What am I to make of the verdict in the George Zimmerman case? Is Trayvon Martin just another lynch victim in this still-Southern state? A legacy of the strange fruit that hung, not too many years ago, from the mulberry tree that gave a nearby city its name?
You don’t read much about the racism to which Florida is heir. Perhaps it’s because of Miami and the Hispanic culture there. Miami, after all, has become the capital of the Caribbean and is not really “Florida.” And less than 50 miles from our Lakeland home, Disney World and the diverse tourists it attracts add a cosmopolitan veneer that obscures the state’s grisly past.
But within a gunshot of Disney World, a young black man – a boy, really – was killed recently for the crime of walking home from the corner store, and his murder has gone unpunished.
I cannot tell you why. All I have are questions. Questions for the jury.
How could those six women – one of them black – conclude that Zimmerman acted in self defense? How could they give any credence to the clap-trap about Martin trying to grab a holstered gun well out of sight behind Zimmerman’s back? How could they accept the laughable idea that Zimmerman was in fear of his life because he got punched in the nose?
Didn’t they wonder how Zimmerman could extricate and fire the pistol – securely holstered behind his hip – while he was being slammed against the sidewalk? Wouldn’t such a maneuver be impossible if Zimmerman were being bounced up and down, with Martin sitting on his chest, as he insisted? How could he even free his arms to reach for the gun if Martin’s knees were under his armpits?
Surely, the jury could see that common sense exposes Zimmerman’s story as a desperate fiction?
And how could they not see that if Trayvon Martin were white he would be alive today? Zimmerman, by his own admission, would not have thought twice about a white teenager strolling along a neighborhood street. But a black boy in a hoodie? That rang his racist bell.
What made the jury believe Zimmerman? Could the myth of the terrifying black male still haunt Southern womanhood? Do these women think black youths are so dangerous – by definition – that the only way to ensure your safety is to shoot them? Shoot them dead? Even if they are armed with nothing more lethal that a bag of candy and an iced tea?
Or is it just that a black teenager’s life is of so little value that his murder does not merit simple justice?
I do not know. I cannot tell.
But I am left with this disheartening thought:
This is Florida. This is the South. Still.