jump to navigation

George Zimmerman, Not Guilty: Blood on the Leaves July 14, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Florida, Race, Racism.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,
1 comment so far

 

Roger’s note: add WWB (walking while Black) to DWB (driving while Black) to the list of booby trapped “crimes” that Black Americans face every day.  After being stalked and harassed, young Trayvon Martin is found guilty (posthumously) by a 5/6 White jury  of assaulting Zimmerman to the point where he (young Trayvon, walking home from buying some snacks) “justifiably” had his young life snuffed out  .  Trayvon was not unarmed, according to the Zimmerman defense, the sidewalk was his weapon.  It would be laughable if it were not truly disgusting.  The shameless defense lawyers went to the ridiculous extreme of showing the jury a slab of concrete sidewalk.  Virtually every African American lives in an Alice in Wonderland world of execution first, trial later.  SHAME.

 

 

The not-guilty verdict in the George Zimmerman trial came down moments after I left a screening of “Fruitvale Station,” a film about the police-shooting death of Oscar Grant four years ago in Oakland. Much of the audience sat quietly sobbing as the closing credits rolled, moved by the narrative of a young black man, unarmed and senselessly gone. Words were not needed to express a common understanding: to Zimmerman, Trayvon Martin, the seventeen-year-old he shot, fit the description; for black America, the circumstances of his death did.

George Zimmerman is congratulated by his lawyers after being found not guilty in the death of Trayvon Martin (Photo: Joe Burbank-Pool/Getty)

The familiarity dulled the sharp edges of the tragedy. The decision the six jurors reached on Saturday evening will inspire anger, frustration, and despair, but little surprise, and this is the most deeply saddening aspect of the entire affair. From the outset— throughout the forty-four days it took for there to be an arrest, and then in the sixteen months it took to for the case to come to trial—there was a nagging suspicion that it would culminate in disappointment. Call this historical profiling.

The most damning element here is not that George Zimmerman was found not guilty: it’s the bitter knowledge that Trayvon Martin was found guilty. During his cross examination of Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, the defense attorney Mark O’Mara asked if she was avoiding the idea that her son had done something to cause his own death. During closing arguments, the defense informed the jury that Martin was armed because he weaponized a sidewalk and used it to bludgeon Zimmerman. During his post-verdict press conference, O’Mara said that, were his client black, he would never have been charged. At the defense’s table, and in the precincts far beyond it where donors have stepped forward to contribute funds to underwrite their efforts, there is a sense that Zimmerman was the victim.

“The most damning element here is not that George Zimmerman was found not guilty: it’s the bitter knowledge that Trayvon Martin was found guilty.”

O’Mara’s statement echoed a criticism that began circulating long before Martin and Zimmerman encountered each other. Thousands of black boys die at the hands of other African Americans each year, but the black community, it holds, is concerned only when those deaths are caused by whites. It’s an appealing argument, and widespread, but it’s simplistic and obtuse. It’s a belief most easily held when you’ve not witnessed peace rallies and makeshift memorials, when you’ve turned a blind eye to grassroots organizations like the Interrupters in Chicago, who are working valiantly to stem the tide of violence in that city. It is the thinking of people who’ve never wondered why African Americans disproportionately support strict gun-control legislation. The added quotient of outrage in cases like this one stems not from the belief that a white murderer is somehow worse than a black one but from the knowledge that race determines whether fear, history, and public sentiment offer that killer a usable alibi.

The thousands who gathered last spring in New York, in St. Louis, in Philadelphia, in Miami, and in Washington, D.C., to demand Zimmerman’s arrest shared a narrative and an understanding of the past’s grip on the present. Long before the horrifying images of Martin lying prone and lifeless in the grass ever made their way to Gawker, he’d already begun inspiring references to the line about “blood on the leaves” from Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit.” Those crowds were the response of people who understand that history is interred in the shallowest of graves.

Yet the problem is not that this case marks a low point in this country’s racial history—it’s that, after two centuries of common history, we’re still obligated to chart high points and low ones. To be black at times like this is to see current events on a real-time ticker, a Dow Jones average measuring the quality of one’s citizenship. Trayvon Martin’s death is an American tragedy, but it will mainly be understood as an African-American one. That it occurred in a country that elected and reëlected a black President doesn’t diminish the despair this verdict inspires, it intensifies it. The fact that such a thing can happen at a moment of unparalleled political empowerment tells us that events like these are a hard, unchanging element of our landscape.

We can understand the verdict to mean validation for the idea that the actions Zimmerman took that night were those of a reasonable man, that the conclusions he drew were sound, and that a black teen-ager 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 the trial, they sat through a grim procession of autopsy photos and audio of the gunshot that ended their son’s life. No matter 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 don’t have to 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 that it would be a strange echo of the words Zimmerman uttered that rainy night in central Florida: they always get away.

Jelani Cobb

Jelani Cobb Ph.D. is an American author and educator, Associate Professor of History and Director of the Institute for African American Studies at University of Connecticut in Storrs, Connecticut.

How Baseball Explains Modern Racism October 3, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Sports.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment
 Roger’s note: the “Immortal” Satchel Paige would have transcended the racist umpires, but alas perhaps the greatest pitcher of all time only made it to the Show post-Jackie Robinson, at a time when he was already changing his great grandchildren’s diapers.

Friday 30 September 2011

by: David Sirota, Truthout         | Op-Ed

Despite recent odes to “post-racial” sensibilities, persistent racial wage and unemployment gaps show that prejudice is alive and well in America. Nonetheless, that truism is often angrily denied or willfully ignored in our society, in part because prejudice is so much more difficult to recognize on a day-to-day basis. As opposed to the Jim Crow era of white hoods and lynch mobs, 21st century American bigotry is now more often an unseen crime of the subtle and the reflexive — and the crime scene tends to be the shadowy nuances of hiring decisions, performance evaluations and plausible deniability.

Thankfully, though, we now have baseball to help shine a light on the problem so that everyone can see it for what it really is.

Today, Major League Baseball games using the QuesTec computerized pitch-monitoring system are the most statistically quantifiable workplaces in America. Match up QuesTec’s accumulated data with demographic information about who is pitching and who is calling balls and strikes, and you get the indisputable proof of how ethnicity does indeed play a part in discretionary decisions of those in power positions.

This is exactly what Southern Methodist University’s researchers did when they examined more than 3.5 million pitches from 2004 to 2008. Their findings say as much about the enduring relationship between sports and bigotry as they do about the synaptic nature of racism in all of American society.

First and foremost, SMU found that home-plate umpires call disproportionately more strikes for pitchers in their same ethnic group. Because most home-plate umpires are white, this has been a big form of racial privilege for white pitchers, who researchers show are, on average, getting disproportionately more of the benefit of the doubt on close calls.

Second, SMU researchers found that “minority pitchers reacted to umpire bias by playing it safe with the pitches they threw in a way that actually harmed their performance and statistics.” Basically, these hurlers adjusted to the white umpires’ artificially narrower strike zone by throwing pitches down the heart of the plate, where they were easier for batters to hit.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the data suggest that racial bias is probably operating at a subconscious level, where the umpire doesn’t even recognize it.

To document this, SMU compared the percentage of strikes called in QuesTec-equipped ballparks versus non-QuesTec parks. Researchers found that umpires’ racial biases diminished when they knew they were being monitored by the computer.

Same thing for high-profile moments. During those important points in games when umpires knew fans were more carefully watching the calls, the racial bias all but vanished. Likewise, the same-race preference was less pronounced at high-attendance games, where umps knew there would be more crowd scrutiny.

Though gleaned from baseball, these findings transcend athletics by providing a larger lesson about conditioned behavior in an institutionally racist society.

Whether the workplace is a baseball diamond, a factory floor or an office, when authority figures realize they are being scrutinized, they are more cognizant of their own biases — and more likely to try to stop them before they unduly influence their behavior. But in lower-profile interludes, when the workplace isn’t scrutinized and decisions are happening on psychological autopilot, pre-programmed biases can take over.

Thus, the inherent problem of today’s pervasive “post-racial” fallacy. By perpetuating the lie that racism doesn’t exist, pretending that bigotry is not a workplace problem anymore, and resisting governmental efforts to halt such prejudice, we create the environment for our ugly subconscious to rule. In doing so, we consequently reduce the potential for much-needed self-correction.

      Copyright 2011 Creators.com
David Sirota is a best-selling author whose upcoming book “Back to Our Future” will be released in March of 2011. He hosts the morning show on AM760 in Colorado.

<!–

–>


B.C. man pepper sprayed when he asked border guard to say ‘please’ March 6, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Immigration.
Tags: , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

The Canadian Press

VANCOUVER — A British Columbian man has learned the hard way that you don’t ask a U.S. border guard to be polite when he asks you to turn off your vehicle’s engine.

Desiderio Fortunato, of Coquitlam, B.C., asked the guard to say please and instead received a face full of pepper spray.

“I just said please,” Mr. Fortunato explained Thursday. “He said ‘get out of the car or I spray you’ and … I thought he was just trying to scare me off or something and I was pepper sprayed from a foot or two away.”

He said it was then that five or six border guards jumped on him, placed him in handcuffs and questioned him for three hours last Monday afternoon.

“I felt like I was attacked by a bunch of wolves. They jumped on me, they threw me to the ground and they kneeled on me.”

But he said the worst part was the pepper spray burning his eyes, and every time he rubbed his eyes he made the problem even worse.

Mr. Fortunato, 54, was born in Portugal, but became a Canadian citizen almost 30 years ago.

During questioning from U.S. officials, he said, the first thing they wanted to know was where he was born.

He said the entire demeanour of the officials changed when he told them he was of Portuguese origin.

“Their shields dropped slightly down. It was like you know: OK he’s a Westerner, OK he’s not a Muslim, OK he’s a Christian, he’s one of us. That’s what I read [from them].”

Mr. Fortunato noted that the motto of U.S. Customs and Border Protection is to “serve the American public with vigilance, integrity and professionalism.”

“What is that, that’s what they pledge. I’m just asking for a please, and I get pepper spray in the face, and of course their argument is you must comply with anything an officer says.”

U.S. Customs spokesman Mike Milne said the officer made a lawful order that travellers must obey but the use of force is under review.

Mr. Fortunato said he spoke with the same guard later and the man seemed contrite.

He crosses the border two or three times a week to visit his second home in Blaine, Wash., and said he plans to go back.

But first he’ll need to send U.S. Customs an RCMP criminal record check and proof that he lives where he said he did.

He has no criminal record and said he isn’t worried about going back.

Mr. Fortunato, who travels the world competing in and teaching jazz dance, said he often deals with customs agents.

“I just become more cynical,” he said.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 208 other followers