Unacknowledged privilege and more thoughts on Zimmerman

By , July 24, 2013 2:39 pm

A few weeks ago, I shared some thoughts on the Zimmerman verdict. Since then, I’ve continued to think about both the verdict and what I wrote, and have had some very interesting and very difficult conversations with friends about Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin, as well as institutional and interpersonal racism, and more. Specifically, it made me think about my unacknowledged privilege, and how much that played into my claims that the verdict wasn’t flawed.

As part of that, I’ve been considering how I’d feel if the situation were about a cis adult killing a trans youth. How the media would portray it. How I’d feel about the verdict. I still think the verdict of not guilty would be legally justifiable in that situation. But reframing the situation to one closer to my personal experience has made me realize how silly it is to focus solely on the legal part of the case, as if that verdict happened in a vacuum.

Lets use a metaphor. Say I’m trying to follow a recipe. But I don’t particularly care if the recipe comes out well. I use bad ingredients. My oven doesn’t display temperatures accurately. I get distracted throughout the process, and generally do a poor job. Even if the recipe is perfect, the end result is going to be pretty shitty.

So pretend that the ‘stand your ground’ laws are just. (I don’t think they are, but bear with me.) Lets also say that threshold for finding someone guilty of murder or manslaughter, when they claim a defense of self-defense, is set appropriately high. But everything leading up to the trial – Zimmerman’s initial attitude, the 911 call and his refusal to back off, the way the police handled things after Trayvon’s death, the way the media has talked about the case, the delay in going to trial, the makeup of the jury (which even Fox News thinks is problematic) – all that adds up to a situation where the verdict can’t be just. Even if the verdict – absent of all of that other stuff – is still the legally correct one.

In my previous post I said that the verdict is not one of the many flaws that happened in this sequence of events. I still sorta-kinda believe that, if the verdict could be viewed as somehow isolated from the whole chain of events which led up to it. But that’s silly; it can’t be viewed in isolation. It needs to be viewed as both part of the larger Zimmerman/Martin narrative, and as part of a larger (racist) system. So I understand why my post frustrated some friends of mine: it viewed The System as somehow separate from lived reality. I am grateful my friends called me out. I hope being honest and open about my thought process will be useful to others, and that folks will chime in if they see more places they agree or disagree with what I’ve said.

Leave a Reply

Panorama Theme by Themocracy