For Black People and Women, Very Little Ground Left to Stand On
Making the rounds in the days leading up to the Zimmerman verdict was the story of Marissa Alexander, a Florida woman now serving up to 20 years in prison for firing a warning shot in the area of her abusive husband, who was in her home against her wishes.
The parallels (at least in the strange world of the Florida justice system) between the murder of Trayvon Martin and Marissa Alexander's attempt to defend herself are pretty clear: Martin was killed by someone who was claiming defense, and Alexander fired a single (non-lethal) shot of her own, also in defense. But while George Zimmerman is today walking free, Alexander is still in jail, kept there under a mandatory sentence of at least 20 years.
This morning, Texas Governor Rick Perry, who spent his weekend restricting the rights of women, told CNN that the U.S. Justice System is "color blind." Were that to be actually true, such variations in the treatment of people of color from their white (or white-looking) neighbors wouldn't be so blatantly apparent. The idea that these are simply the findings of an anonymous jury from our country's most whacked-out state, or that these are two cases that are kind of similar, but not indicative of our country's deeply ingrained racism, is wrong. Because this happens everywhere in the country.
The message sent by the justice system has been fairly clear: If a white person would like to defend themselves from an imagined threat, they should.
If a black person or woman (or for that matter, a black woman) would like to scare off an abuser, or even fight off a man with a gun who is following them? Death, or worse.
New York City councilman Jumaane D. Williams, who has battled against New York City's codified racism in the form of Stop and Frisk, wrote this morning that, “In 2013, it should not be this difficult, by every statistical metric, to be a black man in America... We are sick and tired of being sick and tired. What we are now charged with is the responsibility to sustain our unity and have our emotions fuel a relentless pursuit of reform.”
Protests against the verdict are being held across the country this evening. Instead of the riots that media commentators and race-baiters warned about, they will probably be peaceful, if not a little angry.
These protests won't change anything, but after the darkness of this weekend, they can be the fuel that keeps people going, even in the face of a justice system that was born (and has remained) so terribly broken.