by H. Lewis Smith
It seems relatively fair to say that most Americans are law-abiding citizens who believe in equal justice. However, the same notion cannot be wisely applied or assumed for the American justice system and a segment of America’s society in general. Is there a double standard of justice in America—being that if you are white you are right, but if you are black or non-white, you are never up to any good and your character will always be questioned? Some may believe that this notion is obsolete in present day, but given the circumstances surrounding the Trayvon Martin murder, it is clear that the double-standard blatantly exists and influencing “fairness” (or manipulating the legal system) to one’s benefit is truly the backbone of the supposed American justice system.
There are many unanswered questions in the Trayvon Martin case. One of the two most apparent and pressing questions that weighs heavily on the mind is how much influence does Zimmerman’s white father—a retired judge—have in this criminal not being held in custody thus far? In the past, Zimmerman has been arrested on three different occasions. All of the cases centered on resisting police officers and physical violence—which, in one instance, he resisted a police officer with violence and it only resulted in a felony charge, but would have landed the average person in prison.
With this type of violent history, it is readily apparent that Zimmerman has some above-the-law mentality, which was again conveyed in this tragic incident of a human life being taken, that is being protected from “on high”: Zimmerman was involved in a physical altercation with the youngster and resisted the instructions of the dispatcher after being told not to pursue the youth. In this situation where, again, the average Joe would have been locked up, the lawless Zimmerman was released based on some legal technicality, which was most likely the elder Zimmerman cashing in a favor.
The other significant concern centers on the Florida law: as of 2005, a “stand your ground” provision was implemented under which a person does not have to retreat before using deadly force if he reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm, in most circumstances. Zimmerman’s story of being attacked is suspect, but if events unfolded as he says they did, that he was under attack, one can’t help but to wonder would Trayvon Martin have been given the benefit of that Florida law—after all he was the one who was being stalked and pursued, and had reasons to fear for his life? Had Zimmerman been a black man, followed a hooded white man, got out of his car and proceeded to follow the victim after being told not to do so; then, the white man turned to protect himself, attacked a black Zimmerman, and a black Zimmerman shot him, there is absolutely no way that a black Zimmerman would have been released from custody—NO WAY. Does the “stand your ground” self-defense law serve as a law of convenience? If so, the American public now knows for whom.
This law to a great extent resembles the “Convict Leasing System” law in which clearly a double standard of justice prevailed for the sole purpose of imprisoning anyone black. From the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation up until the early 1940s, the so-called justice system served as an apparatus for the on-going enslavement of black people: for almost an additional 100 years, Black America was hoodwinked and bamboozled into thinking they had been freed, but continued to work in bonded servitude. And to this very day, the system unfairly serves as a conduit to imprison minorities—guilty or not.
Oftentimes loopholes in the law are used to unconscionably falsify evidence to conveniently imprison minorities, and for whatever reasons, the injustices of minorities in this country go underreported in American news reporting. With this “stand your ground” law, is Black America once again being bamboozled and hoodwinked? Is this the once again a new face of some systematic double standard that will ultimately work to keep blacks in “their place”—living in fear and being accused of crimes they did not commit? These questions help the American public realize that Blacks still are considered threats for no reason, hated just because they’re black, and treated as inferior outcasts in this society; moreover, the question further begs: Just what is the value of a black life compared to that of a white life?
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Senator Rick Santorum have expressed far greater concerns about Obama’s comments regarding the tragic incident as opposed to expressing any distress about the tragic shooting of young Trayvon Martin. Seemingly, Gingrich and Santorum are not concerned about the slaying of a young man; rather, they are attempting to bolster their political careers by picking apart the President’s comments to, perhaps, make him look like a racist. Their only purpose is to secure his status, which is obviously more important than truly seeking justice for a wrongful crime even the American public is outraged about and are protesting all around the country.
Information has been leaked attempting to attack Martin’s character, and make the killing of an “unsavory character” seem justifiable. But, one mustn’t forget that Martin was FOLLOWED by Zimmerman because, as he said, Martin looked suspicious (or simply didn’t fit society’s standard of what an “upright citizen” should look like). However, Martin is the one who ended up dead. Now, if someone looks suspicious and causes you to fear for your life, why would you follow them? Why not get to a safe place, then contact the police to come out and address the situation? The victim’s murder is now being followed up by an attack on his character as if to say his death was justifiable. Again, another double standard: Trayvon was right away proven guilty; but, Zimmerman is innocent until proven guilty.
There are contradicting events corroborated by witnesses, but it seems as though the Sanford Police Department has already decided the outcome of this case: One witness said that Zimmerman was attacked by Trayvon and the police placed a great deal of credence in that witnesses account of the story. The statements of other witnesses who saw Zimmerman on top of Martin as he was crying for help were dismissed as invalid by the police for whatever reason. When all the smoke clears, the bottom line is that a young black kid–because he was wearing a hood and looked suspicious–is followed by a gun-toting vigilante and ends up being shot to death. And the shooter is vindicated thus far by the Sanford police department.
More than a month has passed and people all around the country are still screaming for justice that has continually fallen upon deaf ears. If there were indeed equal justice in the American legal system, there would be no need for all the uprising that’s presently taking place around the country. Evidently, in this 21st century, there’s still lot of work to be done in the quest of equal justice for all, regardless of the color of one’s skin. It would help as well if the black community placed greater value on embracing a more positive image of themselves, distancing themselves from the negative image of the n-word and all of its associations. With so much turmoil occurring, it is now time for Black America to truly stand up and demand respect from within and without the community. Blacks are being killed for no reason and obviously the justice system is not so tight-suited to be able to protect Black America. It is truly time for change.
H. Lewis Smith is the founder and president of UVCC, the United Voices for a Common Cause, Inc. (www.theunitedvoices.com), and author of “Bury that Sucka: A Scandalous Love Affair with the N-Word”. Follow H. Lewis Smith on Twitter: www.twitter.com/thescoop1
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