We Are All Trayvon, and We Need to Take That Message to The Streets!
What Happens When We Let the System Work?
by Carl Dix | June 30, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
"We have achieved what we set out to do. All we wanted from the beginning was to see this case in court. Now that Zimmerman is going on trial, people need to sit back and let the court do its job." This statement was made by Benjamin Crump, a lawyer representing Trayvon Martin's parents. Similar statements have been made by people close to the case, like the Reverend Al Sharpton, among others. Statements like this are wrong and dangerous.
To say this is to ignore the brutal oppression this system has historically enforced on Black people. It misses what is concentrated in this case and what moved so many people to take to the streets in outrage all across the country declaring, "We Are All Trayvon!" Statements like this could also end up killing any chance at getting justice in this case.
Tell me when letting the system work has brought justice for Black people? Under slavery Black people were property, worked like plow horses from can't see in the morning till can't see at night. They were subjected to whipping and other forms of brutality for any real or imagined transgression. Any man who could get the OK from the plantation owner could rape enslaved Black women at will. When a slave named Dred Scott got a case against slavery into the courts, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Black people had no rights that whites had to respect. This was the system working!
From the time Black people were dragged to these shores in chains, there were some 250 documented slave revolts. Around the U.S., a broad-based abolitionist movement campaigned against slavery. Eventually, it took the Civil War, in which Black people—including former slaves—fought and died in great numbers, to end formal slavery in the South. But only a decade after slavery was abolished, Black people were subjected to slavery by another name. Black people who had done nothing wrong could be arrested, convicted in court, and sentenced to chain gangs or to work in mines, factories, or on plantations in conditions that were often worse than slavery. They had no way to challenge these horrific injustices. This was the system continuing to work!
Between the end of the Civil War and 1960, nearly 3,500 Black people were lynched in this country. Most of the victims of this lynch mob terror weren't even suspected of having committed any crimes. Official records of lynchings show that often Black people got lynched because a racist mob couldn't find the Black person they wanted to lynch. These records also list cases of people being lynched because they were considered too uppity or because whites were jealous of their success. No white people were ever convicted for any of these lynchings! By law and by custom (Jim Crow), Black people were not even allowed to bring charges against a white person or to testify against a white person in court. Again, this was the system working the way it always worked! And again, this only changed as a result of the heroic sacrifice of people in the civil rights and Black liberation struggles, along with problems the U.S. empire was encountering as people around the world correctly associated "U.S. democracy" with segregation, white racism, and the KKK and police beating and murdering civil rights protesters.
But because the system was not overthrown, today there is a new Jim Crow. Today police who patrol the ghettos and barrios like occupying armies inflict brutality and even murder on Black and Latino communities across the country. The Stolen Lives Project of the October 22nd Coalition to Stop Police Brutality documented that in the 1990s alone, police and other law enforcement agents killed more than 2,000 people. Most of the people killed were young and Black or Latino. And most of them were unarmed and not involved in criminal activity when they were killed. Yet killer cops are almost never punished when they brutalize and kill innocent and unarmed people. The few times police are put on trial for brutalizing or murdering people, they almost always get off because prosecutors forget how to prosecute and judges bend over backwards to let them off. Again this is the system working the way it has always worked!
Anyone who says we can expect justice for Trayvon Martin by letting the system work, either doesn't know how this system has historically inflicted injustice on Black people or hopes those who hear them don't know this history.
You can figure out what the system working means just by looking at the murder of Trayvon Martin. The cops come across George Zimmerman, a vigilante wannabe cop, standing over Trayvon's dead body holding the gun he has just used to kill him. The cops walk Zimmerman into and out of the police station, letting him walk free. They drug-test Trayvon's dead body—yes the body of the victim—but don't do any such tests on the killer! This was the system working: the same damn way it has always worked.
Zimmerman is on trial because people refused to allow the system to work the way it always has. Black and Latino youth spearheaded this, and they were joined by people of different nationalities and from different backgrounds. The youth stepped out because they knew the sting of being criminalized by this society, forced to go thru their lives with a bull's-eye on their backs. They stood up and said NO MORE! Others joined them because they didn't want to live in a world where people were brutalized and murdered simply because of the color of their skin.
It will take revolution—nothing less—to end this horrible outrage, and all the other outrages this system brings down on people around the world—the wars for empire, the violence against women, the ravaging of the planet and more. And right now it will take mass determined resistance to have a real shot at justice in this case and to stop the way our youth are treated like they're guilty until proven innocent, if they can survive to prove their innocence.
The only reason Zimmerman is on trial for murdering Trayvon is because people took to the streets declaring, "We Are All Trayvon!" It didn't happen because the system started working in this case.
If we now sit back and let the system work, the system is likely to work the way it always has, the way it has already worked in this case. It is likely to let Zimmerman walk free again. And there are signs this is in motion. The news is reporting that the jury in the case of Trayvon Martin's killer is all white except for one juror (whose nationality has not been identified). Among them, a white woman who reportedly questioned why Trayvon was getting candy at night (he was killed shortly after 7 pm!). This woman should have been taken off the jury because she was obviously prejudiced. When that didn't happen, the prosecution tried to use one of their allowed challenges to remove her, but the judge overruled this and kept her on the jury. Meanwhile, another juror was taken off the jury because her pastor had written in support of Trayvon Martin.
So we cannot let the system "work" the way it always has, and the way it is working now. If Zimmerman walks, it would amount to a great injustice in its own right, and a declaration of open season on Black youth. We cannot let this go down in silence, which means people need to continue and step up political protest demanding justice—right now, not after the system "works" again the way it always does.
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