Saturday, July 27, 2013
(NOTE: one juror, the only minority on the jury, has come forward)
George Zimmerman, the overt and the fear
When the verdict came out that George Zimmerman was found not guilty, something about that felt oddly out of place. Many predicted the outcome, but the result was still unsettling. Dividing America into black and white, literally, what had seemed like racial progress was turned upside down.
For all the marches, brave sit ins and bold ventures on buses, all the progress made by African—Americans and sympathetic whites was suddenly null void. The dream of a racially blind America could is still a dream. If you found Zimmerman guilty or innocent, this trial was about more than one man. This trial was about an ambivalent America that views all black youth as black villains.
The details of the night who said what will never be known. Only the participants, one dead and one living will ever know. What is not subject for debate is that Zimmerman chased a young man and eventually shot him. The young man in question did not have a gun.
Having been a neighborhood watch volunteer, from the training I know this to be true,you are told that you are never to interfere with a crime in progress. If you see something suspicious, do not get involved. You are the eyes and ears of the authorities, not the feet, legs arms and well-armed arms. This is a point strongly stressed. Apparently Zimmerman forgot the constraints that define neighborhood watch.
When the verdict was announced, shortly thereafter one of the jurors, it was an all-female jury, explained what took place behind the scenes. Her face hidden in shadows, she gave a carefully worded explanation of what they were thinking. Apparently she was not so confident in her decision to make herself known. That fact alone draws considerable attention.
If everyone agreed, why hide in shadows? Who has something to fear? Could there be retaliation, or the fear that the public sentiment went the other way this time, both black and white, could that be the fear? Clearly the jurors were not confident that they got this one right. They clearly feared something.
Pundits were clearly drawing conclusions, but the real focus here is about something deeper. There is a deep seated fear surrounded black youth and no one wants to say why or how. The reasons are deep seated.
Sliding under the radar of all the conversations is that so much of contemporary African-American imagery in the popular media is negative. From the image of the pimp to the young black criminal, the reality of African-American life is in a sharp contrast to the pop cultural depictions. The disconnect is jarring. Once you witness African-American life up close, it is not that wildly different than white America. While there are some minor social differences, the dreams, aspirations and anxieties are the same.
With a President of both African and American ancestry, the world was quick to say racism had ended. On one level it has. The overt racism is gone. Now it is hidden in code words. The insults are not hitting the targets. Instead they are doing a ballet dance around them.
Thomas Wolf summed all of this up a long time ago in the eerie prophetic “Bonfire of the Vanities.” He saw all of the ugliness, including profiteers who make money wherever hate can be marketed, that marked race relations. In the book tensions mounted into a scene not too dissimilar from what happened in Florida on some levels. Wolf predicted it and now it is playing out on television.
It is so hard to look at George Zimmerman and wonder had Zimmerman been black and an innocent white youth was dead would the verdict be innocent? The very fact we are even asking tells us much.