By MURPHY BROWNE
“Millions of African Americans, whose lives have improved enormously due to the social and economic changes of the last several years, nonetheless are at disproportionate risk of police abuse. They also remain largely unprotected by their government from racially motivated violence perpetrated by groups and individuals. New victims of racial violence have added their names to the rolls of those injured or killed because they were Black. The years since Reconstruction, when Blacks became nominally free, are littered with incidences of White riots against Blacks, burnings of Black homes and churches, and lynchings, while federal and local law enforcement agencies stood idly by.”
From Black Resistance/White Law: A History of Constitutional Racism in America by Mary Frances Berry, published 1993.
The recent media firestorm that accompanied the killing of unarmed African-American teenager, Trayvon Martin, by a White neighbourhood watch volunteer is an anomaly.
African-American author, Julius Lester, writes in his book Look Out, Whitey! Black Power’s Gon’ Get Your Mama! which was published in 1968: “The American Black man has never known law and order except as an instrument of oppression: and it has prevailed upside his head at every available opportunity. The law has been written by White men, for the protection of White men and their property, to be enforced by White men against Blacks.”
African-Americans have been the victims of White violence from the time Africans were forcibly taken to America to the present and, in many cases, the people who were assigned to uphold law and order have led the many atrocities visited upon African-American individuals and communities.
In Black Resistance/White Law, Professor Berry explains: “Black people have been a disquieting presence in America since the arrival of the first twenty Africans at Jamestown in 1619. To most Blacks their status, usually as slaves until 1865 and as second class citizens thereafter, has been unacceptable; to some it has been intolerable. Before 1865, in addition to aiding in the suppression of slave revolts, the national government ignored or approved – on constitutional grounds –White mob violence directed at Blacks and their few White supporters even when local officials participated in the violence.”
The Memphis Massacre, which ended on May 3, 1866, is just one of countless examples of the violence directed toward African-American communities in which government officials participated. Beginning on May 1, 1866, the White community of Memphis, led by the mostly Irish immigrant police force, raped, maimed and murdered African-American men, women and children and burned property of African-Americans. The government intervened after three days during which White people rampaged through the African-American community and destroyed houses, churches and schools.
In Black Resistance/White Law, Professor Berry describes the Memphis White mob’s violence of May 1 to 3, 1866 and its conclusion: “This mob and the entire Memphis police force then began roaming the city, shooting, beating or arresting any Black person who could be found. Parties of mounted Whites rode through the Black sections, setting fire to churches, schools and houses and beating all who resisted. The violence lasted for four days. Forty-six Blacks and two Whites were killed; ninety-one houses, twelve schools, and four churches were burned in the Black neighbourhoods. A subsequent military investigation placed the blame squarely on city officials.”
Given this history, it is not surprising that a few people have cautioned that even thoughGeorge Zimmerman has been charged with second degree murder in the killing of 17-year-old unarmed African-American, Trayvon Martin, there is a possibility that he may not serve any jail time for his crime. It is also not surprising that when the police attended at the scene of the murder, they allowed an armed White man who had shot and killed an unarmed teenager to leave the scene of the crime with the murder weapon. This White neighbourhood watch volunteer who was parading around the neighbourhood with a deadly weapon and who we are told in July 2005 was charged with resisting arrest, violence and battery of an officer was not charged after killing an unarmed African American teenager.
In August 2005, he was also accused of domestic violence by his then fiancée who filed a civil motion for a restraining order against him. A pillar of society was this White gunman who killed Trayvon Martin on February 26, 2012 and it seems there is a possibility he will get away with murder!
At a town hall meeting on Thursday, April 19 at the Beulah Baptist Church in TampaFlorida, I first heard this mentioned by one of the lawyers who said a single judge, not a jury, will decide if George Zimmerman deserves immunity. This decision will be left in the hands of a single individual. The same thought was reiterated by Mumia Abu-Jamal in answer to a question from Amy Goodman of “Democracy Now” during an interview on Wednesday, April 25 when Abu-Jamal said, “As for Trayvon, the little boy who could have been the son of the President of the United States, when we look at what happened in that case, and in my real view is that, in a matter of weeks or months, we may see an immunity hearing that will wipe out the charges completely, and Mr. Zimmerman will never see the inside of a prison.”
Although Zimmerman and his people have been dragging out all kinds of non-White ancestors (they have even dusted off an “Afro-Peruvian” great-grandfather), the fact remains that he has enjoyed White skin privilege his whole life and that is hardly likely to change now.
However, the outpouring of support for Trayvon Martin’s case has led to a charge of second degree murder and intense scrutiny of this case and support for “Justice for Trayvon” will go a long way to ensuring that Zimmerman does not slither away with claiming “immunity”.
In this 21st century it would be a travesty for this kind of injustice to continue.
“There ain’t no power like the power of the people, ‘cause the power of the people won’t stop!”