The week George Zimmerman was acquitted in the death of Trayvon Martin I was in the hospital tending to my new son, born on July 11. His birth was a joyous occasion. Needless to say, the trial result put a damper on the moment, as justice was yet again denied to a family who also had a son. Here was my immediate reaction, reflected in a posting on Facebook:
“Very few things would get me down the week my son is born … but a Florida jury’s wrongheaded affirmation that his life is somehow inherently more valued and precious than that of an African American boy born the same week deeply depresses me. God help us to see the error of our ways.”
I don’t have time to write a fuller commentary right now. But many other thoughtful people have, placing the acquittal into a deep historical perspective. I encourage readers to consider how, as Robin D.G. Kelley suggests, that this is not an example of the system failing, but of the system working. Our system is designed to marginalize certain individuals based upon race (as well as gender, legal status, ethnicity, etc.). That is the lesson of history, whether it is the late 19th century reaction to Reconstruction or the late 20th century reaction to the civil rights movement.
For more historical perspectives, I also would recommend Peniel Joseph’s commentary and others on the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute’s web site.