Friday, July 26, 2013



(b. February 5, 1995; murdered February 26, 2012)

"You were born where you were born and faced the future that you faced because you were black and for no other reason. The limits of your ambition were, thus, expected to be set forever. You were born into a society which spelled out with brutal clarity, and in as many ways as possible, that you were a worthless human being. You were not expected to aspire to excellence: you were expected to make peace with mediocrity. Wherever you have turned, James, in your short time on this earth, you have been told where you could go and what you could do (and how you could do it) and where you could live and whom you could marry. I know your countrymen do not agree with me about this, and I hear them saying, "You exaggerate." They do not know Harlem and I do. So do you...The details and symbols of your life have been deliberately constructed to make you believe what white people say about you. Please try to remember that what they believe, as well as what they do and cause you to endure, does not testify to your inferiority but to their inhumanity and fear...There is no reason for you to try to become like white people and there is no basis whatever for their impertinent assumption that they must accept you...They are in effect still trapped in a history which they do not understand; and until they understand it, they cannot be released from it...You know, and I know, that the country is celebrating one hundred years of freedom one hundred years too soon..."
--James Baldwin
The Fire Next Time, 1963
"My Dungeon Shook: Letter to My Nephew on the One Hundredth Anniversary of the Emancipation"

[Note: Baldwin's nephew and namesake James was 15 years old at the time that his famous Uncle wrote this letter to him; the letter appeared in the 1963 book The Fire Next Time by Baldwin] 

JAMES BALDWIN  (1924-1987)


Denied the Right to Be Young
Monday, 15 July 2013
By Eugene Robinson
Washington Post Writers Group | Op-Ed

Washington, DC -- Justice failed Trayvon Martin the night he was killed. We should be appalled and outraged, but perhaps not surprised, that it failed him again Saturday night with a verdict setting his killer free.

Our society considers young black men to be dangerous, interchangeable, expendable, guilty until proven innocent. This is the conversation about race that we desperately need to have -- but probably, as in the past, will try our best to avoid.

George Zimmerman's acquittal was set in motion on Feb. 26, 2012, before Martin's body was cold. When Sanford, Fla., police arrived on the scene, they encountered a grown man who acknowledged killing an unarmed 17-year-old boy. They did not arrest the man or test him for drug or alcohol use. They conducted a less-than-energetic search for forensic evidence. They hardly bothered to look for witnesses.

Only a national outcry forced authorities to investigate the killing seriously. Even after six weeks, evidence was found to justify arresting Zimmerman, charging him with second-degree murder and putting him on trial. But the chance of dispassionately and definitively establishing what happened that night was probably lost. The only complete narrative of what transpired was Zimmerman's.

Jurors knew that Zimmerman was an overeager would-be cop, a self-appointed guardian of the neighborhood who carried a loaded gun. They were told that he profiled Martin -- young, black, hooded sweatshirt -- as a criminal. They heard that he stalked Martin despite the advice of a 911 operator; that the stalking led to a confrontation; and that, in the confrontation, Zimmerman fatally shot Martin in the chest.

The jurors also knew that Martin was carrying only a bag of candy and a soft drink. They knew that Martin was walking from a 7-Eleven to the home of his father's girlfriend when he noticed a strange man in an SUV following him.

To me, and to many who watched the trial, the fact that Zimmerman recklessly initiated the tragic encounter was enough to establish, at a minimum, guilt of manslaughter. The six women on the jury disagreed.

Those jurors also knew that Martin, at the time of his death, was just three weeks past his 17th birthday. But black boys in this country are not allowed to be children. They are assumed to be men, and to be full of menace.

I don't know if the jury, which included no African-Americans, consciously or unconsciously bought into this racist way of thinking -- there's really no other word. But it hardly matters, because police and prosecutors initially did.
The assumption underlying their ho-hum approach to the case was that Zimmerman had the right to self-defense but Martin -- young, male, black -- did not. The assumption was that Zimmerman would fear for his life in a hand-to-hand struggle but Martin -- young, male, black -- would not.

If anyone wonders why African-Americans feel so passionately about this case, it's because we know that our 17-year-old sons are boys, not men. It's because we know their adolescent bravura is just that -- an imitation of manhood, not the real thing.

We know how frightened our sons would be, walking home alone on a rainy night and realizing they were being followed. We know how torn they would be between a child's fear and a child's immature idea of manly behavior. We know how they would struggle to decide the right course of action, flight or fight.

And we know that a skinny boy armed only with candy, no matter how big and bad he tries to seem, does not pose a mortal threat to a healthy adult man who outweighs him by 50 pounds and has had martial arts training (even if the lessons were mostly a waste of money). We know that the boy may well have threatened the man's pride, but likely not his life. How many murders-by-sidewalk have you heard of recently? Or ever?

The conversation we need to have is about how black men, even black boys, are denied the right to be young, to be vulnerable, to make mistakes. We need to talk about why, for example, black men are no more likely than white men to smoke marijuana but nearly four times as likely to be arrested for it -- and condemned to a dead-end cycle of incarceration and unemployment. I call this racism. What do you call it?

Trayvon Martin was fighting more than George Zimmerman that night. He was up against prejudices as old as American history, and he never had a chance.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.

EUGENE ROBINSON won the Pulitzer Prize in 2009 for his editorial writing in the Washington Post

Eugene Robinson's e-mail address is eugenerobinson(at)

Trayvon Martin: A Jewish Response
Monday, 15 July 2013
By Rabbi Michael Lerner
Tikkun | Op-Ed

A protest for Trayvon Martin at the Criminal Justice  Building in Sanford, March 19, 2012. (Photo: Werth Media)
The acquittal by jury of Goerge Zimmerman who shot and murdered the unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin was emblematic of the consistent racism and double standard used in the treatment of minority groups or those deemed “Other” in the U.S. and around the world. Where is there justice in a world in which so many people suffer oppression and in which those who choose to use violence as a way to address and deal with their hatred and fear often seem to triumph?

Jewish theology holds that there is a karmic order, so that evil actions will not always run the world. Justice and compassion are both essential to the survival of the planet. Unlike many religions that focus on individual sinners and imagine that they will be punished in some future not currently verifiable—for example in a heaven or hell after life, or in a reincarnation in some form that provides rewards or punishments for how one lives in this world, most of Jewish theology sees karma as playing out on a societal scale, and over the long run.

There may never be a this-world punishment for George Zimmerman. Murderers and other perpetrators of evil too often get rewarded instead of punished. James Comey, who played an important role in approving water-boarding and indefinite detention without trial when he served in the Bush Administration, was appointed last week by President Obama to head the FBI. The Director of National Intelligence James Clapper lied to Congress in denying NSA surveillance of American citizens, but it is Edward Snowden who is now seeking asylum for whistle-blowing and revealing the extent of that lie. Henry Kissinger who played a central role in prolonging the Vietnam war (causing thousands of deaths) still receives public acclaim. Those bankers and investment brokers who were responsible for the 2008 meltdown of the economy and the loss of homes for millions of Americans received rewards and huge bonuses instead of prison sentences.

And corporate leaders who have been responsible for polluting our air, water and land around the planet remain firmly in power while environmentalists are scorned and their message largely ignored by the Obama Administration.

So where’s the justice?

The answer that emerges from Jewish texts is this: God has created the earth in such a way that it cannot tolerate moral evil forever. There will be a judgment, but it will come to the entire society, not just to the perpetrator of evil. For the Jewish people, the Torah predicts that if we do not establish a just society in the Land of Israel the earth will vomit us out. And for all of humanity, we are taught that if the society is not based on the Torah principles of justice, peace, love for neighbors and love the stranger (the Other) there will be an environmental catastrophe and all human and animal life is potentially at risk of perishing. The reason we will all suffer for the harmful actions of a few is because we each bear responsibility for doing our part to bring tikkun to the world. So if we sit by in silence when people are suffering, the planet is being destroyed, etc. we are also responsible and will suffer for our inactions. The Torah takes a hard line on this—it calls for us to be bringing the issue of justice and fairness, love and generosity, peace and environmental sanity into every situation we find ourselves—both in the public arena and in our personal lives.

We are urged to bring up these issues even when others may feel it inappropriate, when some people will tell us we should “lighten up” and should not always bring “politics” into the discussion, when our friends tell us that they don’t’ want to hear about things that are depressing. We should talk about them when we go to sleep at night and when we get up in the morning, teach this to our children, and right it upon the door posts of our houses and our gates. Merely complaining to a few friends is NOT enough.

It was this theology that allowed the Jews to survive through what might be called righteous self-blaming. When Jews this week commemorate Tisha B’av, the day of mourning for the various catastrophes that have befallen the Jewish people starting with the exile from our land that occurred after the Babylonians conquered Judea in 586 BCE and after the Romans destroyed the 2nd Temple in 70 C.E. , our prayers proclaimed “because we sinned we were exiled from our land.” This is a form of self-blaming which is actually empowering, because it tells us that we can change our situation through our own actions as a people (not one by one, but together–and building and sustaing that “together” is really a central underlying Jewish concern and a point of much of Jewish practice–not the lone meditator but the community of people together seeking to connect to the spiritual reality of the universe).

Jewish theologians have pointed out that in this kind of a world, there is much room for human freedom precisely because God does not jump in and right every wrong. To create humans in God’s image, the Transformative Power of the universe (aka God) evolved in humans the freedom to choose how to live, even as that same God gave us a revelation that taught us to love each other and love the Other (the stranger).

Yet there is a danger to this kind of freedom: some people can literally “get away with murder.” Too many of Hitler’s willing executioners, too many of Stalinist Russia’s jailers and murderers, too many of those who implemented Western colonialism and imperialism at the cost of massive suffering in the “underdeveloped” world, too many of those who have abused and exploited in every society, remain powerful and live relatively happy and contented lives while their victims go to the grave without ever having been compensated and their suffering has sometimes even scarred future generations. And every day the capitalist marketplace’s values seep deeper into the collective consciousness and unconsciousness of much of the human race alive in the 2nd decade of the 21st century (in Jewish calculations, the year is 5773).

The highest value of the capitalist marketplace is individual freedom (to consume whatever they want whenever they want and without regard to the social consequence sof what is being produced or consumed. Try to impose restrictions on guns in the name of public safety, and you find yourself surrounded by people who, having imbibed the capitalist notion that the good life is that with the most possessions, that safety comes from domination over others, and that the state must never play a role in restricting individual freedom, inist that there be no limit on the proliferation of guns and weapons, limits that might have kept George Zimmerman from parading around with guns to use on strangers. A central command of Torah—to love the stranger (the Other) has been wiped out of the collective memory of a society which in other respects (e.g. on abortion or gay rights) often seems to be checking its bible for guidance. So I have to mourn for a society that perpetuates hatred, that created the George Zimmerman and the other George Zimmerman’s in the world. Or that created George White, the African American man in NY who was convicted of murdering a white teenage boy – a black man who grew up in the lynchings of the South and had a genuine reason to fear for his safety (even if he had other options for how to respond in the situation) and was likely having a flashback at the time but was recently convicted of murder. All this violence, all this fear—and so we need so much more love, compassion, and generosity to heal all the distortions that keep generating so much suffering.

Moreover, when the oppressive regimes of the past are overthrown, the innocent in those societies often suffer as much as the perpetrators of evil. Read the book of Lamentations written in the wake of Jerusalem being conquered by the ancient Babylonians and read this week on Monday night when many religious Jews begin the one day of fasting and mourning called Tisha B’av, and you can hear the same kind of stories that we hear 2500 years later from the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki—that it is innocents who often take the brunt of the suffering even when an oppressive regimen is being overthrown.

That same story will play out on a massive level unless global capitalism is quickly replaced by global economic arrangements that gives priority to preserving the global environment and building a society that gives primacy to love and generosity over corporate and individual greed. Just as the Torah predicted some 2500 years ago (or more), there will be an environmental catastrophe unless there is the kind of revolutionary changes sought by Torah (including the massive redistribution of wealth every fifty years during the Jubilee—Yovel, the cessation of work every seventh year for the entire society—the Sabbatical Year observed by everyone on the same year, the weekly cessation of all work and all dealing with money or domination or “power over”—the Jewish Shabbat—plus the forgiving of all loans; and of course, the implementation of the Torah laws calling on us to love the stranger—the Other—and love our neighbors). But here again, those who suffer will not only be those who fought to keep corporate power and capitalist materialism and selfishness in place, but everyone in the entire society.

Perhaps the point here is that there is no possibility of people thinking that if they personally live good and just lives they will be rewarded with health, happiness, and the benefits of life on earth. That fantasy is a product of capitalist distortion that encourages us to think of ourselves as “lone rangers” whose fate depends on ourselves. The reality, Torah and Judaism teach, is that we are intrinsically part of a larger society and world, and that our fate is intrinsically bound up with the fate of everyone else on the planet and the fate of the planet itself.

So where is God’s beneficence in all this? That S/He/It conveyed to us that this is how the world was set up, and gave us the insights on what we needed to do to preserve the planet. Exercising stewardship over the earth, acknowledging that we don’t ever have a “right” to the land but only an obligation to use it in ways that are environmentally sustainable and socially just, to be loving and caring toward each other, to respond to the natural world with awe and wonder and radical amazement. Sometimes I wish that God were actually the big man in heaven who intervenes in human history that appears in the imagination of many and that gets called upon in some of our prayers. But that God doesn’t exist, or, at best, is in hiding and can’t be expected to respond to our prayers calling for immediate interventions into history. Except through us, created in God’s image and now partners with God in the healing and transformation of the world (and the word tikkun refers precisely to that process which we must carry out in this world and at this time).

So, no, there will be no justice for Trayvon Martin, of for the hundreds of thousands of minorities that fill our prisons, or for the hundred of millions of people who are now suffering malnutrition and living in conditions of extreme poverty. But there will be a price to be paid, and it will be paid, perhaps by those of us still alive in the next ten to twenty years, certainly by the whole human race within the next fifty years.

And there will be a come-uppance for the Jewish people for having allowed Israel to present itself as “the state of the Jewish people” even while it was engaged in oppressive policies toward its own Arab citizens, toward the Palestinian people as a whole, and toward the Bedouins upon whom the Knesset is now seeking to deny rights. For those of us, including myself, who love Israel and wish it to survive and flourish, the continuing tragic path it chooses, largely a result of the still-dominant Post Traumatic Stress Disorder which I describe in my book Embracing Israel/Palestine and which operates equally self-destructively among Palestinians, the self-inflicted wounds of the Jewish people today raise more sorrow than anger, more wishes to assist in healing than desire to see punishment, more deep sadness for our people which once again, in power, is doing precisely the kind of distorted activity that led to the last two Jewish exiles from our land.

But this time it will be different, because the fate of Israel is intrinsically tied to the fate of the rest of the planet. And that fate is growing more and more disastrous every day we continue to allow the environment to be poisoned and the minds of ordinary people filled with the common sense of capitalist ideology: that are all alone, that we are powerless to change anything big beyond our personal lives, that we can’t trust others except if we have power over them, that domination rather than generosity is the path to homeland security, and that we shouldn’t worry because everything will work out fine. It is this twin focus, mourning for the mis-direction of Israel and the destructive impact of global capitalism on the life support system for the planet, that is my focus for Tisha B’av.

So this is all part of what I’m mourning as I start my fasting for Tisha B’av. Monday night, July 15.

But Judaism has always included a message of hope as well, and it is this: we human beings are not morally neutral—we have a positive and powerful inclination toward the good, manifesting as a fundamental human need to be in loving relationship with each other and in an equally powerful need to live in a morally coherent universe in which our lives have a transcendent meaning that goes beyond the materialism and selfishness of the world of class structure and oppression. This inclination can never be fully repressed. It continues to pop up even among those seemingly most beaten down . So Tisha B’av turns on Tuesday afternoon from mourning to rebuilding.

When I was growing up, that rebuilding was focused on the Zionist enterprise, which was seen as “the answer” or “the tikkun” to the Holocaust and the previous suffering of the Jewish people. Today, it’s more obvious that Israel and Zionism itself need a huge tikkun, and that must come from returning to the deepest truth: that we are all equally created in the image of God, all deserving of love and compassion, and all yearning for a world of kindness and generosity and caring for each other and the earth.

And that compassion must also extend to those whose own inner distortions lead them to act in racist, sexist, homophobic, or xenophobic ways. It is in building a movement that can at once challenge the global ethos of materialism and selfishness while simultaneously manifesting a great deal of compassion and generosity of spirit toward those who are suffering from their own PTSD or from their indoctrination into the values of the competitive marketplace that there lies the greatest hope for a different kind of world, for the tikkun olam (transformation and healing of the world). And that too is part of the meaning of Tisha B’av, and a reason for hope that before the next set of disasters paralyze and possibly destroy human life on earth as we have known it, it may still be possible for an ethos of love, kindness, generosity, ethical and environmental sanity, and awe and wonder at the grandeur of the universe to bring the world to a deeper harmony and a less destructive path.

That deep inclination inside every human being is apparent in hundreds of millions of people on our planet, if only we could find a way to work together and recognize each other. I like to call this up-wising (yes, up-wising) of the goodness in humanity: Love’s Rebellion—and it’s what gave Martin Luther King Jr. the faith that the arc of the universe bends toward justice. If you are with me on this perhaps you’ll come to the training we are offering to help you become an agent of this kind of tikkun-ing of the world.


Rabbi Michael Lerner is editor of Tikkun [] and chair of the (interfaith and atheist-welcoming) Network of Spiritual Progressives . His most recent book is Embracing Israel/Palestine: A Strategy for Middle East Peace. He welcomes your feedback: RabbiLerner.Tikkun[at]

The world is aghast over Trayvon Martin. The U.S. needs to look at itself

By Deborah Orr

July 20, 2013

The Guardian


The jurors who acquitted George Zimmerman say they acted in strict accordance with U.S. law. That in itself speaks volumes

“O, wad some Power the giftie gie us /

To see oursels as others see us!

It wad frae monie a blunder free us, /

An’ foolish notion.”

        – Robert Burns

The US is always collectively amazed, on those rare occasions when it has cause to glimpse at how it is perceived by its less friendly critics abroad. The most egregious example, of course, was 9/11, when even the brutal enormity of the attack against America was not quite enough to still the hateful tongues of people crass enough to insist that the US had got what was coming to it. The citizens of the US have an absolute right to go about their business without being slaughtered. Of course they do. Which is why the world is aghast that this right does not extend as far as Trayvon Martin.

When the unarmed 17-year-old was shot dead by neighbourhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman on 26 February 2012, the killer wasn’t even arrested for 44 days, having said that he fired in self-defence. Self-defence? He’d already called the police, telling the operator that Martin was acting suspiciously – “up to no good, on drugs or something”. Zimmerman had been told by the operator not to follow the teenager. But nevertheless he found himself and his gun right next to Martin, provoking a struggle. What kind of self-defence is this, when you decide that someone is trouble, and that you’re going to stalk him, safe in the knowledge that if things get out of hand … well, you’re armed? Yet a jury decided that going out armed, looking for a particular person to defend yourself against, is still self-defence, and on 13 July Zimmerman was acquitted of murder.

Only protest from the public ensured that Zimmerman was tried for killing Martin at all.  Only protest from the public has ensured that this killing has been seen through the prism of race. Yet to an outsider, it is obvious that Martin died because he was black, and that Zimmerman walked free after killing him for the same reason.

The jurors say that they acted in strict accordance with the law of the land. They probably did. The law of the land in the US was formulated so that settlers could carry guns in self-defence against their enemies – Native Americans. Later, similar rights over the lives and deaths of slaves pertained. All that is so deeply embedded in the US collective psyche that it’s easier to forget that it’s there than remember it.

Even though equal civil rights for black Americans are still so new, their achievement still so clear in living memory, the US just can’t see what the rest of the world sees – that inequality so entrenched in the history of a state doesn’t disappear in matter of decades; on the contrary, the baleful fruits of generations of inequality can be used to justify the very prejudice that promoted the inequality in the first place.

Not that the UK has room to be too superior. British people went off to win the west, and having won it, imported slaves to make it pay. Later, we invited Afro-Caribbean men and women to come and work in Britain, at the jobs that didn’t pay enough to attract the incumbent population. Our own history of racism may not have been formalised in a written constitution. But Britain is just like the US in its reluctance to admit that the casual, widespread racism of the past has far-reaching consequences that give succour to those who wish to be racists still. Our own Trayvon Martin is Stephen Lawrence. The awful depths of the hostility of the police to the idea of prosecuting his racist killers is still being revealed, 20 years on, as we learn how undercover officers gathered intelligence into the Lawrence family as they campaigned for justice for their son. Modern states that are worthy of the name are meant to protect their citizens from violence, protecting all of us equally, under the law. In the wake of 9/11, the US and Britain were the most active nations in the world in the quest to take up arms in the cause of spreading liberal democracy. Why neither nation is quite able to see why the targets of this largesse don’t quite trust them, when both of us are still demonstrably unable to spread liberal democracy with impunity even among our own citizens, is quite the little mystery.

It’s a little-acknowledged fact, yet an unanswerable one, that states exist in great part to maintain a monopoly on violence, either through the activities of their armed forces or via the upholding of the law. The really disturbing thing about cases such as Martin’s and Lawrence’s is that they reveal how cavalierly states abuse this responsibility. The disconnect in the US can be seen more plainly than in Britain, because the US, as land colonised in recent history, maintains vigilantism as an integral part of its identity so avidly. That’s what’s at the root of its liberal gun laws – that’s what killed Trayvon Martin.

This is one of those moments when the US – and its great ally, the UK – would do well to take a long look at itself. Zimmerman’s right to kill in “self-defence” does not contrast well with Edward Snowden’s fear of retribution. By exposing the fact that the emails of the citizens of the land of the free (and ours here in Britain) could be plucked from the internet at the state’s leisure, wasn’t Snowden too defending himself, his fellow citizens, and the idea of the US and of liberal democracy? But no reluctance to arrest Snowden is evident.

We are told that this is all for our own protection – the fight against terrorism is an important part of the state’s protection of its monopoly on violence. Yet, not for the first time in these troubled years since 9/11, one wonders how the US can have pretensions to being the world’s policeman, when it doesn’t even police its own citizens with impartiality. And one wonders how the US can believe that part of its purpose is to be a beacon of democracy and freedom throughout the world, when it clearly believes that it should be able to spy on the private lives of the world’s citizens with impunity.

If the Martin case were “just” about racism, then that would be grotesque and awful enough. But it’s even more basic than that. It’s about the fragility of freedom, and how imperative it is that one person’s freedom, like one community’s, and one country’s, cannot be pursued at the expense of another’s. Zimmerman’s freedom to get on with his own life has been won at the cost of another man’s annihilation. The disregard of the idea that all US citizens have an equal right to freedom and protection could not be made more painfully obvious than this. A monopoly on violence is a terrifying monopoly to hold. It should quite definitely not be shared so casually with self-appointed men from the neighbourhood watch.

 © Guardian News and Media 2013

Trayvon Martin Protests: Jay Z, Madonna and Other Stars Boycotting Florida

JULY 23, 2013 

Following George Zimmerman's controversial not guilty verdict in the death of Trayvon Martin, reports claim Jay Z, Madonna and other stars are joining Stevie Wonder in boycotting Florida.

Is Stevie Wonder gaining superstar supporters? According to a new report by American Urban Radio Networks' April Ryan, the 63-year-old singer has enlisted the likes of Jay Z, Madonna and other stars in joining his boycott of performing in Florida until their Stand Your Ground Law is changed.

Ryan credited "a source close to the Stevie Wonder camp" as confirming that Jay Z, Madonna, Usher, Rihanna, Alicia Key, Kanye West, Justin Timberlake and other artists are canceling concerts in Florida.

Following George Zimmerman's controversial not guilty verdict in the 2012 death of 17 year old Trayvon Martin, Wonder announced on July 14 at his concert in Quebec City, "I decided today that until the Stand Your Ground law is abolished in Florida, I will never perform there again."

"As a matter of fact, wherever I find that law exists, I will not perform in that state or in that part of the world," he added. "The truth is that -- for those of you who've lost in the battle for justice, wherever that fits in any part of the world -- we can't bring them back. What we can do is we can let our voices be heard. And we can vote in our various countries throughout the world for change and equality for everybody. That's what I know we can do."

On July 20, Jay Z and his wife Beyonce attended a "Justice for Trayvon" rally in NYC. Rev. Al Sharpton tweeted a photo of himself posing with the star couple. "Beyonce and Jay Z with Sybrina Fulton & me at the #‎100CityTrayvon  vigil," he captioned the snapshot.

During his speech at the vigil, Sharpton told the crowd, "Jay Z and Beyonce said they didn't want to speak and they didn't come for a photo op. Beyonce put a beautiful message up on Instagram. Let me tell you, that before a lot of you were down, Jay Z always supported us. Jay Z told me, 'I'm a father. Beyonce is a mother.' We all feel the pain and apprehension -- the laws must protect everybody, or it doesn't protect anybody. We do not come from hate, we come from love of children."

Beyonce and her husband JAY Z attended a rally for Trayvon Martin in New York on July 17, 2013










Appearing on Meet the Press on Sunday, PBS host Tavis Smiley doubled down on remarks about President Obama’s response to the George Zimmerman not guilty verdict in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin — comments that caused a big backlash against Smiley on Twitter.

Smiley began by accusing the president of only speaking out on Trayvon Martin because he was “pushed,” saying: “I appreciate and applaud the fact that the president did finally show up. But this town has been spinning a story that’s not altogether true. He did not walk to the podium for an impromptu address to the nation. He was pushed to that podium. A week of protests outside the White House, pressure building on him inside the White House, pushed him to that podium.”

An administration source on Friday told theGrio that the president watched the verdict, along with millions of Americans, last Saturday, and by Thursday, following intense conversations with members of his family, and with friends, Obama decided that he wanted to speak. The official told theGrio on background that Obama called a meeting of his senior staff late Thursday and told them he wanted to make a statement, but that he didn’t want to give a scripted speech, or even warn the press.

Instead, he walked out to the podium unannounced, taking over the daily press briefing. The press had not even fully convened for the briefing, and so the front row of the press room was practically empty.

Smiley, however, believes the president’s remarks didn’t go far enough. He told NBC’s David Gregory that when Obama “left the podium, he still had not answered the most important question, that Kingian question, where do we go from here? That question this morning remains unanswered, at least from the perspective of the president. And the bottom line is, this is not Libya. This is America. On this issue, you cannot lead from behind. What’s lacking in this moment is moral leadership. The country is begging for it. They’re craving it.”

Responding to the president’s statement that politicians might not be the best people to lead a real national discussion on race, Smiley said: “I disagree with the president, respectfully, that politicians, elected officials, can’t occupy this space on race. Truman did, Johnson did, President Obama did. He’s the right person in the right place at the right time, but he has to step into his moment. I don’t want him to be like Bill Clinton, when he’s out of office, regretting that he didn’t move on Rwanda. I don’t want the president to look back and realize he didn’t do as much as he could have in this critical moment.”

Congressional Black Caucus chair and Ohio Rep. Marcia Fudge, former RNC chairman and MSNBC political analyst Michael Steele, Harvard Law School professor Charles Ogletree and National Urban League President Marc Morial were also a part of the “Meet the Press” panel.

Smiley also argued that there is no evidence that Obama has tried to have the conversation about race in America, and questioned why he was able to take leadership on the issue of gay rights, but not on race.

On a subsequent segment, a panel of journalists, including New York Times columnist David Brooks and MSNBC Political Director Chuck Todd evaluated the president’s remarks in an historical context, while Ogletree argued that the president has tried to push forward issues of black progress, but that he is not solely responsible for making that conversation happen.


I have always been a huge fan and deep admirer of Dionne's incredible artistry over the years and this statement/action in support of Stevie's call for a cultural and economic BOYCOTT of the heinous state of Florida and its barbaric "Stand Your Ground" laws that freed Trayvon martin's racist murderer George Zimmerman only further endears me to her and her commitment to Justice.  Let's join this national effort and call for similar boycotts against the other 21 states that also have put these vicious draconian vigilante laws on their books...


Dionne Warwick Joins Boycott of States w/ Stand Your Ground Laws

Earlier this week we reported that Stevie Wonder had decided to boycott Florida and other states that have “Stand Your Ground” laws on the books.

Now, Dionne Warwick has joined Stevie. Warwick’s statement of support reads in part:
"I am certain most if not all of you have been bombarded with CNN and the news of the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman trial and I must say I was stunned at the verdict of NOT GUILTY…… took a while for this to settle in my brain since Zimmerman admitted killing this youngster………my very dear friend Stevie Wonder has decided to keep his incredible talent from those states that carry the “Stand Your Ground” law here in the United States (30) of them and I am going to join him as I feel as seriously concerned as he does that we have to start caring more about each other and conversing with regard to the values we ALL should share with regards to our lives and the well being of each other………….it’s really a shame that we feel the need to have to carry a weapon to feel safe around each other………….I will miss those states that have supported my career for these past 50 years but  I feel absolutely compelled to show solidarity with Stevie showing him he is not alone in feeling the way he does."


(Originally posted on April 10, 2012)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


Henry Giroux On The Larger Social and Political Context of the Racist Murder of Trayvon Martin
A photograph of Trayvon Martin at a news conference, where several members of the New York City Council spoke in protest of the handling of the shooting of Martin, on the steps of City Hall in New York, March 28, 2012. (Photo: Hiroko Masuike / The New York Times)

The following incisive article by the always highly prescient, and deeply insightful educator, social theorist, cultural critic, and political activist Henry Giroux is one of the very best and most useful analyses of, and informed commentaries about, what the racist murder of Trayvon Martin really means in the larger cultural and political context of this society. By focusing on the intricate dynamics and interlocking realities of race, class, and corporate ideology in a society and culture engulfed as always by the racist white supremacist mania that decrees lethal attacks on African Americans--and especially its vulnerable youth--to be what an oppressed minority 'deserves', Giroux asks and answers the fundamental questions that need to be seriously addressed in this entire loathsome episode...


"What is missing in this debate over the legalities of the case (as against questions of justice) is a hard look at the underlying economic, racial and political conditions that make such a senseless act of violence possible. While it is easy to ridicule as racist Geraldo Rivera's claim that the boys "hoodie" was somehow responsible for his death, as if it carried an unequivocal and dangerous signifier for all young people, regardless of what their race, neighborhood, or class location might be, the real question in this case is, what kind of society allows young black and brown youth to be killed precisely because they are wearing a hoodie? Indeed the politics of diversion runs deep in American culture. And questions concerning what kind of society we have now become as reflected in such a tragic killing are simply ignored. Such questions are dangerous because they invoke wider social considerations and prevent us from wallowing in a purely privatized discourse that, in the end, for instance, only allows us to focus on the most narrow and restricted of issues such as the personality of the shooter, George Zimmerman. Defined by the parameters of an utterly privatized discourse the only question that seems to matter is, "Who is George Zimmerman and why did he shoot this young man?" Actually, the more plausible question is, "What kind of society creates a George Zimmerman along with a formative culture that elevates vigilantism over justice, emotion over reason, fear over shared responsibilities and violence over compassion?" This is not to suggest that Zimmerman should not be brought to justice through a fair trial, but that Zimmerman's dreadful act is symptomatic of a larger war being waged on poor and minority youth that places them in ongoing conditions of uncertainty regarding their education, health care, employment and also their future, particularly in terms of whether they will live or die..."
--Henry Giroux

Hoodie Politics:
Trayvon Martin and Racist Violence in Post-Racial America
By Henry A. Giroux
02 April 2012
Truthout | News Analysis

The killing of a young African-American boy, Trayvon Martin, by an overzealous white Hispanic security guard who appears to have capitulated to the dominant post-racial presumption that equates the culture of criminality with the culture of blackness, has devolved into a spectacle. While there is plenty of moral outrage to go around, a recognition that racism is alive and well in America, and that justice has been hijacked by those who can afford it, the broader and more fundamental questions and analyses are not being raised. Complex issues get lost when spectacular events are taken over by a media frenzy that feeds on sound bites and simplified answers. Yet, under the intense spotlight on the personal defects of the two men involved, important issues such as the social and human costs of a corporate-driven gun culture, the privatization of security forces, the price paid by poor minority youth whose every act is criminalized, and the crimes committed through an all-embracing racism are shrouded in darkness, off stage and invisible. To bolster the incredulous claim that we live in a post-racial society, crimes such as these are often isolated from a larger set of socio-economic forces that might provide a broader understanding of both the needless death of a 17-year-old black youth but also its relationship to a much more all-encompassing war on youth that is causing massive suffering and needless deaths among many young people in America.[1]

While it is the tendency of liberals to rush to universalize the deeply felt personal loss that resulted from Trayvon Martin's death, the rosy raceless sentiment was ruptured when President Obama uncharacteristically drew attention to his own racial difference and suggested that, if he had a son, he would look like Trayvon. But the fact of the matter is that since the dawn of the post-civil rights era young black and brown youth have been routinely and radically othered as a generation of suspects, if not a dangerous scourge. While poor minority youth may garner some sympathy when their needless deaths get public attention, too many of them experience an existential and real death every day that often goes unnoticed. The popular slogan "We are all Trayvon" may be paved with good intentions, but it bears the burden of hiding more than it reveals. Young poor minorities are not "us", they are the excluded, the other, the excess and the disposable. What needs to be remembered is that they have been made voiceless, powerless and invisible in America. Marginalized by race or class and forcibly excluded from the American dream, they register more as a threat to be either contained or eliminated than as an object of compassion and social investment. They are not merely excluded but punished for living outside of the power relations that give rise to the corrupt privileges of the Second Gilded Age. One notable example is made clear in the question raised by Rich Benjamin in a New York Times op-ed where he writes: "After all, why did the police treat Mr. Martin like a criminal, instead of Mr. Zimmerman, his assailant? Why was the black corpse tested for drugs and alcohol, but the living perpetrator wasn't?" [2]

What is missing in this debate over the legalities of the case (as against questions of justice) is a hard look at the underlying economic, racial and political conditions that make such a senseless act of violence possible. While it is easy to ridicule as racist Geraldo Rivera's claim that the boys "hoodie" was somehow responsible for his death, as if it carried an unequivocal and dangerous signifier for all young people, regardless of what their race, neighborhood, or class location might be the real question in this case is, what kind of society allows young black and brown youth to be killed precisely because they are wearing a hoodie? Indeed the politics of diversion runs deep in American culture. And questions concerning what kind of society we have now become as reflected in such a tragic killing are simply ignored. Such questions are dangerous because they invoke wider social considerations and prevent us from wallowing in a purely privatized discourse that, in the end, for instance, only allows us to focus on the most narrow and restricted of issues such as the personality of the shooter, George Zimmerman. Defined by the parameters of an utterly privatized discourse the only question that seems to matter is, "Who is George Zimmerman and why did he shoot this young man?" Actually, the more plausible question is, "What kind of society creates a George Zimmerman along with a formative culture that elevates vigilantism over justice, emotion over reason, fear over shared responsibilities and violence over compassion?" This is not to suggest that Zimmerman should not be brought to justice through a fair trial, but that Zimmerman's dreadful act is symptomatic of a larger war being waged on poor and minority youth that places them in ongoing conditions of uncertainty regarding their education, health care, employment and also their future, particularly in terms of whether they will live or die. Nor does the narrow focus on the prevalence of a gun culture, gated communities and private security forces (Rambos for hire) in the United States provide either an adequate focus for understanding why, "Military force has replaced democratic idealism as the main source of US influence" or why war is a source of national pride rather than alarm.[3] Nor does it tell us why the spectacle of violence has become the greatest source of entertainment in American popular culture, furthering enabling, "the process whereby civil society increasingly organizes itself for the production of violence."[4]

An echo of the conditions that are responsible for Trayvon Martin's senseless killing can be heard in the words of politicians who embrace a culture of cruelty, suggesting that children who have predetermined illnesses not be given access to health care. It is evident in laws that sentence young people to adult prisons; it is clear in economic policies that drain income from working families and their children in order to line the pockets of the extremely and unproductively wealthy and private hedge fund managers. It is also visible in a carceral state that wages war on the poor rather than on poverty, defunds public schools so that they can be privatized, and demonizes young people while teaching them that punishing them is more important than educating them. A culture of compassion has been replaced by a culture of fear that radically forstalls future possibility. The manufactured national hysteria over private security has become a disease, massaged by endless moral panics about poor people, immigrants, minorities and dangerous youth, and all the while making us less safe and ever more vulnerable to violence. A consumer and hyper-militarized society that defines all relationships according to market values and enshrine a "survival-of-the-fittest ethic" leaves behind a string of abandoned visions, dreams, hopes and belief in the future. Symptoms of ethical, political and economic impoverishment are all around us.

When traces of the social contract and our responsibility to present and future generations were still alive in the United States (prior to the late 1970s), many Americans believed it took a social state and a strong community to raise a child. That is, they believed in social safety nets that offered social protections, decent health care, child care and other important social rights that affirmed the centrality of, and shared experience of, the common good, if not democracy itself. What many Americans now accept is a mode of "failed sociality" that has turned the principles of democracy against itself, deforming both the language of freedom and justice that made equality a viable idea and political goal. Community as a metaphor for the common good and social contract is dead in America. Community is now gated and policed, and responsibility is reduced to a private and privately contracted affair shaped by a set of values that breathe a kind of mad savagery into a new form of economic Darwinism. In this market-driven, hypermasculine and militarized society, shared modes of sociality that provide collective protections and expand the rights of the social contract are now viewed with disdain. In fact, for some pundits such as Rick Santorum, they are derided as a pathology, a religiously inflected notion of evil and sin that poisons the body politic.

Young people now find themselves in a world in which sociality has been reduced to an economic battle ground over materialistic needs waged by an army of nomadic individuals, just as more and more people find their behavior pathologized, criminalized and subject to state violence. Youth now find themselves in a social order in which bonds of trust have been replaced by bonds of fear. As Zygmunt Bauman puts it: "Trust is replaced by universal suspicion. All bonds are assumed to be untrustworthy, unreliable, trap-and-ambush-like - until proven otherwise."[5] All forms of social solidarity are now abandoned to a free-market logic that has individualized responsibility and reduced civic values to the obligations of consumer-driven self interest advanced against all other interests. How else to explain the fate of generations of young people, especially poor white, brown and black youth, who find themselves in a society in which 500,000 young people are incarcerated and 2.5 million are arrested annually, a society in which, by the age of 23, "almost a third of Americans have been arrested for a crime."[6] What kind of society do we live in that allows 1.6 million kids to be homeless at any given time in a year? What social order allows massive inequalities in wealth and income to produce a politically and morally dysfunctional social order in which, "45 percent of U.S. residents live in households that struggle to make ends meet, [which] breaks down to 39 percent of all adults and 55 percent of all children"?[7] What is clear is that we now live in a society that invests more in what Etienne Balibar calls "the death zones of humanity" than in life itself, at least when it comes to poor youth.[8]

What the shooting of Trayvon Martin tells us is that too many young people are not only being stripped of their hope and dignity, but also their lives. American society has become what Steve Herbert and Elizabeth Brown refer to as a "political culture of hyper punitiveness," one in which it has become easier and apparently more acceptable to punish children who do not obey, who refuse to be invisible, who question authority - children whose presence reminds us of how far we have moved from the ideals that once allowed Americans to make a claim on democracy.[9] We now live in a bifurcated country of gated communities organized to protect at all costs their isolated privileges and desperately poor no-go zones, also isolated and armed to the teeth. Living in these paranoid life worlds we have become a nation that emulates the fictional Dexter, the much-celebrated serial killer in the cable TV series of the same name. Crime now drives social policy and vigilante culture increasingly plays a prominent role in shaping American life. This is a bunker culture where guns rule, corporations have learned to capitalize on the growing culture of cruelty and punishment, Hollywood thrives on the spectacle of racial violence and the American government devolves into a torture state. But it is also a society that has intensified its racism behind the cloak of colorblindness and other post-racial myths while at the same time exercising with more diligence its policing and punishing functions. Glen Ford, the editor of Black Agenda touches on this in his comment about why the George Zimmermans of the world think that they can get away with assaulting and punishing black youth. He writes: "They do these things because they can, and they think they can because they believe they've been given permission by a significant segment of society to carry out these attacks on young black men. And inevitably, if they are given what they believe is the green light, some people are going to take it."[10]

Given these contexts and conditions, the issue is not whether a crime takes place because a young person wears a hoodie, but, what kind of society do we live in when a child can be shot for emulating a style that is associated with that of black and brown urban youth? Since the arrival of the Puritans, punishment has been inextricably woven into the fabric of American life, and increasingly it targets young people who have been pushed to the margins of society. Hence, it is not surprising that in America there is a rush to punish individuals for committing crimes but no longer a passion or commitment to examine the larger issues that produce the crimes. We now believe that some individuals were just born evil and our responsibility begins and ends with their expulsion-not their salvation. We gloat over justice being served by sentencing young people such as Dharun Ravi to years in jail for a horrific, homophobic crime that prompted the suicide of his roommate Tyler Clementi, but we never raise questions about the forces at work in a society that daily reproduce and reinforce this hateful culture in the first place.

Too many young people have not only been expelled from American society, but they are being punished with a kind of mass vengeance that suggests the emergence of a new political and economic culture in which life has become cheap and democratic values extinct. Trayvon Martin's death should not be trivialized by the distracting discourse of hoodies; nor is reducible to the actions of a potentially mentally unbalanced shooter. It is not (yet) about a clear-cut act of racial violence, nor, for that matter, simply about the isolated and yet shocking death of a young man. It is about the death of the idea of justice, not merely its practice. It is symptomatic of the way in which an entire generation of young, poor, minority youth are being punished, excluded, starved and thrown up in the elimination system of a new and violent, self-mutilating social order. It is about the stench and reality of death being promulgated by a society that has become cruel, corporate-owned, politically corrupt and morally bankrupt. Martin's death is symptomatic of a war on young, poor, white and minority youth, the destruction of youthful human minds and bodies, and the slide of a hyper-market-driven country into a moral and political coma which enables it to function without apology, without ethical considerations into a world of power relations, values, and practices that are punishing in their effects and cruel in their conception. For many young people, the hoodie is not the central danger. Violence is the central force in the lives of poor minority youth, and the rhetoric and metaphors through which it gains legitimacy extend from an ever-pervasive reality of police brutality to the modes of punishment creep that extend from their schools and the streets to their homes. Violence now is the major force for producing identities, desires and social policies. Unfortunately, for too many young people, violence has become the normal condition of their lives, the only space left where many of them can even recognize how their agency might be defined and what their future has to offer them. What Trayvon Martin's death tells the American public is that, as Patricia Ticineto Clough and Craig Willse have pointed out in a different context, we live in a society, "in which the production and circulation of death functions as political and economic currency."[11] The price paid for that is not simply the tragic death of a young African-American boy, but an ongoing assault on millions of poor young people in this country. The cost is high, and with it comes the tragic violation of human life and the death of democracy itself. Surely, in remembering the death of Trayvon Martin, we can and must do more than don a hoodie to signify the superficial solidarity of the new post-racial world order.

This article may not be republished without permission from the author.


1. I take this up in great detail in Henry A. Giroux, "Youth in a Suspect Society: Democracy or Disposability?" (New York: Palgrave, 2010).

2. Rich Menjamin, "The Gated Community Mentality," New York Times (March 30, 2012) p. A27.

3. James Carroll, "A Nation Lost," Boston Globe (April 22, 2003) online at Common Dreams.

4. Jorge Mariscal, "Lethal and compassionate: the militarization of culture," CounterPunch (May 3, 2003).

5. Zygmunt Bauman, "Wasted Lives" (New York: Polity Press, 2004), pp. 92-93

6. Erica Goode, "Many in U.S. Are Arrested by Age 23, Study Finds," New York Times (December 19, 2011).

7. Reuters, "45% Struggle in US to Make Ends Meet," MSNBC: Business Stocks and Economy (November 22, 2011).

8. Etienne Balibar, "Outline of a Topography of Cruelty: Citizenship and Civility in the Era of Global Violence," in "We, The People of Europe? Reflections on Transnational Citizenship," (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004), p. 128.

9. Steve Herbert and Elizabeth Brown, "Conceptions of Space and Crime in the Punitive Neoliberal City," Antipode (2006), p. 757.

10. Glen Ford, “Vilification of Young Black Youth Deeply Embedded in American Culture,” The Real News (April 1, 2012).

11. Patricia Ticineto Clough and Craig Willse, "Beyond Biopolitics: The Governance of Life and Death," in Patricia Ticineto Clough and Craig Willse, eds. "Beyond Biopolitics" (Durham: Duke University Press, 2011), p. 3.

This article is a Truthout original.


Henry A. Giroux currently holds the Global TV Network Chair Professorship at McMaster University in the English and Cultural Studies Department. His most recent books include: Youth in a Suspect Society (Palgrave, 2009); Politics After Hope: Obama and the Crisis of Youth, Race, and Democracy (Paradigm, 2010); Hearts of Darkness: Torturing Children in the War on Terror (Paradigm, 2010); The Mouse that Roared: Disney and the End of Innocence (co-authored with Grace Pollock, Rowman and Littlefield, 2010); Zombie Politics and Culture in the Age of Casino Capitalism (Peter Lang, 2011); Henry Giroux on Critical Pedagogy (Continuum, 2011). His newest books: Education and the Crisis of Public Values (Peter Lang) and Twilight of the Social: Resurgent Publics in the Age of Disposability (Paradigm Publishers) will be published in 2012). Giroux is also a member of Truthout's Board of Directors. His website is

Labels: American racism, Criminal Justice System, Henry Giroux, Ideology and Politics, Race and Class, Stand Your Ground law, Trayvon Martin

JULY 19, 2013


Yeah, I saw Obama talk about all this (the Trayvon Martin verdict) at around noon yesterday on MSNBC and all the following news programs haven't been talking about anything else but this since.  It's too bad it took the President a whole week to finally weigh in on this and to decide to finally speak out to a certain degree on the verdict and what it means.  However it's my feeling (and a lot of people agree with me on this) he took way too long to finally stand up and say something substantive about the case.  Plus the fact that he waited until a friday afternoon to say something on what everybody--especially journalists-- knows is the worst and most isolated day of the week for the release of important news.  In fact news organizations always say that if you're trying to bury a story always do it on a friday because it's more likely not to be seen or heard at the end of the work week.  That being said even with today's talk Obama has now lost a lot of trust and respect among many younger black folks under 40 and a lot of 'Baby Boomers' as well (those of us born between 1946-1964) who previously were largely very supportive of him.  It's crystal clear that we can't (and won't) allow Obama and his attorney general Eric Holder to simply ignore the black community any longer on this or other very important issues and it's also clear that they both understand this--at least in abstract intellectual terms.  But until something CONCRETE AND SPECIFIC is done by the President, the Justice department, and Congress to directly address and resolve these matters IN FACT and not in merely formal and public rhetoric alone, simple words--no matter how eloquent or heartfelt--is simply not enough.  This means among many other things that we need to organize an authentic NATIONAL MOVEMENT that will make these demands in a sophisticated, disciplined, consistent, organized, strategic, practical AND visionary manner.  We have to stop depending in ANY WAY WHATSOEVER on the President and his administration to do these things for us. They can't and won't do it because they are neither tough, independent, or courageous enough POLITICALLY to really do on their own what so desperately NEEDS to be done.  So just like in the historical past WE collectively and on a massive organized national scale MUST AND CAN do it.  But we have to give up the finally infantile and overly dependent attitude that Obama will simply "do it for us."  Clearly he and his administration hasn't and won't.  So just as Dr. King, Malcolm X, Robert Williams, Gloria Richardson, Ella Baker, Bob Moses, Medgar Evers, Fannie Lou Hamer,  James Foreman, John Lewis, Ruby Doris Robinson, Stokely Carmichael, Angela Davis, SCLC, CORE, SNCC, RAM, the BPP, League of Revolutionary Black Workers, and the many other civil rights and black power leaders and organizations did in the now legendary 1954-1975 era we have to independently assert ourselves in an aggressive and dynamic manner that is clear about what we stand for and why.  Unless and until we do that and on an ever more consciously intense and higher level than even this earlier period there will no justice for us regardless of what Obama says or doesn't say. It's all up to us and our people now (as well as our committed supporters from other ethnic groups and progressive organizations) and if we don't grow up politically and make these demands in this way we will continue to be attacked and destroyed in the streets of our cities as well as in our general lives politically and economically.  In other words:  This ain't about Obama, this is about US and until we ACT on that essential knowledge and realize that our liberation from this oppression is dependent on DEEDS NOT WORDS then mere talk is not only cheap but irrelevant...Stay tuned...


Why Were Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman Held to Two Different Standards of Justice?
Wednesday, 17 July 2013
By The Daily Take
The Thom Hartmann Program | Op-Ed

(Photo: Michael Fleshman / Flickr)

Why were Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman judged by different standards?

Ever since a Seminole County, Florida jury found George Zimmerman not guilty on Saturday night of murdering Trayvon Martin, many commentators in the mainstream media have made a special effort to point out that Florida's "Stand Your Ground and Shoot First" law played no role whatsoever in Zimmerman's acquittal.

Here, for example, is a clip - cut courtesy of Media Matters - of CNN's Chris Cuomo dismissing Stand Your Ground's impact on the case during a Sunday broadcast, less than a day after the jury announced its verdict.

Chris is just wrong. "Stand Your Ground" isn't some stand-alone law, it's a complete modification of Florida's rules governing the use of deadly force for self-defense. As a result, it played an essential role in the Zimmerman trial. In fact, it created two different standards by which the six jurors judged both George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin.

As former Florida State Senator Dan Gelber has pointed out, pre-Jeb Bush, pre- Koch Brothers, and pre-ALEC Florida law would have required the following instructions to be read to a jury in a self-defense murder trial:

"The defendant [George Zimmerman] cannot justify the use of force likely to cause death or great bodily harm unless he used every reasonable means within his power and consistent with his own safety to avoid the danger before resorting to that force. The fact that the defendant [George Zimmerman] was wrongfully attacked cannot justify his use of force likely to cause death or great bodily harm if by retreating he could have avoided the need to use that force."

Note that according to these jury instructions, the defendant must do everything possible, including retreating, before attempting to use deadly force.

When confronted with a threat in 2005 and before, whether it was a deadly threat or simply the threat of violence, or even when confronted with actual violence, like being punched in the face or knocked to the pavement, the legal obligation was to work yourself free and run.

All that changed in Florida in 2006, when Florida's brand-spanking new and ALEC-promoted Stand Your Ground and Shoot First law came into effect.

Since 2006, post-Jeb Bush, post-Koch Brothers, and post-NRA and ALEC, the Stand Your Ground and Shoot First concept has become fully integrated into Florida's law regarding self-defense and the use of deadly force.

This is why the jury instructions for the Zimmerman jury included Stand Your Ground language, because that language is now part of Florida's laws about self-defense.

Listen carefully to the difference between the "You Must Retreat" language in the pre-2006 jury instructions and the instructions used in the Zimmerman trial. Remember, before 2006 Florida law said that even if the other guy started the fight, you still had an obligation to run. The old law read as follows:

"The fact that the defendant was wrongfully attacked cannot justify his use of force likely to cause death or great bodily harm if by retreating he could have avoided the need to use that force."

By comparison, here are the Stand Your Ground instructions that actually were read to the Zimmerman jury:

"The danger facing George Zimmerman need not have been actual; however, to justify the use of deadly force, the appearance of danger must have been so real that a reasonably cautious and prudent person under the same circumstances would have believed that the danger could be avoided only through the use of that force. Based upon appearances, George Zimmerman must have actually believed that the danger was real.

"George Zimmerman... had no duty to retreat and had the right to stand his ground and meet force with force, including deadly force, if he reasonably believed that it was necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself ..."
George Zimmerman didn't even have to have a threat of deadly force used against him. All he had to do was imagine that there was such a threat. And instead of running, he could stand his ground and shoot first to kill.

Even more interesting than this is that both in the actual Zimmerman trial and in the trial conducted in the American media, both Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman were essentially on trial.

In the courtroom proceedings, Trayvon Martin was being judged as part of Zimmerman's self-defense argument. "Why he didn't run away from Zimmerman?" the defense asked. Because Martin didn't run away, Zimmerman's lawyers suggested that Zimmerman was justified in killing him. This was so explicit in the trial that defense attorney Mark O'Mara even asked for four minutes of silence during his closing arguments as if to demonstrate that Trayvon Martin had plenty of time to turn and run.

Here's a clip of O'Mara's remarks.

And in the media trial of Trayvon Martin, commentators have repeatedly asked, "why didn't the seventeen year-old just run away from the armed man who was chasing him?"

As one of Florida's most famous white pastors, Bill Keller, argued in a nationally published op-ed, "The facts were clear that Trayvon Martin had more than enough time to get back to his father's house, but chose instead to confront Zimmerman, break his nose, and continue the violent attack." In other words, Trayvon Martin should have run away.

So, the question: Why was Trayvon Martin judged, both in the trial and in the media, on the basis of the pre-2006 Florida self-defense law that requires a person to do everything they can to avoid violence up to and including running away?

And, equally troubling, if that was the standard that Trayvon Martin was held to, why was George Zimmerman, who actually held the gun and fired the shot, held to a different standard and allowed to stand his ground and kill an unarmed teenager without penalty?

Remember, nobody ever seriously suggested, in the trial or in the media, that Trayvon Martin had a right to stand his ground. Instead, everybody wanted to know why he didn't run.

And remember that over and over again the media, George Zimmerman's lawyers, and Judge Nelson herself explicitly said that George Zimmerman had the legal right to stand his ground and use deadly force if he even felt threatened. While Trayvon should have run, Zimmerman didn't have to run.

Remember the actual instructions that Judge Nelson read to the jury about the standard to which George Zimmerman should be judged:

"George Zimmerman... had no duty to retreat and had the right to stand his ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he reasonably believed that it was necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or another..."

Why were George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin judged by different standards? Why was Trayvon Martin judged according to pre-Koch brothers Florida law, while George Zimmerman was judged according to post-Koch brothers Florida law? And, perhaps more importantly, why is nobody in the media pointing this out?

If you're as astounded by this as I am, you may want to contact your local media outlet and ask them that question.


"The to and fro over hoodiegate of course has been largely about what wealthy and, by and large, white men wear in Silicon Valley and on Wall Street.  But a hoodie is not just a hoodie, except when it’s just a hoodie. A teenage boy named Trayvon Martin was wearing a hoodie the night that he was killed in a gated townhouse community in Sanford, Fla., outside Orlando. His killer, an armed neighborhood watch volunteer, told police he appeared “real suspicious.”The hoodie became a symbol of solidarity in the days after the boy’s death. Many people I know took pictures of themselves wearing hoodies. Naturally, they posted their pictures on Facebook.  Trayvon’s hoodie is a reminder that neither Wall Street nor Silicon Valley are terribly representative of our country."
--"Why Is Everyone Focused on Zuckerberg’s Hoodie?"
May 11, 2012
New York Times

What's the Difference Between Mark Zuckerberg and Trayvon Martin?
by Kofi Natambu

Aside from the fact that Mark Zuckerberg is a
billionaire and Trayvon Martin wasn't?
aside from the fact that Mark is respected and beloved
by millions of complete strangers who never met him and never will
and Trayvon was and is reviled and absolutely depised
by millions of complete strangers who never met him and never will?
that Mark was still alive three weeks after his 17th birthday and Trayvon wasn't
that Mark often wore a hoodie in his everyday life (especially on Wall Street
and still does whenever and wherever he feels like it
while Trayvon wore a hoodie on the very night and even at the very last second
before he was viciously assaulted and murdered
and now will never wear one
again ever again not in this life where
the color of Mark's face unlike Trayvon's was never ever a factor in determining
whether he was going to
live to wear his hoodie another day or simply
die in the street alone 
because in this life Mark is still alive and "thriving" and Trayvon isn't
at least on facebook or even in this larger deadly reality
that's for sure