Racial Profiing, Racism, the Legal System and Backlash
Zimmerman shot Trayvon, and was acquited. Zimmerman was depicted as Hispanic during the court trial, to be labelled White would have set Black vs White stereotypes more starkly and doomed Zimmerman in court in front of the jury. Thankfully for him the jury was all White anyway. Firstly, was Trayvon a resident or a trespasser in that gated community where he was shot. This could have lent weight to the court of public opinion’s view whether Zimmerman was guilty or not actually.
Despite the “not guilty” verdict, no riots yet in the US although there were rumours and fake news of violence on the streets over allegations of a racist jury, police and the entire legal system in general. Obama stepped forth with his “We are all Trayvon” soul-searching message on race in America. Republicans would typically support the “stand your ground” offense is self-defence law.
It is no coincidence that IPS released its report on race relations in Singapore, so close to Racial Harmony Day, to make Singapore remember history and the race riots in July 1964. How the race riots happened in 1964 does not matter that much. Whether it was ultras in UMNO who instigated it as PAP Singapore and UMNO Malaysia were already on the path to Separation although they did not realise it that time, whether it was a policeman who provoked it when he asked the crowd to behave, whether it was the Indonesian military provocateurs who sabotaged the march and ignited the riot as part of Konfrontasi?
What mattered was that the riots happened in the end. While the government tries to instill this sense of fear to justify control if you ask liberals about this race and religion narrative, there is some grounding in it e.g. the 2011 London riots were racially charged however one digs, however controversial. Senseless street violence just needs an excuse to explode, no difference then, no difference now and in future.
20 July 2013 Last updated at 04:55 GMT
‘Trayvon Martin could have been me’ – Barack Obama
President Barack Obama has said that “Trayvon Martin could have been me, 35 years ago”, in his first comments on the case since last week’s verdict.
The unarmed black 17-year-old was shot and killed in Florida in February 2012.
George Zimmerman, 29, said he opened fire on the teenager in self-defence and was acquitted of murder by a Florida court last week.
In an unexpected press call, Mr Obama said very few black men in the US had not experienced racial profiling.
Mr Obama said the pain that African-Americans felt around the case came from the fact that they viewed it through “a set of experiences and a history that doesn’t go away”.
He said African Americans were also keenly aware of racial disparities in the application of criminal laws.
“That all contributes to a sense that if a white male teen was involved in the same kind of scenario, both the outcome and the aftermath might have been different,” Mr Obama said.
“When Trayvon Martin was first shot, I said that this could have been my son. Another way of saying that is Trayvon Martin could have been me, 35 years ago.”
He shared his experiences of being racially profiled in the past, such as being followed while out shopping.
“There are very few African-American men who haven’t had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars.
“There are very few African-Americans who haven’t had the experience of getting on an elevator and a woman clutching her purse nervously and holding her breath until she has a chance to get off,” he said.
Mr Obama also hailed the “incredible grace and dignity” of Trayvon Martin’s parents – Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton – in the way they reacted to the verdict.
Calling for “soul-searching” from Americans on issues of race, he also sounded a hopeful note, saying that race relations were improving with each generation.
Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton later issued a statement saying they were “deeply honoured and moved” by President Obama’s comments.
“President Obama sees himself in Trayvon and identifies with him. This is a beautiful tribute to our boy,” they said.
“We seek a future when a child can walk down the street and not worry that others see him as dangerous because of the colour of his skin or the clothes on his back.”
Saturday’s not guilty verdict for George Zimmerman from the all-female jury of six prompted nationwide protests, with further demonstrations planned for this weekend.
Mr Obama called for the protests to remain peaceful, saying any violence “dishonours what happened to Trayvon Martin”.
He said that although criminal matters and law enforcement were traditionally dealt with on a state and not a federal level, it would be useful to examine some state and local laws to see if they encourage confrontation in certain situations.
On Wednesday, US Attorney General Eric Holder cited the case as he urged a nationwide review of “stand your ground” laws, such as those in place in Florida, which permit the use of deadly force if a person feels seriously threatened.
The issue was never raised during the trial, though the judge included a provision about the law in her instructions to the jury, allowing it to be considered as a legitimate defence.
Trayvon Martin was shot dead by Mr Zimmerman, a neighbourhood watchman, after an altercation in a gated community in Sanford, Florida.
Florida police did not arrest Mr Zimmerman for six weeks after the shooting, provoking mass rallies throughout the US.