Zimmerman: Guilty or Innocent, still a Racist Vigilante

Trayvon
For the past week, I’ve been glued to the television screen watching as much as I can of the George Zimmerman trial. Accused of second-degree murder, the state of Florida is prosecuting Zimmerman for racially profiling and then shooting to death African-American seventeen-year old Trayvon Martin. Since those reading this will surely be acquainted with this infamous and racially-charged event, I will only briefly recount the happenings of that fateful night.

On the night of February 26th, 2012, Trayvon Martin was on his way back to his dad’s home in a gated town home community in Sanford, Florida, in the central part of the state. Carrying a bag of skittles candy, a can of Arizona iced tea, and wearing a hoodie on that rainy night, Trayvon Martin was walking through Zimmerman’s neighborhood as the latter followed him in his car, suspicious of the young man because of the color of his skin and due to a series of robberies committed in his area in the previous months. The prosecution holds that Zimmerman needlessly followed and then provoked Trayvon into a scuffle that ended in the teen’s death at the hands of Zimmerman’s pistol from point-blank range. The defense has an easier road to follow; while the state must prove beyond reasonable doubt to the jury (9 women, 8 of which are white) that Zimmerman murdered Trayvon with “malice” and “ill will”, all the defense team has to do is sow enough doubt in the case against their client and uphold Zimmerman’s theory of self-defense. They’ve done this with some success. They’ve poked holes and sought to deligitimize every prosecution witness from Trayvon’s friend Rachel Jeantel, who was on the phone with Trayvon during the initial stage of his confrontation with Zimmerman, to the Sanford police investigator of the crime, and the medical examiner who diagnosed Zimmerman’s head injuries as essentially insignificant.

The trial in itself is fascinating in the way in which the opposing sides meticulously scrutinize every detail of the situation to reinforce their story. The media outlets broadcasting the trial routinely take breaks in which commentators of various backgrounds chime in and give their viewpoints on how the case is proceeding and usually betray their sympathies for the defense or prosecution. The entire spectacle is fixated on the whether George Zimmerman legitimately feared for his life due to Trayvon Martin’s aggression and employed his self-defense right to “meet force with force” (as the Florida self-defense law dubbed “Stand Your Ground” Zimmerman claims to have based his killing on states.). The defense seeks to build up Zimmerman as an honest and trustworthy American who fell upon an unfortunate situation that required the use of lethal force. Several of the defense’s 18 witnesses know Zimmerman personally and went on and on about his concern for his community, his work with small children, etc., all in an attempt to influence the jury’s perspective on Zimmerman. This strategy, for the defense, implies framing Trayvon as just another street thug, a good-for-nothing criminal who asked for what he got. They’ve honed in on his tattoos as an example of that, although when Trayvon’s mother took the stand she told the defense lawyer Mark O’Mara during her cross-examination that those tattoos were in honor of her and his grandmother. The defense rejects any accusations of racism against their client as they employ typical stereotypes of Black men to slander Trayvon’s legacy and justify his death.

zimmermanlawyer

A telling picture from the daughter of George Zimmerman’s attorney, Don West, eating vanilla ice cream saying: “We beat stupidity celebration cones. #zimmerman #defense #dadkilledit”

Amidst the confusion and complexity of the trial, the media and those who only focus on Zimmerman’s legal innocence or guilt miss the larger picture. Even if Zimmerman were not a racist, even if he did act in self-defense as defined by the law, the point here is that in the United States, Black men are routinely racially profiled  by the racist capitalist state and reinforced in the realm of ideas through TV shows, movies, music, etc. The criminalization of Black men justifies, in our society, their mass incarceration and brutality at the hands of police. If it can be proven that Zimmerman held a deeply racist psychology, evidenced by his remarks against Black people and Mexicans, this is the result of the racist environment we are all raised in that demonizes Black people to enforce their material subjugation in America. A guilty verdict is just, but won’t change this reality. When Zimmerman saw Trayvon walking through his block, he immediately saw himself as an agent of the law and the latter as his criminal target. That is the social context in which the two crossed paths. This situation replays itself countless times each day in the US in the sense that Black folks are viewed with a mix of fear and suspicion, but which normally ends in white people (but also other people of color) saying racist garbage about Black people and moving on. In the case at hand, however, it ended in the murder of this young Black man and the consequent social upheaval angry at the impunity in which the killers of Black men are routinely treated with. The protests and popular disgust at Trayvon Martin’s death and this nation’s racist nature have forced Zimmerman’s trial onto the spotlight.

From the beginning, Zimmerman and his family attempted to deflect accusations of racism by saying they identify as “Hispanic”. As far as I know, he is half Peruvian. But anyone who knows Latinos in the U.S. understands the racial prejudices they hold against Black people. In addition, Zimmerman has displayed racist, anti-immigrant sentiment against Mexicans, evidence of where his actual racial allegiances lay. When Black officers kill Black people, or when a Mexican-descended US border patrol agent rounds up people who look just like him/her, they serve the white supremacist state regardless of their background.

White ruling classes run Latin America like they run the United States, presiding over a centuries-old racial caste system against those with brown skin, Afro-Latinos, and indigenous people. Herein lies the problem with the term “Latino” as a category the US state racializes Latin American immigrants into. It erases differences of nation, race, and class. A significant segment of Latin Americans in this country identify as white on a personal level and on the US census because they are white. To give one example, the initial flow of Cubans to the US after the revolution of 1959 were mainly well-off white Cubans fleeing from the property expropriations, executions, and roundups by the new regime. The US government provided them with great financial assistance to create a powerful bastion of right-wing counterrevolution. The CIA provided a large amount of employment to these exiles, many who attempted to, and still fantasize about, overthrowing Castro. Today, they remain key contributors to the Republican Party. In the 1980s Cuba opened up its floodgates and thousands of Cubans once again made their way to the shores of Florida, this time largely Black or poor. While they were provided with citizenship, they did not have the financial or political backing of the state. They became part of Florida and Miami’s low-wage working class, underemployed, homeless, and drug peddlers. These two groups of Cubans are diametrically opposed by race and class, as they were in Cuba. Grouping them under a general racial category erases these key differences. I’m not saying we should throw it out, because it also does represent a general experience most people of Latin American descent experience as workers, immigrants, and brown people. But it does contain contradictions.

George Zimmerman acted as an unofficial agent of white supremacy and is only on a high-profile trial because of popular demand and because he is an unofficial pig, a lawless vigilante who thinks he’s entitled to protect the purity of his lily-white republic by murdering unarmed Black men. He applied to be an official cop but they rejected him due to a bad financial record. He belongs to the same family as the KKK who still crawl around the country and the white “minutemen” who take it upon themselves to hunt down immigrants at the border and kill them like animals. Yet they are not the main problem plaguing Black and Brown people. It is the badged vigilantes, the police, the armed enforcers of the state who run wild killing Black people with complete  impunity. They tear apart immigrant families, break down their doors, indefinitely detain them, and sow fear in their neighborhoods and workplaces through programs like E-Verify and S-Comm.

For all the talk of Zimmerman’s supposed self-defense against a young and unarmed Trayvon Martin, it is workers and people of color who must seriously think about self-defense, whether it be against random freaks like Zimmerman, racist mobs, or the state itself. All talk about “peace” in our communities after one of ours is killed, deported, or jailed merely serves to deepen our oppression and leave us defenseless against the racist violence of American society.

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7 responses to “Zimmerman: Guilty or Innocent, still a Racist Vigilante

  1. Yes the racist pigs are to blame for alot of violence in our communities but I also think some of our Latin and Black brothers are to blame too. How many innocent kids have been killed throughout the years because of senseless gang violence. These thugs who make our communities targets for the pigs know what they do is wrong and continue to do it. They are lumpen proletariat so who gives a fuck if the pigs kill them. I’m not saying Treyvon Martin was a thug, I believe he was an innocent boy who maybe just idolized the stupid thugs on TV or the thugs around his neighborhood.

    • Really appreciated the post on Zimmerman. Does a decent job analyzing how race and class play out in a diverse nation plagued by white-supremacist thought and actions throughout the relations of class production and reproduction.

      Really surprised and appalled to find Gabriel’s contribution on this blog, As it in no way provides anything of quality for Marxists/Socialists/Communists. Just in case Gabriel does identify as some variety of leftist I’ll attempt to address his/her shortcomings.

      To start with, AS does not condone any violence by the various institutions of the state (police, military, ICE, etc.) upon the working class, including the “lumpen proletariat”.

      “Yes the racist pigs are to blame for alot of violence in our communities but I also think some of our Latin and Black brothers are to blame too.”

      @ Gabriel – Liberals and Conservatives blather on about who or what is to blame for the violence that plagues poor/working class communities, often from a moral high ground entirely disconnected from said communities, as if somehow once the blame is placed in the proper corner we’ll all have a merry & violence-free christmas.

      A Marxist analysis avoids the blame game while taking into account the material conditions that have developed in these communities, over time and space, centered around the relations of production/reproduction and the division of labor. For example, west oakland since the boom decades of World War II and after became the epicenter for black residents in Oakland. 7th street was a hub for black-owned businesses. Times were good, people went out spent their hard earned money, got together and started families. When the boom was over (late 60’s & 70’s), deindustrialization coupled with BART’s construction along 7th st.(keep in mind that the stops at 12th and lake merritt are below ground and the transbay tube is also below ground, yet w. oak bart is an above ground platform station, wonder why?) took its toll on black families and businesses in w. oakland. Automation and technological innovation took jobs away from Black fathers, and considering the fairly normal tendency for sons to go into the same line of work as fathers, one doesn’t need to be too sharp to understand the patterns and cycles that emerged in – w. oakland, detroit, chicago, gary ind., flint mich., cleveland, to name a few of the many black communities decimated by the rapid deindustrialization and automation practiced by industrial corporations in the U.S.

      As job opportunities declined, its fairly safe to assume violence increased in working class communities as economic relations shifted to a heavier emphasis on “black market” and underground economies, and more & more people had to start hustling as a means of survival. Taking account of many other aspects of the development of black and brown working class communities over time: TV/media portrayal, emphasis on individualism, prison expansion, single-parenting, criminalization of drug use/addiction, divestment in public education, these and many other factors helps paint a clearer picture of the violence, that Gabriel blames on individuals, but who in reality are merely the life actors of a wicked play -directed by a white supremacist state and produced by Capitalists.

      “How many innocent kids have been killed throughout the years because of senseless gang violence?

      Lots Gabriel. Are you speaking of the innocent Afghani & Iraqi children killed by senseless U.S. gang violence? – funded in large part by our tax dollars. Are you speaking of the innocent Palestinian children killed by senseless Israeli gang violence? – funded in large part by our tax dollars (i’ll bet if said tax dollars went to working class communities instead of imperial wars there would be fewer violent gangs). Or are you speaking of the innocent children a bit closer to home killed by senseless street gang violence? Only the street gangs aren’t funded by our tax dollars. They grew up in an unfunded nightmare. Their schools were unfunded. Their access to healthcare was unfunded. Their chances for employment were limited or nonexistent. They do however have access to affordable firearms provided by weapons manufacturers while the state facilitates easy access. No doubt to the delight of the Prison Industry. Thus, while you label gang violence “senseless” , there are many others (especially Ruling Class interests) who find this violence quite sensible and rake in large profits. And of course, there is the “lumpen” who carry out this violence which is so often labeled “senseless” by the media, by white liberals, by Petite Bourgeois people of color, by those who grew up in that environment (have navigated their way to higher ed. and find themselves in a job that pays them enough to avoid going back). Yet, my question to those who label this violence “senseless”… What else could be the fuel driving this violence? My guess is that much of it has to do with turf (otherwise known as land). Throughout history the acquisition of land has been an extremely violent but necessary aspect of the primitive accumulation of Capital. For example: the enclosures of land in Europe, the colonization of Africa, the Americas, India, etc. These resulted in countless deaths with many former colonies still reeling from unabated violence. With this in mind its fairly logical to assume that a good deal of gang violence, in neighborhoods where access to money and resources are scarce, centers around turf. For the gangs turf equals profits. And while I do not condone street gang violence, I refuse to uncritically label said violence as “senseless”. This again is a moral high ground lacking a political economic analysis, much like the next mindless quote from Gabriel.

      “These thugs who make our communities targets for the pigs know what they do is wrong and continue to do it.”

      “Thugs don’t make working class communities targets for the pigs, communities are targeted by the pigs (a part of the state). Working class schools are targeted for closure. Working class neighborhoods are targeted for gentrification. Working Class brothers and sisters are targeted for the prisons and the military. And sure the “thugs” know what they do is “wrong” but there are many reasons behind this continuous “senseless” violence. Some I’ve already mentioned, others maybe you should research Gabriel.

      I would argue, if I was on your moral level Gabriel, the most recent examples of senseless violence have come in the form of the unarmed killing of Oscar Grant, Sean Bell, Gary King, Raheim Brown et al. – by the pigs. Pigs whose salaries, are paid by our taxes, and eat up a large portion of city budgets. But these killings at the hands of the police have continued throughout the decades, while the officers are almost never held accountable. Why? In my opinion, the state benefits from these extra-judicial killngs by making sure the masses remain in fear and are thus more easily controlled.

      In response to your next mindless and sadistic sentence: “They are lumpen proletariat so who gives a fuck if the pigs kill them. ”

      There is an opposite side to this coin,…that is – who gives a fuck if the lumpen proletariat kills you Gabriel? Or who gives a fuck if the pigs kill you too Gabriel? Answer: your family, your friends, ie, the same people who give a fuck when the pigs kill those that you deem “thugs” and “lumpen proletariat”. I know I know Gabriel, you’re a moral being and make valuable contributions to society, and it would be a huge tragedy if you were killed by “senseless” violence. So rather than waste your (and our) time with mindless trolling, you’d do yourself a favor by researching the “thugs” who have been killed by police and you’d find a much more diverse group of individuals whose family and friends loved very much, and were killed by overpaid hitmen for the white supremacist state.

      After that, if you identify as a Marxist or some variety of leftist, we can recommend some books for you to read. In other words, step your game up, And in the future, maybe you won’t publish ridiculous comments like this:

      ” I’m not saying Treyvon Martin was a thug, I believe he was an innocent boy who maybe just idolized the stupid thugs on TV or the thugs around his neighborhood.”

      Talk about stupid. Wow Gabriel!

      But if you are nothing more than a mindless troll. You can always go shake George Zimmerman’s hand, as he was just acquitted of all charges and is free to continue his racist vigilantism.

      Surprise Surprise

      • Yea I agree Im not as brainy as the AS. I don’t have a college degree or am knowledgeable in marxist theory as I’d like to be. But what is really stupid is how these educated marxists insult us beginner ‘leftist’. You would think they would correct us and not insult us. Maybe we should keep our mouth shut and our head down so they can start the revolution themselves. I admit after reading your long comment I realized my first comment does seem ‘stupid’. I guess it’s just the anger I have for my younger brother being shot in a gang related drive by shooting. I hope one day I will be as knowledgeable as you until then thanks alot for your feedback and insults comrade.

  2. Hi Gabriel – I disagree with you, your first comment was not ‘stupid.’ I also disagree with some of the tone that Read puts forward in their comment. You’re raising questions that should be engaged with, and I think that the questions you are raising are very important because they get at some key tensions that the working class faces among itself.

    I’m a high school teacher and I can’t tell you how many proletarian parents I’ve spoken to at home visits about how they feel compelled to call the police because they dont feel safe in their own neighborhoods. What don’t they feel safe from? Lumpenized elements in their community. Folks are afraid of being robbed, of being raped, of being harassed for idiotic reasons or no reason at all.

    The reality is that lumpenization exists – it doesnt exist because people are evil, lazy, or whatever. It exists in the context of deindustrialization, long term unemployment, and increasing incarceration and surveillance at the hands of the racist state. But the reality is that lumpenization has proletarians acting as parasites on one another rather than struggling together against capital and the state to get what we need to survive.

    The left, broadly speaking, addresses this reality in a few ways that I feel are useful to begin outlining in order to figure out where we fit in or dont fit in. I dont have a ton of time to write this out so I will very likely simplify positions and leave something out. Hopefully this invites people to clarify what I may distort.

    1.) Gangs are proletarian organizations and can be politicized to be revolutionary: this position is held by groups as far apart as nonprofits that work with youth to revolutionary organizations that see any self-activity (aka, anything that black people or latino people do to organize themselves) as having revolutionary potential – and drawing from theorists like CLR James and Frantz Fanon to justify their positions. The nonprofit youth organizer side of the camp see gangs as organizations that should be seen all-sidedly, not only do they carry out parasitic criminal acts, they also act as second families for youth who are alienated from their own families; they are spaces where young people find meaning in life and a place to fit in. The revolutionaries who hold this position see radical potential in the actions of people like Lovelle Mixon who shot back and brought down a number of pigs a few years ago.

    2.) Gangs are lumpen and should be seen as counter-revolutionary, in their present actions and very likely during revolutionary upsurges: this position is held by the more hardcore revolutionaries who strive for clarity and dont want to get lost in wishy-washy pseudo support for what they see as reactionary, degenerate organizations of the working class which have fascistic potential.

    3.) My position: lumpen activity has a class nature to it both in the sense that it has developed as a result of the capitalist systems lack of providing meaningful employment for people, leading workers to attack each other for their wages rather than fight the bosses and the state for their profits and revenue, but it also has a class relation in it in that lumpen activity such as gangs, etc, often has an exploitative hierarchy within it. Young people are often at the bottom of this chain of exploitation, carrying out the most dangerous and labor intensive activity while older people, mostly males, reap the economic benefits of this labor. In my work with young people, I’ve seen that the siblings of people caught up in lumpen activity often have strong radical and revolutionary potential in that they are close to the degeneration and degradation of lumpen existence and can speak to people caught up in it, but at the same time they also often have a tendency to keep themselves at an arms distance from the activity itself. For this reason these youngsters are the ones i think that revolutionaries should focus attention on developing the political capacity of and supporting in their political development.

    Questions which we need to figure out answers to, and investigate how they may be being answered among the proletariat in spontaneous ways;

    how do we deal with lumpen organizations getting co-opted by the state?
    how do we respond to lumpen violence in the community?
    what relationship do we seek to foster with lumpenized people who stand with us in the streets against racialized oppression like the murder of young black men? how do we seek to politicize them in a revolutionary direction?
    to what extent do we criticize lumpen activity in our mass agitation?

    Gabriel – thanks again for provoking us to think deeply about some of these real life revolutionary questions. Those of us in AS want to encourage these types of debates and discussions on this blog. Looking forward to continuing engagement.

    • How do we respond to lumpen violence in the community? I think this is a very important question and needs to be answered as soon as possible. It seems to me that the lumpen have taken up arms against the working class. Are we supposed to let them target us and point the finger at capitalism? How about pointing the finger at both of them. The revolution isn’t happening any time soon but the dangerous lumpen will still be there. The left should reevaluate its priorities so that our kids will be able reap the benefits of our struggle.

  3. Apologies for the insults comrade. It came as a reaction in part from seeing George Zimmerman’s smiling face all over the internet, and then reading your initial response, which reminds me of what I’ve heard over and over again from all the liberal/conservative teachers I’ve had to work with over the years. I don’t mean to include you in that mix, as it seems your response was motivated by life experience. No one should have to experience a loved one being killed or wounded by violence whether it be from police or gangs or whoever. Thus I can understand why you feel these “thugs” should be dealt with by police violence. Yet its important to understand these thugs did not create the current violent capitalist system we live through, the violent & racist capitalist system creates the “thugs” and then ultimately profits off these violent bodies with the prison industry. This is just one of the countless examples of why we must break down the divisions that exist in working class neighborhoods (ie proletariat vs. lumpen proletariat, “thug” vs. “industrial worker”). Seeing and hearing all the time about the extent of the divisions in racialized communities this seems a daunting task, yet there is no other strategy if we as the working class want to win.

    Again, apologies for the insults. Hopefully this exchange hasn’t completely alienated you from continuing as a leftist/marxist. And us brainy leftists have to get better at our exchanges.

    Sorry to hear about your families trauma with violence.

    Keep in touch comrade.

    • That’s ok it’s understandable. Maybe you can recomend some literature on the subject, someone else besides Marx. That would be helpful thanks.

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