Monday, 15 July 2013

Racism, a license to kill

Several years ago my best friend sat on the jury for a hate crime case.  The prosecution and defence agreed that the accused had refused to pay a taxi driver, who he called a "Paki bastard" before he broke the taxi driver's arm.  The defence argued that the incident was an assault, not a hate crime.

The judge directed the British jury to find the accused guilty "if they believed he had used the words 'Paki bastard' before the assault." 

The jury found him not guilty of hate crime, because as one of the other white men on the jury said "I call people Pakis all the time, that's not racist."  My friend and the sole person of colour on the jury were unable to stop the majority verdict.

Now, the recent killing of African American teenager Trayvon Martin

It's not disputed that George Zimmerman got out of his car, with a gun, to follow Trayvon Martin, who was walking home while Black.  It's not disputed that George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin.

Similarly, when Māori teenager Pihema Cameron was killed in Auckland in 2008, it was not disputed that Bruce Emery had chased Pihema down the street to stab him.

Yet both George Zimmerman (not guilty) and Bruce Emery (reduced sentence of manslaughter due to family standing) avoided being found guilty of murder. 

The men who killed Pihema Cameron and Trayvon Martin said they were afraid.

The white imagination is coached to see people of colour as dangerous.  We learn early and often.  When I was nine my school principal called me into his office after I'd been fighting an older girl who was bullying my sister.  The principal told me to stop hanging around my friends, as they were leading me astray.  I thought this was strange, since neither of them were involved in the fight.  I laughed about it with my friends, both of whom were Māori, afterwards.  Somehow, looking back, I doubt they were finding it quite as amusing as I was.  White privilege is funny that way.

I felt sick when I heard George Zimmerman would walk free, and the deja vu with Pihema Cameron was unavoidable.  But the problem isn't just Trayvon Martin and Pihema Cameron's killers, if it was this would be easier.

The problem is when George Zimmerman and Bruce Emery say they were afraid while they chased after unarmed young men of colour with guns and knives, lots and lots of white people can imagine how that felt, because they feel it too. 

If George Zimmerman and Bruce Emery were afraid, imagine how Trayvon Martin and Pihema Cameron felt, chased down and killed in cold blood.  Imagine how it feels to know that other young men who look like you have been killed - just for walking and looking like you.  Imagine how it feels to be told by the criminal justice system that those killings don't count as real crimes, because you don't count as a real victim.

That's what we need to change.  The dominance of white narratives, telling stories - both historical and current - from one perspective.  The white imagination, and the excuses "othering" gives us, for all manner of racist inequalities. The reluctance of white people to call out racism when it's there, because it might implicate too many of us. 

Rest in peace Trayvon Martin.  I don't know what more to say but that your death fills me with pain and despair and horror.  You should still be here, walking home in your hoodie, instead of being the latest casualty of racism's license to kill.

*I'm aware George Zimmerman is not white.  This post is more about the dominance of white narratives and the impacts that has on all of us. 


Hugh said...

Trayvon Martin was punching Zimmerman in the face when he was shot.

That doesn't justify Zimmerman shooting him.

But it is quite a long way from being shot 'in cold blood'.

Psycho Milt said...

Yet both George Zimmerman (not guilty) and Bruce Emery (reduced sentence of manslaughter due to family standing) avoided being found guilty of murder.

Yes - because we put a high threshold of proof on convicting someone of murder. This is a terrible, shameful thing how, exactly?

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
LudditeJourno said...

Hugh - how would you react to someone following you in the street, at night, with a gun exactly? What would be ok?
3:16 - I'm not sure why you continue to post comments here, since the writing clearly bothers your values so much. I am deleting your comment because I can't imagine how much pain it would cause to someone connected with this case, and when I wrote about Pihema Cameron's murder, his family wrote to me to thank me. So I know that's a possibility. Do you think, if you wish to comment again, you could hold in your head that a boy is dead after being shot by a stranger who followed him for no reason? Can you even imagine how that would feel if you loved Trayvon Martin?

ChundaMars said...

Terrible case, I can't believe he was found not guilty. However, wasn't manslaughter the correct charge? Murder requires premeditation I thought, of which there was none here.
I'm not defending him, I certainly think he should have been found guilty, just wondering why you think it should have been murder - this applies to the Emery case too.

Brett Dale said...

Im at a lost to express the sadness I fell for Trayvon Martin's family.

There is no doubt in my mind, that if George Zimmerman had of been black and Trayvon Had of been white, Zimmerman would be on death row by now.

The audio tape of Trayvon screaming help me is chilling.

No words can express how awful and how wrong this is.

LudditeJourno said...

Chunda - with Bruce Emery in particular I think there is a strong case for murder. He chased after someone running away with a knife to stab them, then went home and washed the knife and put it away and lied to his wife. With George Zimmerman - why did he get out of the car with the gun? Self-defence doesn't cut it really - but I am not a lawyer, and the US and gun laws are frankly terrifying.

Psycho Milt said...

If we were to expand the definition of murder to the point where taking a weapon with you and ending up killing someone with it meets the criteria, a significant number of the freshly-minted murderers would be "young men of colour." Having a high threshold of proof for murder convictions is a good thing, not a bad one.

Anonymous said...

Careful PM.

As an aside, why did Emery, an older man I gather who would hardly appear to be Rambo, chase those innocent kids down and stab one? What on earth was the motive for such a serious attack?

3:16's wife.

DPF:TLDR said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hugh said...

@LJ: I didn't say I think Martin should have behaved differently.

Rebecca said...

Thank you for this post LJ. I didn't want to comment on it because I don't think my words can add to what you've written, and the killing has made me feel so sick. But reading the comments above, i struck a passage in Audre Lorde's essay about age, race, class and sex; in 'sister, outsider' that spoke to it for me. Lorde wrote 'Some problems we share as women, some we do not. You fear your children will grow up to join the patriarchy and testify against you, we fear our children will be dragged from a car and shot down in the street, and you will turn your backs upon the reasons they are dying.'. You've written about the reason trayvon died, and pihema. Pity the discussion could not have been about that.

dondiego said...

Hi, since you seem unaware of some (easily obtainable) facts- allow me to clue you in...

Trayvon Martin was not the sweet little 12yr old pictured; he'd morphed into a "No Limit Nigga" 'gansta' type, replete with the trappings.
The neighbourhood watch hispanic guy called police *before* following the suspicious "youth", and was subsequently ambushed by the six-foot aspiring athlete who proceeded to bloody his face and split the back of his head open on the footpath.
If not for a concerned citizens right to bear arms YOU would never have heard of it.

As for your (to me, it seems) anti-white racism: Here's another picture- some more of "Obama's sons"

I wonder if you have integrity to post this comment, with an intelligent rebuttal?


Anonymous said...

Not likely to see a rebuttal Doniego,that would be to admit the truth and thats not what this is about.

Brett Dale said...


Your a product of Faux News and Ted Nugent.

If you actually did research, you would find out, that young Trayvon was a volunteer who did a ton of work in the community, he did good at school and was well liked by his peers.

He was 17 year old kid,who was walking to his dad's house, when Zimmerman shot and killed him.

Im guessing for you this is about your gun, no one gives a f*** about your gun, people do care about innocent kids who get killed walking home.

Anonymous said...

Nice picture of Trayvon when he was 12. Got any of him at his present age?

Hugh said...

@Brett: You're missing the point. It doesn't matter if Trayvon was a foul mouthed weed smoking pain-in-the-arse or a smiling model citizen who volunteered in soup kitchens.

Brett Dale said...


Agree 100%

dondiego said...

@Brett Dale- I feel must take issue with a couple of things that just aren't true.

I took an interest in this case as soon as it happened and can tell you the angelic 12yr old pictured is not an accurate representation of the football playing youth suspended from school for cannabis (something about abusing or assaulting a bus driver too).

You seem to be confusing Martin with Zimmerman: GZ was the archetypal negrophile. His Grandmother is black, he took a black girl to the prom, he mentored black youth in his neighbourhood (therefore as a NW Capt he knew the local kids, and what is and is not suspicious), he helped his black mate start up a business.

Trayvon was "staying" with his truck-driver father at his girlfriends house. Hence GZ not knowing him and being rightfully suspicious.

The reason he (GZ) was not initially charged/arrested is due to his injuries and witness reports -he had committed no crime.

It is you who needs to brush up on research. The photos of GZs injuries and the UNdoctored 911 call have long been in the public domain.

For me this is not about guns, or as you erroneously put it "innocent kids getting killed". If you look at the history of Haiti just before the slaughter of all whites (excepting certain women-it's in their constitution) you will see parallels with mulattoes raising Hell prior too...

*This comment isn't for close-minded you- rather, inquiring minds who seek TRUTH

James said...

"Similarly, when Māori teenager Pihema Cameron was killed in Auckland in 2008, it was not disputed that Bruce Emery had chased Pihema down the street to stab him."

Sorry but that's bullshit...I was on patrol that night and heard first hand what had happened from a neighbour with 30 mins of what happened.Yes Emery came out of his house with a knife and confronted Cameron...but Cameron came back and threatened Emery with violence in the usual "stanch" manner of the local suumbags that inhabit that part of Manurewa and in the scuffle he was stabbed.Emery was an overweight 50+ year old while Cameron was a athletic young do you really think Emery ran him down on foot...?

Anonymous said...

Yes James, they do. We are required to turn over everything to those who have no respect for anything and after they have smacked us around say thank you.

Thanks for clearing up how an old fart stabbed the staunch bro.


KG said...

Take a look at a true account of Zimmerman/Martin, then tell us why you are not either liars or gullible fools.

LudditeJourno said...

James - I'm basing the description of Pihema Cameron's death on what was reported in court as I wasn't there.
Dondiego - you seem confused about who was on trial here - only in a racist world would we be so desperate to excuse the killing of a young Black man by trying to dredge up everything he might possibly have done wrong. The fact remains, George Zimmerman followed a young man doing nothing with a gun.
3:16 - I keep hoping you will actually bring something other than hate to your conversations here, but it's not happening. I'd appreciate you not commenting on posts I write in the future. Thanks.
Others - apologies for the tone of these comments - I needed a break from moderating and should, I think, have closed comments on this post. I'm going to do that now.