Justice for Trayvon Martin

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After the acquittal of Trayvon Martin's admitted killer George Zimmerman, America found itself confronting the long-standing flaw in the democratic promise of "justice for all": race and racism. While there is a spectrum of views on the case and the verdict, two contradictory trends have become apparent quickly. One is denial that race or racism played any part, and the other is the view that race and racism is central to the whole case. We, like millions of others, agree with the latter. To deny the role of racism is to deny reality staring us all in the face.

Racism in our country is many-sided and systemic. One could spend considerable ink discussing the numerous ways it led to the killing of Martin and the ensuing legal case. Suffice it to note that it took a monumental struggle just to bring charges against Zimmerman for killing of the unarmed African American youth.

But the multi-racial Justice for Trayvon movement - led by Trayvon's incredibly courageous, dignified and loving parents - is becoming a cornerstone on which to build a far-reaching new civil rights movement. These next days are critical to getting the Department of Justice to act and uphold Trayvon Martin's civil rights. You can sign petitions on the NAACP, American Federation of Teachers, ColorOfChange and MoveOn websites or host a neighborhood, town or city-wide vigil for justice. Building a massive 50th anniversary March on Washington this August could be a game-changer in the fight "to realize the dream."

Voting rights, civil rights and dangerous laws like Florida's so-called Stand Your Ground have to be among the issues that mobilize massive numbers for the 2014 mid-term elections. The National Rifle Association, oily billionaire Koch brothers, the American Legislative Exchange Council and their tea party, ultra-right ilk are counting on a low turnout. If they are successful in repressing and depressing the vote, getting Congress to reinstate the Voting Rights Act, recently gutted by the ultra-conservative Supreme Court ruling, will be a monumental task instead of an attainable one. The same for common sense gun laws on the state and federal level.

From district attorneys to state lawmakers, racism has to be addressed.

When a Black teenager is profiled as a criminal and then killed because someone like Zimmerman supposedly feared for his life, it brings up too many other similar cases. Emmett Till, Oscar Grant and Amadou Diallo come to mind. But one of the clearest examples of racism in practice is the case of Marissa Alexander of Jacksonville, Fla., who fired warning shots at her husband after she felt her life threatened. She got 20 years for defending herself. Alexander is Black. So much for the equal application of the Stand Your Ground law.

The modern day criminalization of Black Americans has its roots in the rise of the ultra-right, starting with the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980, and the implementation of anti-99-percent social and economic policies, including the so-called War on Drugs. It has helped to create a criminalization atmosphere for all of society. Need an abortion? You're a criminal. On unemployment? You need to be drug-tested. Look like an immigrant? Show us your papers. In a union? Thug! Parasite!

As documented in Michelle Alexander's "The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness," these policies have led to the mass incarceration 2 million working class people - mainly Black and Latino men.

This in turn has led to the justification of other reactionary policies that have severely crippled democratic rights and educational and economic opportunities. For example, "three strikes you're out," "stand your ground," "stop and frisk" and racial profiling. Racism justifies decimating funding for public housing, education, food stamps and other vital programs that serve tens of millions, of all races. It justifies unequal treatment before the law, unequal education, unequal employment opportunities and unequal pay. In short, while millions are influenced by racism in their attitudes and beliefs, the bonds and barriers of racism serve ruling class interests, diametrically opposed to their own.

This could be an "aha" moment for millions, particularly white Americans, raising new awareness of the persistence of racism, why it exists, how it distorts and twists democracy for 99 percent of the population and how its systemic nature serves the interests of the 1 percent ruling elite. Racism, like war and violence, destroys communities and human decency. It has a physical and psychological toll on all - perpetrator, target, or bystander. It's the most un-American of American-made systems.

In July 2008, then-AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trumka gave a profound speech on labor, racism and the importance of electing Barack Obama president. Declaring, "there is no evil that has inflicted more pain and suffering than the evil of racism in our country," Trumka said, "We have a special responsibility to fight this evil. Not by calling anyone racist, but by educating those who won't vote for Barack Obama because he is Black." These are lessons we can draw from today.

Photo: From a 2012 Sanford, Fla., protest (werthmedia).


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  • I know that it may be hard for some to see the central role of racism in this entire affair. Perhaps the story of the black women in the same state who shot a gun in the air (nobody was injured) but got 20 years should be considered! While changing the law in Florida would be a good thing and is a reform that we should all strive for the two incidents taken together also indicate the need for more systemic change as well.

    Posted by gary bono, 07/19/2013 3:05am (3 years ago)

  • These right wing propagandists need to be put in their place! Call Red Eye Radio between 1am-5am Eastern Time at 1-866-907-3339 and tell them you stand with Trayvon Martin! You can listen to them live on their website at RedEyeRadioShow.com We can do this folks!

    Posted by Jimmy, 07/17/2013 9:31pm (3 years ago)

  • Agreeing totally with the EDITORIAL and brother Richard Grassl, racism in this country has long since reached, and is soaring in genocidal proportions for people of color-and also for what is generally understood as"white" labor.
    In a short article that PW readers should be sure to know, V. I. Lenin wrote an article-Russians and Negroes-written about 100 yrs. ago, and published in 1925, comparing African Americans to Russians, explaining the comparison clearly. Lenin settles on the sterling point that chattel African slavery, in the U. S., has resulted in the slavery of ALL labor in the U. S.
    Because of the close interdependency of human, labor and civil rights of ALL citizenry, the violation of the civil and human rights of ANY citizen is, in the Trayvon Benjamin Martin case, a lethal violation of the rights of ALL.
    This is the basis of the righteous, massive and varied protests and organization from all quarters of our national and international citizenry.
    This must and will continue. All people and organizations must watch, pray and especially-rally, organize and march for peace, equality and Justice for Trayvon Martin.

    Posted by E.E.W. Clay, 07/17/2013 10:31am (3 years ago)

  • Like Henry Winston explained in Strategy for a Black Agenda in honor of Frederick Douglass, V.I. Lenin and W.E.B. DuBois, the solution to overcome the twisted thought-processes of a class-divided society on the path to liberation is for Black, Brown, and white to unite and fight. The color line exists in the mind of the oppressor because freedom for them is the ability to exploit, dominate or oppress youth, women, seniors, LGBT or immigrants with no legal redress. We need accountability in the Justice Department to provide judicial balance in a State where corruption rules in favor of the rich and powerful. Long live the memory of Trayvon Martin.

    Posted by Richard Grassl, 07/16/2013 7:12pm (3 years ago)

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