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“Mementos Of The Act”: George Zimmerman Takes A Victory Lap On A Dead Boy’s Grave

It was not enough just to kill Sam Hose. No, they had to make souvenirs out of him.

Hose was an African-American man lynched by a mob of some 2,000 white women and men in 1899 near the town of Newman, Ga. They did all the usual things. They stabbed him, castrated him, skinned his face, mutilated him, burned him alive.

Then they parceled out pieces of his body.

You could buy a small fragment of his bones for a quarter. A piece of his liver, “crisply cooked,” would set you back a dime. The great African-American scholar, W.E.B. DuBois, reported that Hose’s knuckles were for sale in a grocer’s window in Atlanta.

No, it wasn’t enough just to kill Sam Hose. People needed mementos of the act.

Apparently, it wasn’t enough just to kill Trayvon Martin, either.

Granted, it is not a piece of the child’s body that was recently put up for auction online by the man who killed him. George Zimmerman is offering “only” the gun that did the deed. But there is a historical resonance here as sickening as it is unmistakable.

Once again, a black life is destroyed. Once again, “justice” gives the killer a pass. Once again, there is a barter in keepsakes of the killing.

Sam Hose was not unique. People claimed hundreds, thousands, of trophies from the murders of African Americans. They kept bones. They kept sexual organs. They kept photographs of themselves, posed with mutilated corpses. It happened with the killings of Thomas Shipp, Abram Smith, Rubin Stacy, Laura Nelson, Claude Neal and too many more to count.

So perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised to see it happen with Trayvon.

And someone will say, yes, but isn’t there a lively trade in all sorts of murder memorabilia? One website alone offers a signed postcard from Charles Manson, a letter from Jeffrey Dahmer, pictures of Ted Bundy. So how is this different?

Funny thing, though: All those men went to prison for what they did. Zimmerman did not. Initially, authorities couldn’t even bring themselves to arrest this self-deputized neighborhood watchman who stalked and shot an unarmed boy four years ago near Orlando.

Not that it mattered much when they did. Zimmerman went to court, but it was 17-year-old Trayvon who was on trial. A nation founded, rooted and deeply invested in the canard of native black criminality very much needed to believe Zimmerman’s improbable tale of self-defense, very much needed to find a way for the boy to be guilty of his own murder.

And so he was.

And the marketing of the gun that killed him by the man who pulled the trigger does not feel like simply another example of flagrantly bad taste. No, it feels like a victory lap on a dead boy’s grave. It feels like America once again caught in its own lies.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal”? No we don’t.

“…with liberty and justice for all”? No there is not.

One is left breathless, not just with anger, not only with frustration, not simply with a sense of betrayal but also with a grinding fatigue at the need to, once again, ride out an assault on the basic humanness of African-American people.

Like Sam Hose, Trayvon Martin was “thing-ified,” made into something not his singular and individual self, made into an all-purpose metaphor, the brooding black beast glaring through the night-darkened window of American conscience. And like Sam Hose his murder is now commodified, made into a trophy for display in someone’s den.

African-American life is thereby — again — debased, and the nation, shamed. So when this thing is sold it really won’t matter who writes the check.

We all will pay the price.

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist, The Miami Herald, The National Memo, Msy 18, 2016

May 19, 2016 Posted by | Black Men, George Zimmerman, Trayvon Martin | , , , , | 2 Comments

“You And Your Brother Are Evil’: GQ’s Insane Profile Of George Zimmerman’s Family

October’s issue of GQ features a profile of the family of George Zimmerman, the man who owes his life to Florida’s “stand your ground” law and extremely understanding jurors, after fatally shooting Trayvon Martin. Writer Amanda Robb paints a picture of a family tormented by paranoia, as the Zimmermans struggle to live in a country where the vast majority of the population despises their brother.

Here are a few of the most fascinating, heartbreaking, complicated moments.

Their paranoid security protocols

“They watched the movie Argo to learn how to live like CIA. Code names for everyone. No mail delivered to the house. No visitors. No talking to the few neighbors they had. No long phone conversations — keep it short and vague to outwit surveillance. Never discuss your whereabouts via phone or text. Keep a weapon close by at all times. [George’s brother] Robert slept with his gun. Still does.

“And in case someone–or multiple someones–decided to mount an attack on the house, the Zimmermans pre-packed their own ‘go-bags’ filled with everything they would need to flee in a rush, as well as what they called ‘footballs’ — like the one President Obama has with the nuclear codes–that contained laptops, cell phones, and other essential electronics.

“They also memorized a color-coded threat-ID system. Code blue: Law enforcement at the door. Code brown: Draw your weapons. Code black: Come out guns blazing.”

Concealed weapons certification class

Robb accompanied Gladys to a concealed weapons certification class to learn more about the region’s gun culture. “The class’s instructor, a police officer in Belle Isle, repeatedly recommends ‘accessorizing your gun,’ which he illustrates by lisping and wagging his wrist like a stereotypical ‘queen.’ The instructor keeps up the act until he finds out I live in New York City. Then he veers into Colonel Klink from the 1960s TV series Hogan’s Heroes. ‘Welcome to Germany,’ he says. ‘Everyone on the train!’

We don’t actually learn to fire our weapons in this concealed-weapons class, so eventually I tell the instructor, “I have no idea how to load, aim, or shoot a gun.” He recommends I get a .38. “It’s a good baby gun,” he says. “Yes!” [George’s mother] Gladys exclaims. “Personally, I love my .45!” Then she does this kind of Angie Dickinson draw-and-aim move from the TV show Police Woman.

A brush with luxury

The Zimmermans agreed to make an appearance on CNN after the network agreed to pay for two hotel rooms for three nights and “everything” else they might need. After racking up debts from lawsuits, mortgages and the rent from their secret home, this looked pretty good.

“They ran up a big room-service bill, cleaned out the minibars, got their clothes laundered, made several trips to the spa, treated a party of ten to dinner at the hotel restaurant, and bought swag–from bracelets to bath fizzies–at the gift shop.

“Toward the end of their stay, according to Robert, a manager presented him with a bill for $3,600. He says he called CNN, outraged, only to have the producer accuse them of splurging shamelessly on CNN’s dime. “You and your brother are evil!” he remembers her screaming. The hotel manager threatened to call the police. Alone in his room, Robert started shaking. He wrapped all the blankets around him, ordered shrimp, chain-smoked cigarettes, got roaring drunk. Nothing helped. He called his mother in a panic. “I can’t get warm,” he sobbed. “I just can’t get warm.”

 

By: Joanna Rothkopt, Assistant Editor, Salon, September 29, 2014

October 1, 2014 Posted by | George Zimmerman, Gun Violence, Trayvon Martin | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The More We See”: Trayvon Martin Or George Zimmerman, Who’s The Real Thug?

With George Zimmerman out on bail last week after his latest run-in with police, it seems an opportune time to discuss the second killing of Trayvon Martin.

The first, of course, has been discussed ad infinitum since Zimmerman shot the unarmed 17-year-old to death last year. But then Trayvon was killed again. The conservative noise machine engaged in a ritual execution of his character and worth, setting out with breathtaking indifference to facts and callous disregard for simple decency to murder the memory of a dead child.

Geraldo Rivera blamed him for his own death because he wore a hooded sweatshirt — in the rain, yet. Glenn Beck’s website suggested he might have been an arsonist, kidnapper or killer. Rush Limbaugh made jokes about “Trayvon Martin Luther King.”

Some conservative readers even chastised me for referring to him as a “child” or a “boy” though at 17, he was legally both. Makes him seem too sympathetic, they said. One man assured me, absent any evidence or, apparently, any need of it, that contrary to reports, Trayvon was not walking to where he was staying that day but was in fact “casing” the neighborhood.

One woman forwarded a chain email depicting a tough-looking, light-skinned African-American man with tattoos on his face. It was headlined: “The Real Trayvon Martin,” which it wasn’t. It was actually a then-32-year-old rapper who calls himself The Game. But the message was clear: Trayvon was a scary black man who deserved what he got.

I sent that woman an image of Trayvon from the Zimmerman trial. It shows him lying open-eyed and dead on the grass. “This is the real Trayvon,” I wrote.

It was a waste of time. “They’re both pictures of Trayvon,” she insisted. So deeply, bizarrely invested was she in the idea of Trayvon as thug that she could not distinguish between a fair-skinned man with tattoos, and a brown boy with no visible markings. Literally, they all look alike to her.

And once again, a conservative movement which argues with airy assurance that American racism died long ago, disproves its thesis with its actions.

Here, someone wants it pointed out that Trayvon Martin was not an angel. Well, he wasn’t. He took pictures flipping the bird. He used marijuana. He was suspended from school at the time of his shooting. Obviously, he needed guidance. The same is true of many boys. Indeed, it is rumored that there are even white children who use marijuana.

But here’s the thing: Why did some of us need Trayvon to be an angel in the first place? Why did they feel such a pressing urgency to magnify — and manufacture — his failings? Why was it so important to them to make him unworthy of sympathy?

It is a question that assumes new potency the more we see of George Zimmerman. On the day he shot Trayvon, this hero of the conservative noise machine, this righteous white Hispanic man who was, they say, just standing his ground, already had a record that included an accusation he attacked an undercover police officer. That same year — 2005 — a woman sought a restraining order against him, alleging domestic violence.

In September, Zimmerman had a fresh run-in with police over a domestic violence accusation by his estranged wife. In this latest episode, a girlfriend said he pulled a gun on her. In court, she said that once, he even tried to choke her.

Granted, none of these charges has been adjudicated, but there is certainly a pattern here. It ought to give decent people pause and the conservative noise machine shame — assuming it is capable of that emotion. That pattern paints in neon the machine’s willful blindness, the reflexive alacrity with which it assigns the thug label to the black kid — and innocence to the white man.

Well, look again. George Zimmerman seems awfully darn thuggish to me.

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Featured Post, The National Memo, November 25, 2013

November 26, 2013 Posted by | George Zimmerman, Trayvon Martin | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Very Racist Halloween”: Beneath Any Standard Of Humanity

 (Clay Jones/Creators Syndicate)

The holidays are often a time of stress and conflict, even as people engage in celebration. It’s always at Thanksgiving or Christmas that someone reveals a family secret, or when someone gets drunk and tells someone else in the family exactly what he/she thinks of him, resulting in the excising of said drunken relative from the will.

But who knew Halloween could also bring out the worst in people?

Two adult men in Florida apparently thought it would be just a scream if they dressed up as slain African-American teenager Trayvon Martin and the man who shot him, George Zimmerman. The Trayvon costume featured a hooded sweatshirt with a bloody fake bullet hole in it, and the man who portrayed Martin, William Filene, 25, was in blackface. Meanwhile, a 22-year-old, identified by The Smoking Gun as Greg Cimeno, was wearing a sweatshirt that said “Neighborhood Watch” on it.

The woman who posted the photo on her Facebook page (before making her social media sites private) is Caitlin Cimeno, and she is shown standing between the men. Cimeno, smiling, is fashioning a gun with his hand and pointing it at the faux-Trayvon’s head.

The bigger question – what is wrong with people? – cannot be answered easily. But one has to wonder what has happened to modern culture that people are willing to expose their racism and appalling insensitivity as some sort of joke for everyone with access to the Internet to see. It’s bad enough that they did it; the lack of any shame over it is even worse.

But then, Zimmerman himself seems to have trouble equating fame with notoriety. His lawyers convinced a jury that Zimmerman had acted in self-defense, so he paid no price for taking Martin’s life. Even if that were true, wouldn’t the decent thing to do be to spend some time reflecting on the terrible tragedy of it all? To spend some time each day thinking about the profound loss Martin’s parents suffered? To examine one’s own presumptions and suspicions, asking why Trayvon – wearing a hoodie and carrying candy and iced tea – appeared so suspicious?

Instead, Zimmerman has done a little victory lap of his own, visiting a gun manufacturer and posing there among the firearms. He helped a family get out of an overturned SUV. And he was pulled over for speeding in Texas, where he asked the officer who stopped him whether he recognized him.

We are sadly in an era when people are willing to debase and degrade themselves for attention. (Count up the number of versions of “Real Housewives” to get the picture). But debasing and disrespecting the victim of a terrible tragedy – whether it was a crime or not – is beneath any standard of humanity. One wonders what Cimeno and Filene have planned for New Year’s.

 

By: Susan Milligan, U. S. News and World Report, October 29, 2013

October 31, 2013 Posted by | Racism, Trayvon Martin | , , , | Leave a comment

“Out Damn Spot, Just Go Away”: George Zimmerman Is Enjoying His Celebrity Post Acquittal Victory Tour

As Trayvon Martin’s parents headed to Washington for a protest commemorating the 1963 March for Jobs and Freedom, their son’s killer was touring the factory that produced the gun he used to kill their son, and posing for celebrity photos while he was there. Fittingly, celebrity gossip site TMZ broke the news of George Zimmerman’s visit to the Kel-Tec factory last Thursday. Trayvon Martin’s killer is clearly enjoying his post-acquittal right-wing folk-hero status.

Meanwhile, his brother jumped on the bandwagon of white grievance-mongers playing up the alleged racial angle of the murder of Australian baseball player Chris Lane, who was killed by three young men, two black and one white. “Mainstream media is side stepping the fact that one of the alleged murderers openly professed on social media to ‘hate’ white people,” Robert Zimmerman told the Daily Caller. “Which one of these three teens looks most like Obama’s theoretical son?”

I’m sorry, America, we’re stuck with the Zimmermans. They won’t go away. Rather than recoil from his status as the man who shot an unarmed 17-year-old, George Zimmerman is enjoying his celebrity, while Robert Zimmerman continues to collaborate with the right-wing media-entertainment complex to make his brother out to be the real victim in Sanford, Fla., last year – the victim, first, of “thuggish” Trayvon Martin, and then of civil rights leaders like the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, as well as Martin’s parents.

Somewhat surprisingly, Zimmerman’s attorney Mark O’Mara released a statement criticizing his client for his gun factory visit in harsh and vivid terms. “We certainly would not have advised him to go to the factory that made the gun that he used to shoot Trayvon Martin through the heart,” Shawn Vincent, a spokesman for attorney Mark O’Mara, told Yahoo News. “That was not part of our public relations plan.”

I don’t recall O’Mara playing up the fact that the 17-year-old Martin was shot, at close range, “through the heart” during the trial, but maybe he thought the dramatic statement might help distance him from what could be his client’s post-acquittal victory tour. (I should note Vincent’s statement to Reuters didn’t include those words.) With Yahoo News, Vincent continued: “We are George’s legal representation, but I don’t think he takes our advice on how he lives his life or what factories he decides to tour. We represented him in court. We got the verdict that we believe is just, and the rest of George’s life is up to George.”

Translation: Don’t blame us for whatever Zimmerman does next.

Part of what made the Zimmerman acquittal hard to take was the shooter’s utter lack of remorse for killing Martin. Even if you believed every word of his self-defense claim, it had to be hard to imagine having no regrets about the death of a teenager. Even Sean Hannity, who normally appears conscience-free, asked Zimmerman if he had “regrets” about getting out of his car and following Martin, which led to their confrontation and the boy’s shooting. “It was all God’s plan, and for me to second guess it or judge it,” Zimmerman told Hannity, his voice trailing off.

That’s the kind of cluelessness that would lead a guy to tour the factory that made the gun he used to kill Martin, and to pose grinning with a star-struck factory worker like he’s Frank Sinatra visiting a local trattoria.

It’s particularly sad that Zimmerman’s visit came on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, which was commemorated Saturday by a civil rights convening that included Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon’s parents. The issues of racial profiling, stop and frisk and “stand your ground” laws are animating a new movement for racial justice, and Martin has become a symbol of the way young black men are treated at the hands of police as well as vigilantes like Zimmerman. “Trayvon Martin was my son, but he’s not just my son, he’s all of our son, and we have to fight for our children,” Fulton told the crowd.

But to Zimmerman’s defenders, Martin is a symbol of predatory young black men, and Zimmerman is the hero enacting “God’s plan” to fight back. Not surprisingly, his brother defended his gun factory victory tour. “George is a free man and as such is entitled to visit, tour, frequent or patronize any business or locale he wishes,” Robert Zimmerman told Yahoo News. So don’t expect Zimmerman’s victory tour to end any time soon.

 

By: Joan Walsh, Editor at Large, Salon, August 26, 2013

August 27, 2013 Posted by | Gun Violence, Trayvon Martin | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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