Monday, April 30, 2012

Before you 'kill' Zimmerman

There is no doubt of George Zimmerman’s guilt in the shooting that led to the death of Trayvon Martin, there however remains doubt as to whether the killing was in cold blood or an act of self defence. The trial that is ongoing is primarily expected to answer that question, at least beyond reasonable doubt.

Of the killing, Zimmerman says it was an act of desperate self-defence, against a boy he thought just a few years younger, an admission that many contest on grounds that he had a gun, and was more physically imposing that the unarmed youth he say he was fighting off. There is also that commonly held belief, within black America and elsewhere, that there is a racist undertone to Zimmerman’s action and the reaction of the police to the case afterwards. That Zimmerman insisted on going after the boy after the officer answering his 911 call indicated that he not do so, is a clear sign he racially profiled the boy and marked him as guilty of something, many contend.

Though Zimmerman and his backers say this is not the case, he couldn’t have profiled the kid that way, his background would not allow him do that—discriminate on grounds of colour—the doubt still rests heavily on his shoulders.

The whole argument on racial profiling seriously begs the question: what is racial profiling and how could that have led to the death of a boy that harmless and young?

Racial/tribal profiling exists in different forms in different places. Some are negative, other not so much so. In Nigeria, the belief that people from Warri have a high sense of humour, that the average Hausa man is honest to a fault, that the Igbo can do anything for money, that the Yoruba are cowards are some of the milder forms of racial profiling. The extra security that a green Nigerian passport or a Semitic appearance triggers in airports in the west is a more unsavoury form, at least for those on the receiving end.

For blacks in America, ethnic profiling of the negative kind is a reality and has existed for centuries in various forms. I read somewhere that the whites perceive the average black American as lazy. For a community that effectively raised America to its present status on the strength of their toil on the cotton fields, tobacco fields and countless other slave labour engagements, laziness should be the last thing that mention of them evokes. Nevertheless, there is that other one, the one that sees blacks as having a lower IQ than whites, one so well expressed by John Derbyshire is his viral article. Other unsavoury profiles, for both blacks and whites, do exist in the American society and they have for centuries and may well continue to for a long time to come.

No one can readily say when or how these negative profiling started or what their purposes are, but it is not farfetched to see in them the inherent mistrust man have for anything that looks or feels different. Perhaps, wanting to live apart from those of other races/tribes worked well in the past, but the world today is a global community. It is just not possible to be exclusive.

That said; one would not shy from arguing that the black American community have not exactly done much to dispel the negative profiles that have hung around it for decades, if not centuries. Unlike the white American community that tries hard to show it is a community of contrasts where you have the good and the bad, there seem to be an unconscious move by the blacks to cultivate the aggressive image, perhaps as a kind of defence mechanism after years of oppressive living under the whites. I really don’t know, just grasping at straws here, but the stereotype of the black American that is commonplace is that of highly strung individuals with ill repressed anger that is always threatening to blow up, with disastrous consequences.

While this description would in reality describe only a minute amount of people in the black community, the others chose to wear it as a garb, a kind of communal identity that only spells doom. I have heard mention of the nature of the American system and how it predisposes black to drop out of school and fail, how that is the cause of a higher percentage of them than whites in America’s prison system, how it makes it harder for them to find work. However, coming from where I am coming from, I say they, and only they, can make good no matter the situation. Well, that is my take, I know the debate of whether the system set black up to fail is still on and will continue for much longer.

Getting back to Zimmerman, if we are to agree with those insisting he racially profiled Trayvon Martin, then, we are agreeing that the common racial profiling of black Americans is negative. That being the case, Zimmerman, A neighbourhood watch volunteer (I think they operate in much the same way neighbourhood watches operate in Nigeria, with police as the authority and the volunteers referring cases to them), saw a black youth in a hoodie walking by a thought “crime”. He gave case, pulled his gun at some point and shot the youth dead, only it turned out the suspect was just an innocent boy out for some snacks.

Trayvon Martin is dead; nothing that happens now can change that fact. We have to keep in mind that black youths have been breaking into houses in that neighbourhood for some time before this incident, and that this might justify Zimmerman’s profiling, but does that change much? The boy is dead. In his death and in the death of thousands of people world over, we see further evidence of man’s inability to live with man without conflict, in his death lies the shame of our age.

In his death lie lessons for his community and everyone else. While incidents of history like this one may make it seem expedient to glorify the thug life, to see offense as a form of defense, we have to be wary that times have changed. The celebration of the criminal life, something sagging pants and a hoodie pulled over the eyes to hide the face at night tends to glorify, is not the way to go.

The world needs to take another look at the music stars that encourage the gangland lifestyle, who rap and talk about killing one another in glowing terms. Black America need to adopt more positive role models for their kids, they need to show them the many positive examples being set by the children of immigrant family, of which their president is one, who have taken the opportunities available and made good. They need to tell people like 50 Cents and Lil Wayne to stop being bad influences on their kids by mouthing negative lyrics, they need to learn to stay married and raise kids in decent homes. Most importantly, they need to stop complaining of white America’s ill treatment and take the immense opportunities their society offers.

For the zimmerman’s of this world, whatever reason caused him to kill the youth, the right to take a life is not yours, and “standing your ground” does not make it right when the person you are confronting is unarmed.
For the people angry and gunning for revenge, think about how many blacks were killed in black on black violence in America this week before you kill Zimmerman in your head.

Justice is from above.


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