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“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

“The Courage Of Invisible Women”: The Consequences Of Forgetting Sybrina Fulton And Mamie Till

Sybrina Fulton, mother of Trayvon Martin, has been a textbook example of courage in the seventeen months since her youngest son was killed by George Zimmerman. Thrust into the public sphere during a time of great personal tragedy, Fulton has carried her pain with incredible poise. It was no different when she spoke before the National Urban League in Philadelphia this past Friday. She told the audience: “My message to you is please use my story, please use my tragedy, please use my broken heart to say to yourself, ’We cannot let this happen to anybody else’s child.’ ”

In that moment, she made the connection between herself and Mamie Till, mother of Emmett Till, the teen slain in 1955 for allegedly whistling at a woman, even stronger. Speaking on her decision to have an open casket at his funeral after her son’s face had been so badly beaten and disfigured he was unrecognizable, Mamie said: “I wanted the world to see what they did to my baby.” These mothers of black sons publicly asked us to use their pain to seek justice. However, the way we use that pain cannot diminish the reality of the people who live with it. By which I mean, we have a bad habit of acting as if black women exist only as props in the story about black men and it’s time to stop.

Black women’s pain fuels but then becomes obscured in the popular narrative about the consequences of racism and the fight for racial justice, as it becomes framed through the experiences of black men. All of us who do work around these issues are guilty of this oversight, myself included. In our attempts to address the problem of anti-black racism in the US, we neglect to consider the experiences of black women as part of that story.

While the Congressional Black Caucus convened a meeting to discuss the plight of black men and boys, black women and girls who suffer under the same systems of oppression being discussed as problematic for our boys have been left out of the public discourse. We talk often of the criminalization of black boys, and point to the school-to-prison pipeline as an example, but fail to mention the ways it affects black girls, as Monique W. Morris laid out in her report for African American Policy Forum in March of this year. According to Morris: “Black women and girls continue to be over-represented among those who are in contact with the criminal and juvenile justice systems. Black girls continue to experience some of the highest rates of residential detention. Black girls represent the fastest-growing segment of the juvenile justice population, and they have experienced the most dramatic rise in middle school suspension rates in recent years.” Yet, the problem continues to be framed as a nearly exclusive to black men and boys.

The same is true of New York City’s stop-and-frisk policy. While it’s true that the policy disproportionately targets black men, black women are also subjected to these supposedly random searches whose constitutionality has been challenged. Additonally, according to The New York Times, “stops of women by male officers can often involve an additional element of embarrassment and perhaps sexual intimidation.”

At times like this, it’s important to remind ourselves of our history. As Danielle L. McGuire expertly documented in her 2010 book At the Dark End of the Street, one of the major catalysts of the civil rights movement of the 1950s and ’60s was the dehumanization experienced by black women. The bus boycotts began because of the physical threat and sexual terror heaped upon black women’s bodies, in addition to having to ride in the back. And while a young Martin Luther King  Jr. grabbed the headlines, it was a great number of black women paying the day-to-day price of movement building, organizing and doing field work, only to have their contributions minimized in favor of a “great man” reading of history.

Writing for The Guardian, Jamila Aisha Brown put it this way: “The victimization of young women is subsumed into a general well of black pain that is largely defined by the struggles of African-American men. As a result, any insight about this important intersection of race and gender is lost under the umbrella of a collective sense of persecution.”

The stories of black men are important, but they are not a stand-in for the stories of all black people. We can’t continue using the pain of black women’s lives to explain our existence if we are then going to pretend that pain isn’t worth examining on its own. We dishonor the courage of the Mamies and Sybrinas of the world when we do.

 

By: Mychal Denzel Smith, The Nation, August 1, 2013

August 2, 2013 Posted by | Civil Rights, Racism | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Father’s Heartfelt Message”: Trayvon’s Legacy, Helping People To Open Their Eyes And Talk About Subjects They Wouldn’t Before

Tracy Martin readily admits he struggles with regular bouts of guilt over the fate of his 17-year-old son, Trayvon. He wasn’t at home in Sanford, Florida, the night his unarmed son was shot and killed as he walked home from the store with a bag of Skittles and a bottle of Arizona Ice Tea.

George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watchman, was found not guilty of the second-degree murder of the teenager earlier this month after his lawyers argued it was self-defense.

“I think I feel the guilt that any father would feel who loses a child,’’ Martin told The Daily Beast. “There is a certain amount of guilt at not being able to save my son, and not being able to be there for him like he was for me when he saved me from a fire when he was 9 years old. I couldn’t do that for him as a parent and that is a very painful feeling to live with. But I also know, had I been home, I wouldn’t have heard the incident so I wouldn’t have been able to stop what happened.’’

Martin took a heartfelt message of fatherly love to Capitol Hill on Wednesday where he urged Congress to work to improve the educational and employment opportunities for young Latinos and African-Americans.

Only 52 percent of black males graduate from high school, compared with 78 percent of white, non-Latino males, according to a 2012 report from the Schott Foundation for Public Education. Black males are incarcerated at a rate more than nine times that of white males ages 18–19, according to the 2011 Bureau of Justice figures.

Democrat Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District of Columbia’s delegate to Congress, and Rep. Danny K. Davis (D-IL) organized the inaugural hearing of the Congressional Black Caucus on Black Men and Boys to discuss the many obstacles and issues that continue to face black men. Martin said President Obama’s speech last week referencing the murder and trial for his son only increased his resolve to work nonstop to change the lives of young men of color. He and Trayvon’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, founded the Trayvon Martin Foundation last year to raise awareness of the way violent crime impacts the families of victims.

“I have to fight for Trayvon and all who look like him,’’ said Martin. “There is an assumption by many in this country that our boys aren’t valuable and don’t have the right to walk home with iced tea and Skittles without being considered criminals. There is an assumption that they aren’t raised well and aren’t loved. My son was loved and was raised to respect authority. He knew how to handle himself but that wasn’t enough that night.’’

Martin had regular father-and-son talks with Trayvon, and those conversations often included a mature, in-depth discussion about handling life as a black man in America.

“As a child gets older of course the conversation changes,’’ says Martin. “As Trayvon got older we didn’t talk about Disneyland anymore. We talked about life, decisions, and the future. I think this country feels black men aren’t fathers and aren’t there for their children. That is very far from the truth. Many black men are role models and that needs to be discussed.’’

Martin welcomed President Obama’s words last week on the need for more effort to uplift and support African-American men. He said it was timely and heartfelt despite a number of critical reviews by the Fox News network and PBS host Tavis Smiley.

“I thought he was speaking honestly from his own experience of being a black man and how he could have been Trayvon 35 years ago,’’ said Martin. “That was powerful and from deep in his heart, I think. His speech was very real. To have the most powerful man in the world talk about my son and what he’s meant to people was amazing, needed and very appreciated.’’

While speaking before Congress on Wednesday, Martin discussed the anguish he and Sybrina felt as their son’s name was slandered and demonized during Zimmerman’s trial.

“Trayvon was a teenager, a child. To hear people act as though he was someone on the same level as an adult man who’s lived life, had a job, and married was very hurtful for us. To have people put all the blame on my son who was unarmed and just walking home is something that is very difficult to digest still,” he said.

The Martin family has asked for reform of Florida’s “stand your ground” self-defense law, which permits the use of deadly force rather than retreating when a person has a reasonable fear of serious bodily harm.

“There should be a common sense part to that law that states you can’t get out of your vehicle, pursue someone, and become confrontational,’’ said Martin.

Benjamin Crump, the Martin family lawyer, described the teenager’s family as “extremely disturbed” by Juror B37, who appeared on a CNN show just a day after the not-guilty verdict was announced. That juror suggested that Martin “played a huge role” in his own death.

“That was really hard for Tracy and Sybrina to hear a juror blame their son for his own death,’’ said Crump. “It has no base in common sense and shows that she, along with the other jurors, never saw this case from the perspective of Trayvon. They never saw his point of view or tried to put themselves in his shoes as a kid minding his business and walking home. They didn’t consider that Zimmerman never identified who he was to Trayvon. Had he done that we probably wouldn’t be here today.’’

While singer Stevie Wonder has announced a boycott of the state of Florida until “stand your ground” laws are overturned, Martin says he and Trayvon’s mother will continue to work toward ensuring their son’s legacy is one that is remembered for generations to come.

“We will define Trayvon’s legacy as his parents, and I feel it will be a legacy of helping people to open their eyes and talk about subjects they wouldn’t before, like race and the role it still plays today,’’ said Martin. “I hope my son will be remembered as someone whose life and death changed minds and helped make the lives of many others much better.’’

 

By: Allison Samuels, The Daily Beast, July 25, 2013

July 29, 2013 Posted by | Race and Ethnicity, Racism | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A Sense Of Hopelessness”: The George Zimmerman Trial Is The Worst Fear Of Every Black Family

The Trayvon Martin case has been nothing short of heartbreak from the very beginning. Regardless of what anyone believes about Trayvon’s past, his innocence or George Zimmerman’s, the fact remains that a teenager is dead. I honestly didn’t think I would get emotionally broken up more than I was over the story that Rachel Jeantel’s friendship with Martin stemmed from the fact he was one of the only people who never picked on her. The story painted such a tragic picture of friendship and two people whose lives will never be the same.

Then came this week’s testimonies and reactions from Trayvon Martin’s parents to leave me – and so much of America – floored. On Friday morning, Sybrina Fulton took the stand to talk about her son. As part of her testimony she had to identify her child’s screams in his finals seconds of life. Later in the day, Tracy Martin had to sit in court as the medical examiner, Dr Bao, explained how Trayvon died in severe pain and was alive for minutes after getting shot in the chest.

Essentially, Friday – almost as much as the day Trayvon was shot – was any parent’s nightmare. Trayvon’s parents had to come face to face with their son’s murder while Fulton got questioned over whether or not her son actually deserved to get killed. Tracy had to sit in the same room as the man who shot his son in the chest, unable to retaliate or let the rage he has to be feeling out.

Yes, this is the worst imaginable day for a parent. But it’s one the parents of an African-American child has been conditioned to accept as a possibility.

I have a son who was born in October, a couple of weeks before the prosecutor and defense met in court to argue if Martin’s school records should be admitted so the case was in the news again. As I watched more details about the case emerge and the argument that a child’s prior school record may be used to justify his death, I would feel a sense of hopelessness.

There are always fears about being a parent, but raising a black male in America brings about its own unique set of panic. Growing up, my parents and older siblings made sure to warn me about places where I’d be profiled and could face danger as often as they warned me about neighborhoods known for crime. But in the end, no planning or words of advice can save me or my son from getting wrongfully gunned down while trying to buy a bag of candy.

While most parents are up at night wondering how to protect their children from the uncontrollable like drunk drivers or muggings, Trayvon’s parents, my parents and parents of black males across the country are also living in fear that their children won’t come home because someone thought they were dangers to the community.

So there they were, two parents of a black male, sitting in court living out the culmination of that fear. And the realization that the man who shot their child could get off for killing him. To make things worse, they had to hear the defense question their parenting, whether or not Fulton actually knows what her son sounds like and field online reports that Tracy may not have been the best parent.

Since Martin’s death, the boy these two people raised, loved and saw for his beauty as a young male has been portrayed as a thug. A violent kid. A pothead who couldn’t behave in school. Someone who, according to the defense, caused his own death.

It’s all just excruciating to watch. My heart breaks for Trayvon’s parents and watching them in court this week has brought all of my fears of being the parent of a Black male to light. We’ve watched them look at a picture of their son’s dead, bloody body sprawled out on the Florida pavement. We’ve watched Trayvon’s mother struggle to compose herself while hearing her son’s last screams.

As my son gets older and out into the world, I’ll always have the memories of Trayvon and his parents. And the fear that one day, America will put us through what the Martin family is enduring.

 

By: David Dennis, The Guardian, July 7, 2013

July 7, 2013 Posted by | Gun Violence, Zimmerman Trial | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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