Montag, 30. April 2012

Trayvon Martin – A modern-day lynching in the US

9 April 2012. A World to Win News Service. We compiled and slightly edited the following material from issue no 264 and 265 of Revolution, newspaper of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. (revcom.us) On 9 April, the special prosecutor in this case announced a legal move that means that whether or not she decides to presses charges against George Zimmerman, he cannot be accused of murder. On 26 February 2012, in a small gated (closed to non-residents) community in Sanford, Florida, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin went out to buy some snacks at a local store. It was raining, and he pulled his "hoodie (hooded sweatshirt) over his head. George Zimmerman, a self-appointed "neighbourhood watch" volunteer patrolling in his truck, called the police to say he saw someone "real suspicious". The police dispatcher told him not to do anything. But Zimmerman got out of his car. He had a gun. There was yelling, then a gunshot and Trayvon Martin's life was over. In the USA, if you're Black, and especially if you're young, male, and perhaps wearing a hoodie, then at any time, on any street, you can be living one moment... then dead the next, from a modern day lynching. It can be from a cop. Or it might be from a vigilante wanna-be-cop. And even as you take your last breath, even before your parents are notified and the tears begin to fall, the whole system of police, laws, and courts will be working to render a verdict of "justifiable homicide". The police did not arrest Zimmerman, citing Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law which allows registered gun owners to shoot someone if they believe their life is in danger, even if they could have walked away from the situation instead. Since this law went into effect the number of killings excused as "justifiable homicide" has jumped from an average of 12 to 33 per year in this state. Twenty other states have similar laws. This is nothing but a legalized lynch law and should be renamed the "Open Season on Black and Brown Men" Law. The cops were in Zimmerman's corner, protecting him, from the very beginning. The police corrected a witness who said she heard a very young voice cry for help, telling her to say she heard Zimmerman call for help... even though three witnesses said they heard the "desperate wail of a child, a gunshot, and then silence." They did a background check on Martin as he lay dead, but not on Zimmerman, the killer. They tested Martin's blood for alcohol and drugs but not Zimmerman's. The police didn't even talk to Martin's girlfriend, who had been on the phone with him before and during part of the attack. "We are all Trayvon Martin" The killing of Trayvon Martin struck a vein in a way that nothing has for a long time in the US. That vein is the centuries-old oppression of Black people – the fact that from the 1600s down to today the law and custom of this country have been, in one form or another, that a Black person has no rights that a white person is bound to respect, that every Black person is guilty until proven innocent, and that Black youth in particular walk around with a death sentence on their heads all the time for the sole "crime" of walking while Black. The murder of Trayvon Martin has touched the hearts of many millions around the country. And more than this, it has connected with the real life experience and anger of millions of Black and Latino youth and their families who know.... that could have been me... that could have been my son... that could have been my brother... that could have been my friend. And ghastly ghosts of America's past are being evoked: the Klu Klux Klan, the lynching tree, the white racists who murdered 14-year-old Emmett Till in 1955. Mothers are speaking out, with bitterness, about how they school their sons, from the time they are very young, about the "rules" they must follow if they are to stay alive, like: "always have your driver's licence, wearing a suit is safer than wearing casual clothes, don't run down a street, never run from police." Protests are continuing and growing all around the country, in large cities and small towns, with many thousands of people calling for justice. People of all different nationalities are demonstrating, wearing hoodies, with snacks like the ones Martin had in his hand, carrying signs that say, "We are all Trayvon Martin." Students in more than 30 Miami schools walked out of class. High school students from Harlem, New York, demonstrating in support of Trayvon were dispersed by the police. On hearing about the arrest of a young revolutionary communist, the students poured back out into the streets calling for his release, alternately regrouping and being dispersed several times. Relatives of those killed by the police are speaking out. At a Chicago rally, members of Emmett Till's family read a statement they had written to the family of Trayvon Martin. Students at colleges around the country are protesting. Celebrities are speaking out and the National Basketball Association players issued a statement, offering condolences to the Martin family and calling for Zimmerman's arrest. Some of the anger of those for whom this system has no future, and the reality behind that anger, are cutting through the whitewash, the cover-up, the lies. People are breaking through the fear that the murder of so many Black youth by police (or wannabe police) is supposed to instil and enforce. The hoodie has become a badge of honour. For decades now, through the so-called "war on drugs" and mass incarceration, a whole class of people, especially Black and Latino youth, have been stigmatized and criminalized. Even as they are brutalized and gunned down by the police, warehoused in prisons and tortured in solitary confinement, the system and its ideological mouthpieces demonize the youth, telling them – and society at large – that it's their own fault for what is happening to them, and this is what they deserve. Carl Dix, RCP spokesperson and an initiator of "April 19 National Day of Resistance to Stop Mass Incarceration", spoke to how this protest is very directly related to the murder of Trayvon Martin. "The backdrop to this horrific reality is that this capitalist system has got no way to profitably exploit this generation of Black youth, and their response to that has been criminalization and incarceration. This is why I say: Mass Incarceration + Silence = Genocide. This system has no future to offer this generation of Black youth. Its approach comes down to a slow genocide that could become a fast one. But we could break up this deadly equation by stepping up with increasingly powerful resistance, and that's what people need to do. People need to stand up and say no to the racist murder of Trayvon Martin and, on April 19, step out in resistance to mass incarceration." Challenged to resist With the murder of Trayvon Martin the anger at the great suffering that seethes below has burst out. People are saying: "We are sick and tired of burying our children!" "We are sick and tired of being demeaned and demonized." "We demand to be treated like human beings!" And this has delivered a jolt to the "normality" of all this, where it can seem like things will never change, that things can never change. In this moment, people more broadly – including some who have been sucked in by the hype demonizing Black youth – are seeing the real truth of the matter and being challenged to take a stand against the murder of Trayvon Martin. And this is giving more space to the people to stand up, speak out, and fight, with right clearly on their side. This is a moment when, the legitimacy of the established order, of this system, can begin to be called into question for many people. But at the same time there has been a concerted effort to spin a whole narrative against Trayvon Martin, hoping to put a lid on people's anger – or at least make them question what compelled them into the streets to say, "We are all Trayvon Martin!" Certain ruling class forces are spreading lies through the media aimed at changing people's minds about what they correctly saw in the facts of what happened the night of 26 February. They want to reverse right and wrong, and say that the victim was actually George Zimmerman and the aggressor was Trayvon Martin. They want to repolarize things, where even if people don't buy their whole rewriting of what happened, they are hoping that giving Zimmerman's story such publicity and authority will put enough "questions" out there to make some people step back a bit. That even if this doesn't get over completely among the masses of Black people, it will affect broader sections of the population who have been outraged at this murder. In the court of public opinion this counterattack presents certain "evidence" to demonize and defame Trayvon Martin. It doesn't say it straight out. But in effect the message is that Trayvon Martin was no "innocent lamb", and that perhaps he deserved what he got... just like so many other Black youth gunned down and locked up in this society. Zimmerman's family claims Trayvon punched him and that he was "fighting for his life." We are supposed to do an about-face. Hey, you thought Trayvon Martin was unjustly murdered, innocent, didn't deserve to die – that it was right for thousands of people to go out in the street to demand justice? Well think again says the media – Trayvon was suspended from school. He had a bag in his backpack with marijuana residue. He had a "burglary tool" (a screwdriver). He wrote graffiti on a locker. He had a bunch of jewellery. He skipped school and was late for class. Can anyone seriously say this is evidence of a "troubled teen" with a "history of trouble with authorities"? By these standards the vast majority of youth, of all nationalities, are suspicious and criminal. These things make you a criminal? Let alone show that on the night of 26 February, Trayvon Martin was "probably up to no good" – and deserved to die! On one level, this is ridiculous. But this is the kind of vicious public opinion being created to get over with a verdict of justifiable homicide. Trayvon's mother said: "They killed my son and now they're trying to kill his reputation." And for many people, especially the youth, this is just one more unacceptable slap in the face that has only fuelled their anger and determination to get justice for Trayvon. It is good that people are demanding JUSTICE. And at the same time, we need to be clear on what kind of system is responsible for creating people like George Zimmerman, what kind of system is behind all the circumstances surrounding and leading up to the murder of Trayvon Martin. We need to ask: What is the system that created the whole situation surrounding the murder of Trayvon Martin – and then the whole way the vigilante murderer has been allowed to go free? There is a long history to the current situation in cities and towns throughout the United States, where a whole culture of white supremacy lays over every aspect of economic and social life. This is not the beginning of the story. There is a whole history and present day reality of the oppression of Black people in this country that not only helps us understand the murder of Trayvon Martin – but tells us what is required to put an end to what caused such outrages to happen over and over again. Slavery, lynch mobs, racist vigilantes, police terror. These are all expressions of a long and ongoing history and structure of the oppression of Black people. All this is part of what this whole country has been and will continue to be. What happened the night of 26 February in Sanford, Florida bears the marks of the history and present day reality of a system where the oppression of Black people is built into its very foundations. Without fighting back, nothing can change While many different understandings exist of how justice can be won, there are some basic things many people expressed to the Revolution reporters on the scene. Trayvon Martin was killed unjustly because he was Black. They won't stop until Zimmerman is arrested and put on trial for the murder of Trayvon Martin. People are furious. They also are struggling to come to grips with and understand how a killing so blatant could go unpunished and the killer remain free. Others are telling us, "The shooting of Trayvon Martin is horrible – but ‘Black on Black' crime is an even worse problem." Now some of the people saying that, are open apologists for the system or backward fools. More than a few are people really do hate what was done to Trayvon Martin, but are agonized by the way that too many Black youth lash out at each other. People feel deep pain at the tragic loss of young lives to what is really senseless violence, and they feel outraged, but hopeless, about a whole culture of expecting – accepting – that young Black men will either die young or spend their lives in and out of jail. First off, this has to be said: Without people fighting back against outrages like the murder of Trayvon Martin, without people standing up like they are now, and in fact standing up even taller and fiercer... then nothing will ever change. Nothing will change in how the system, and all its various enforcers (whether official or not), relentlessly come down on the people... and nothing will change about the bad ways that people sometimes treat each other. When people do stand up, as they are now around Trayvon Martin, it actually becomes possible to change a lot of things: both the outrage that people are protesting, and the way that they are thinking about things. As Bob Avakian has recently said, when this begins to happen, "the conditions become much more favourable for [those who are standing up] to begin to see the world in a different way – to transform themselves, in terms of their understanding, and in terms of their feelings – in terms of their orientation toward society, toward the world, toward other people, and what kind of relations there should be among people." So that is one big thing to keep foremost in mind – that right now, what must happen to change anything at all, is to step forward and act around this outrage. At the same time, if you want to understand how to change the way that people treat each other, you have to get to the root of the problem. If you want to change both the ways that the system and its tools and willing accomplices crush people like Trayvon Martin, and the ways that it also gets people to mess over each other – you have to get rid of the system itself, through revolution. And you have to dig out the thinking this system gives rise to, beginning right now, and then taking a leap once people have actually won power. You can't do that by trying to reform this system that's based on exploitation. Exploitation – making profit off of other people's labour – has been at the root of the problem since the first African was kidnapped to be exploited as a slave in the "new world". The state power we now live under – the government, with its organs of force and violence at the core of it – is a product of exploitation, and was built to maintain and extend it. No, we need a whole new state power. A state power based on getting rid of exploitation, getting rid of one people oppressing another, getting rid of everything that reinforces all that... including those ideas in people's thinking that reflect the ways of exploitation. That's what this revolution is all about – a new state power that backs the masses up in making these transformations from head to toe, as part of getting to a world where humanity has put all that behind it. You have to make revolution to do that. You have to get with the movement for revolution today – fighting back and, as we do, struggling with people to break with these ideas. In other words: "Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution." We have to rally the youth – a lot of whom in fact are caught up in some of the mentality this system has put on them – to fight back, and welcome it when (as is beginning to happen today) many of them are fighting back, and struggle with them to transform their thinking in the process... to get with the real revolution. There is no other solution to this problem – all the preaching in the world only makes it worse, and even the efforts to bring real truth to the youth cannot take root without this. And there is no other way to the whole new world that is needed, and is possible, where all exploitation and oppression and destructive antagonisms between people – and all the mentalities and ways of thinking that reflect and reinforce that oppression – are things of the past, and where all people can truly flourish and rise to their full heights.

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