” and to demand justice for Trayvon Martin and his family.
The Zimmerman verdict is having a big impact on the whole political direction of the country. The time to act is now.
PHOTO: Overpass Light Brigade