The murder of Trayvon Martin

I have a new article about the murder of Trayvon Martin:

Trayvon Martin is dead and the man who killed him walks free. Americans are afraid there will be riots, like there were after the King verdict in 1992. But we should not fear riots. We should fear a society that puts people on trial the day they are born. And after they die.

The Trayvon Martin trial was not supposed to happen. This is true in two respects. The Trayvon Martin trial only took place because public outrage prompted Florida police to arrest George Zimmerman, the man who killed him, over a month after Martin’s death. The Trayvon Martin trial took place because that same public went on to try Martin in his own murder, assessing his morality like it precluded his right to live. It was never a trial of George Zimmerman. It was always a trial of Trayvon Martin, always a character assassination of the dead.

Over the past few decades, the US has turned into a country where the circumstances into which you are born increasingly determine who you can become. Social mobility has stalled as wages stagnate and the cost of living soars. Exponential increases in university tuition have erased the possibility of education as a path out of poverty. These are not revelations – these are hard limitations faced by most Americans. But when confronted with systematic social and economic discrimination, even on a massive scale, the individual is often blamed. The poor, the unemployed, the lacking are vilified for the things they lack.

One might assume that rising privation would increase public empathy toward minorities long denied a semblance of a fair shot. But instead, overt racism and racial barriers in America have increased since the recession. Denied by the Supreme Court, invalidated in the eyes of many by the election of a black president, racism erases the individual until the individual is dead, where he is then recast as the enemy.

Read the full article, In the trial of Trayvon, the US is guilty, at Al Jazeera English.

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2 Responses to The murder of Trayvon Martin

  1. David Fulenwider says:

    This is a brilliant take on a tragic event. What’s even scarier is the thought that the NRA wants to arm everybody. Think of all the “hunters” out there like Zimmermann who would wreak all kinds of havoc on our communities. Pray for common sense.

  2. Depressing as hell: http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/jurisprudence/2013/07/why_do_black_lawyers_defend_accused_racists.html

    The last paragraph is particularly instructive and an opening for an intersectional Black feminist analysis. The article is an interesting opportunity for anthropologists to ‘connect ALL the dots’* on structural racism and what’s wrong with neoliberalism and the prestige economy.

    *http://blog.aaanet.org/2013/07/26/time-to-connect-all-the-dots/

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