“… All Others Considered Dangerous”

After having watched the George Zimmerman trial in which he was charged with second degree murder/manslaughter for the death of Trayvon Martin, I told several friends that despite what I considered damning evidence of Zimmerman’s guilt, he would not be found guilty. I predicted that the jury would bless him with a verdict of not guilty because of the underlying framework of the major institutions in our society: White-skin privilege.

From before the inception of the United States’ Declaration of Independence, western Europeans have dominated and exploited non-whites primarily for commercial gain. This fact can be disputed but not in any way that reflects honest, fair and intellectual scrutiny of history [but past and current]. And to this very day, government studies and studies by various universities have proven that discrimination against African-Americans with respect to housing, education, employment and the judicial system [just to name a few of the major areas] is as vibrant as it is insidious — is as ubiquitous as it is effective. Today’s racism seldom reveals itself in an “in-your-face” kind of bravado but it usually hides behind a mask of decency and so-called, “equal opportunity or justice for all.”

Zimmerman’s attorneys’ arguments of self-defense are believable only if one suspends one’s faculty of reasoning and also if one denies the context of race relations in these United States of White America. Consider this: If seventeen year-old Trayvon Martin had been armed with a handgun while driving a car and decided to disregard the suggestion not to follow George Zimmerman but instead accosted him and then after a struggle, shot and killed Zimmerman, Trayvon Martin would have been immediately charged, tried and convicted of second degree murder. This is not mere speculation. Proof?

Proof: Please note the case of Marissa Alexander of Jacksonville Florida. This “mother of three fired a single shot into her kitchen ceiling two years ago to warn her husband, Rico Gray, against continuing his physical attack on her. . She was convicted of aggravated assault in a matter of minutes — and was sentenced to 20 years in prison. She was prosecuted by the same prosecutor who brought charges against George Zimmerman [as a result of the Governor, under pressure, appointing her as a special prosecutor. [http://mhpshow.msnbc.com/_news/2012/05/11/11658879-marissa-alexander-gets-20-year-sentence?lite]

So when a Black woman invokes the “stand-your-ground” law she is denied justice. Thus, there is no doubt if Trayvon’s and George’s roles were reversed, Trayvon would have suffered a fate similar to Marissa Alexander. But when a White man tracks, accosts and kills a young Black man, he is exonerated. In short, society and the legal system have, in effect, stated, “How dare a young Black man not stop and let himself be detained by a White man who had no badge, no uniform and no authority [until the police arrived]. How dare a young Black man fight back against a stranger whose only credentials were his white skin and a handgun. Don’t you Black people know that when a White man follows you in your own neighborhood, you had best comply and assume the position?”

But in order to assuage any possible feelings or perception of guilt, Zimmerman’s attorneys had to paint Trayvon as the pugnacious one who initiated the fight; as if Zimmerman was to say, “Trayvon made me do it.”  This is similar to the instance when during the first half of the twentieth century, two sheriffs approached the body of a Black man who had been lynched and shot through the heart. One of the sheriffs jokingly and derisively exclaimed, ‘How in the world did this n—– hang and then shoot himself?’ In keeping with this mindset, Zimmerman’s attorneys proceeded to lynch Trayvon [albeit posthumously] and then blame him. This is one of the most successful way to ameliorate White-guilt while preserving White-skin privilege.

Obviously, not all White people are racists; in fact, many are not. And I am always heartened by Whites who reject the racists beliefs about Black people held by many of their race. But enough of them, however, are racist to one degree or another,  so that the institutions and the system will always favor the dominate group and to ensure the perpetuation of White domination of all the major institutions. In short, racism is instrumental in that it serves to preserve the power and privilege of the one race vis a vis the other. And one way to preserve this power is to discount the value of a Black person’s life and place a premium on a White person’s life. Zimmerman’s freedom was worth more than Trayvon’s life.

Another way Whites reveal their notions of Blacks is indicated by responses to articles about murder. When you read an article about a Black person committing murder, there are often comments about Blacks being savages and miscreants by nature. When you read articles about Whites committing murder [even those murders of movie-goers or elementary school children] the readers’ comments almost never mention anything about Whites being savages or miscreants by nature. In other words, the perception of many racist Whites is that when Blacks commit murder, it is because that’s “who they are” but when Whites commit murder, there is silence about race — no comments from readers that mention race. That’s because when a White person commits murder that is just because that particular White person is a murderer. All these notions about Blacks, are sew into the mindset of many Whites and these views facilitate or lead to verdicts as mentioned in the above-two cases.

Finally, I find it revolting that many Whites are enamored with Black athletes or Black singers, Black actors — Blacks who entertain them. But in the absence of their fame, they would not want such a person to live next door to them or to marry their children. This is because, as one poster from the 1800s announced: Wanted: Singers, Dancers, Actors … all others considered dangerous.

PS. There is one take-away regarding the Zimmerman verdict. Now I can carry a handgun, follow somebody [against the advice of law enforcement] who is minding his own business, accost him, create a situation where a physical confrontation is likely, then shoot him because he is winning the fight by giving me two minor scratches on my head! And I will be found “not guilty.”  Oh, I silly me, I forgot: I cannot get away with that — I’m a Black man!

Published in: on July 15, 2013 at 2:00 AM  Leave a Comment  
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Is It Ever Fair To Blame The Victim?

Victims of crimes of all sorts are sometimes criticized or blamed for what happened to them. In response, defenders of the victim often accuse such critics of “blaming the victim.” This is especially so when women are victims of sexual assaults. Often she is blamed if she is dressed in something short and tight or low-cut and form-fitting. Or if she agrees to go to the room of a man she just met late at night. And even if she is intoxicated and subsequently assaulted, it is stated that she should still be held blameless. I agree that any one who sexually assaults [or otherwise assaults] another should be prosecuted and if convicted, imprisoned for quite an extensive time. Nonetheless, is it ever fair to blame the victim?

There is a concept developed by sociologists called, “victim precipitation” that is defined as any action taken [or not taken] or words spoken [or not spoken] that incited the perpetrator to victimize such person. For instance, bumping a person without saying, “excuse me” or bullying a person or perhaps failing to stop talking thereby irritating and provoking the perpetrator. Victim precipitation would also include being attacked by the spouse of someone you were dating — but you did not know she was married.

In the law, there is a similar concept:  “The fact that an individual is lacking in intelligence, judgment, memory, or emotional stability does not excuse the person’s failure to act as a reasonably prudent person would have acted under the same circumstances. Finally, a person who undertakes a particular activity is ordinarily considered to have the knowledge common to others who engage in that activity.” [http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/negligence] 01 July 2013. Thus, according to sociologists, criminologists and the law, there are times when one can blame the victim. Sometimes victims are culpable and bring “shit on themselves.”  Which is why many parents will preach to their children about socializing with the wrong crowd or never leaving your drink unattended, or to leave before the argument escalates into violence or to leave the party with the girls you came with as opposed to going off with some guy.

As one judge put it, “Sometimes we just have to take responsibility for what happens to us.”

BUT, whether a victim should be blamed or not is not the issue for me — because clearly as per the law and social science, sometimes one can blame the victim. The issue, from my perspective is whether a victim should ever be surprised — guilty victims or even innocent victims.

If you sell illegal drugs, should you be surprised if you are arrested or robbed or if someone tries to kill you?

If you drink and then drive, should you be surprised if you have an accident or are arrested?

If you bully another, should you be surprised if you are subsequently ambushed or suffer some sort of retaliation?

If you stop to get gas in certain neighborhoods late at night, should you be surprised if you are attacked and robbed? Yes, it would be wrong for someone to rob you, but should you be surprised? [Engaging in a perfectly legal activity does not absolve one from taking prudent actions]

If you are a woman, drinking with a group of men you barely know or go to a stranger’s room alone, should you be surprised if you are sexually assaulted? Yes, it would be wrong/criminal for someone to assault you, but should you be surprised? [Engaging in a perfectly legal activity does not absolve one from taking prudent actions]

As I stated, the issue is not whether you, as a victim should be blamed, but under certain circumstances [NOT ALL CIRCUMSTANCES] should you be surprised if you become a victim?

Yes, I am most aware that many victims of crime were engaging in perfectly legal activities and through no fault of their own, they became victims. There are certain situations, however, when, if one can blame the victim or not, the victim should not be surprised at being a victim. In other words, the more important question may not be whether the victim should be blamed but whether the victim should be surprised.

Published in: on July 2, 2013 at 9:43 PM  Leave a Comment  
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