A Florida jury returned a not guilty verdict in the trial of George Zimmerman charged with the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. This trial was about Zimmerman, an armed self-appointed community watch person that chased teenager Martin at night, because he suspected Martin of criminal motives. I expected this verdict given the nature of the charges that provided the killer the option of a self-defense plea.
Undisputed facts: Zimmerman decided to follow Martin he suspected had criminal intentions based only on Martin's appearance. Martin's presence in the neighborhood was lawful. He was innocent of any crime or disruptive conduct, and had no previous contact with Zimmerman. Zimmerman called the Sanford, Florida police department and reported his unlawful conduct of following someone he suspected of criminal aims. Zimmerman admitted that Martin ran when he saw Zimmerman stalking him. Zimmerman admitted that he judged Martin of teenage years. The dispatcher warned Zimmerman not to continue his pursuit of Martin. Nevertheless, Zimmerman continued to chase Marin and advanced close enough to spark a physical confrontation. Zimmerman shot and killed Martin.
I have compassion for the parents of Trayvon Martin. They lost a son and the criminal justice system allowed his killer to walk free. I knew the jury would find Zimmerman not guilty by how they framed the question of guilt. Prosecutors argued that Zimmerman profiled and stalked Martin, who was returning from a convenience store after buying candy and a soft drink. Zimmerman pleaded self-defense based on Florida's "right to stand and defend law" claiming that he shot Martin in fear for his life. Then, the trial became a question of who had advantage in the confrontation making the victim Martin potentially blameworthy for his murder. One legal opinion concluded the prosecutor could win a conviction only if he proved Martin had not taken any action against Zimmerman. This is an absurd conclusion given the Florida law of "stand and defend since Martin was the victim. Commonsense should alert even people without a law degree to the unfairness and inequality of this development.
Florida law says: "A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony."
Clearly, those circumstances described in the law allows only for one aggressor and one victim of the attack. The undisputed facts show that Zimmerman was the armed person acting unlawfully as a vigilante- a member of a self-appointed group of citizens who undertake law enforcement in their community without police authority. He hunted Martin in the dark and approached close enough to spark a physical confrontation. Typically, the law asserts that someone that engages in an unlawful act is responsible for the outcomes whether intentional or not.
The Florida law does not allow for switched roles between attacker and victim during the confrontation of force that would allow the attacker the right of self-defense because the victim tried to stand and defended him or herself. Nevertheless, this jury decided the pursuing Zimmerman not guilty, because victim Martin inflicted some wounds on Zimmerman while trying to stand and defend himself. The self-defense option should have been lost to Zimmerman because he acted as a vigilante. He created any potential physical harm to him and the murder of Martin by ignoring the police dispatcher's instruction to wait for the police to arrive and not to chase Martin.
It appears from the State's original reluctance to prosecute Zimmerman and the jury verdict that laws of the old west apply in Florida. The person with the fastest gun, if armed, wins and the State does not convict him or her of a crime.
This jury found Zimmerman not guilty although he aggressively pursued teenage Martin who had run to escape from him. Therefore, it is likely they would have found Martin guilty if from fear he succeeded in killing Zimmerman. Perhaps the "stand and defend" rules apply only to certain victims and killers. Let us see what happens when a battered spouse, or one that asserted battery, kills their spouse based on the stand and defend law. Anyone has the right to defend him or herself without prosecution, but not if he or she was the original aggressor who claims fear of harm from defensive acts of the victim. The outcome of this trial is reprehensible.
People ask me if I believe racial prejudice influenced Zimmerman's conduct and the jury decision. I will not accuse Zimmerman of racial prejudice, because he did not make a direct reference to race about Martin and I am not a mind reader. However, he did display prejudice against Martin, by branding him a criminal-"these assholes, they always get away." -and stalking him based only on his appearance. I have no evidence of racial prejudice by jury members.
Paula Deen is a southern food cooking specialist, writer, and host of "Paula's Home Cooking" on the Food Network. She admitted in a legal deposition using the N-racist-slur long ago. In addition, she admitted allowing racial slurs in the workplace and quoting workers remarks with N-racial-slur in them. The Food Network and other business declined to renew her contract. Now Deen and many defenders protest the strong response against her remarks is unfair. However, she reaped the product of her racist seeding.
A main defense for Deen, born in Georgia in 1947, is that she is the product of the racist social environment of the South characterized by ideas of white supremacy and racial oppression. In other words, she entered adulthood unaware of higher moral standards for conduct. I reject this self-serving argument. The American States approved the Declaration of Independence July 4, 1776 about 200 years before her adulthood. It set out principles of human equality and rights of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness that were self-evident to reasoning and moral people. Deen could have embraced those reasoning and moral principles.
True, from goals of greediness, most founders did support racism and savagery of slavery in the Constitution. However, the United States fought a Civil War to preserve the Union. Afterward, it approved the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution in 1865 that outlawed slavery. The Fourteenth Amendment in 1868 secured equality of treatment for all natural-born and naturalized citizens without consideration of race. The rebelling states agreed to abide by the new constitutional amendments as a condition of rejoining the Union. Many of them accepted the benefits of reinstated American citizenship and then reneged on their oath to treat all citizens equally under the law.
Many people in the South wanted vengeance for their Civil War defeat. They lacked the courage and means to seek it against the American government leaders or American Army that had weaponry to fight back. Instead, they subjected Freed Americans to a culture of racism and terrorism as surrogates for Northern leaders. This harsh culture of racial oppression included language of belittlement that attacked the emotions and self-image of Freed Americans. This culture of revenge compelled Freed Americans to act submissively in the presence of a white-race-labeled person or face physical attack, arrest, mutilation, or death for noncompliance.
Only a contradiction of logic supported this surrogacy for culpability. "Without weapons, political power, or economic power, Freed Americans of an inferior black race caused the humiliating defeat of superior white-race Southerners." Therefore, to gain satisfaction from taking vengeance on the surrogates, those Southern rebels had to ignore the inconsistency of their assertions and convince themselves of Freed Americans' blameworthiness.
Self-deception requires people to give emotion control over reason. Southerners dispensed with reason and convinced themselves they were victims of Freed Americans' actions with the potential for more harm. They reacted with an 85-year reign of terror (about 1880 to 1965) on Freed Americans in the South inclusive of lynching, burning at the stake, maiming, dismemberment, castration, and other brutal methods of physical torture. "N-racial-slur" was the label for their victims and is the word that expresses this attitude of permissive cruelty and hatred.
Those are the ideas Deen and others evoke and support when they utter "N-racial-slur." However, she and her supporters trivialize the history of cruelty and inhumanity it symbolizes with the defense that she is the victim of political correctness and intolerance for an honest mistake of saying it. Deen's defenders also claim a double standard, because, "Black people call one another N-racial-slur all the time." They contend that society should not hold Deen accountable for past conduct, because she apologized for it.
Deen had a choice of moral standards. She chose to venerate a period in history of degenerate American racism and cruelty. I will not give Deen a pass for her conduct based on an apology, because I do not believe in apology. An apology is only an assertion of new values or conclusions and promise of different future conduct. No matter its sincerity, an apology does not change the effects of intentional bad conduct. An apology for accidental events of which the person had no discretion is meaningless.
Race is a social construction in America and the foundation for racism. Nevertheless, the emotional and financial costs to the targets of racism are real. "N-racial-slur" is a verbal assault of belittlement that causes emotional distress in people susceptible to it. Some people display confusion or emotional damage from assault of racism by referring to themselves as N-racial-slur in the degrading language of their tormentors. I liken them to people that engage in self-injury like cutting themselves. It is an unhealthy way to cope with emotional pain, intense anger, and frustration. Nevertheless, no rational or moral person presumes an equal right to inflict more harm on someone that engages in self-injury.
I never heard of Paula Deen before this accusation of racism confirmed by her remarks and conduct. Nevertheless, I am pleased to see public condemnation of this conduct as an effective way to end expressions of bigotry. Laws alone will not effect change so long as most Americans support bigotry by their silence.
I do not suggest that racism is common only in the South or that only the people in the defeated Southern states were responsible for the reign of violence and intimidation of Freed Americans. I suspect America's national leaders permitted it to happen as a catharsis for post-Civil War tensions among white-race-labeled Americans. They had to recognize the culture of savagery in their midst. After all, during the 85 years of post-Civil War cruelty, the United States defeated Nazi Germany in World War II to uncover and prevent Nazi Holocaust of Jews and other Europeans the Nazi classified as not Aryans. Nevertheless, United States' leaders allowed prolonged acts of racial cruelty and death to continue in the South with impunity for the torturers, murderers, and assaulters for at least another two decades after fighting a war to stop similar conduct in Europe.