Zimmerman verdict makes profilers of us all

Trayvon Martin's killing teaches us that America views black men as disposable, regardless of who pulls the trigger

Topics: The American Reader, George Zimmerman, Trayvon Martin, Racism, Civil Rights, thought experiments, , ,

Zimmerman verdict makes profilers of us allGeorge Zimmerman leaves the courtroom a free man after being found not guilty in the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin at the Seminole County Criminal Justice Center in Sanford, Florida, July 13, 2013. (Credit: Reuters/Joe Burbank)
This piece originally appeared on The American Reader.

The American ReaderWhat do we gain from pretending George Zimmerman is white? The internet is flush with thought experiments, wherein the reader is asked to imagine how differently things would have turned out if George Zimmerman was black and Trayvon Martin was white. But what if the races were actually reversed? What if George Zimmerman was black and Trayvon Martin was Hispanic? In this scenario, the black Zimmerman would still have as much a chance of being acquitted as the Hispanic Zimmerman. There are just as many disastrous, culturally salient stereotypes one could play into with a Hispanic night-stroller, as one can with an African American one.

The lesson here is not that a white guy is free to kill a black guy at any time. It is that we are now all, no matter our race, gender or sexual orientation, equally free to kill a black guy at any time. No matter your own race, ethnicity, or cultural group, you should know that this right has now been extended to you. And a role-reversal thought experiment only supports this conclusion, suggesting as it does that even besieged minorities are allowed to kill without warrant, so long as their target is another besieged minority. After all, an armed Hispanic man in Florida is hardly, as some people now laughably claim, a Fox News ideal, and it would be just as acceptable to rid a gated community of a man who fits Zimmerman’s profile, as of a child who fits Martin’s. So that black men should know that in this case they may also have received a new, undreamt of freedom—that is, the freedom to kill anyone whom Culture deems primordially problematic.

Black men were already somewhat aware of this. They have been allowed to kill each other, with only minimal repercussion or governmental interference—and indeed sometimes with governmental encouragement—since, well, forever. Just as anyone knows it is within their rights to persecute a gay individual, regardless of their own questionable Census status. Just as any man knows he is allowed to rape/abuse a woman (so long as he isn’t too messy about it, doesn’t leave too many clues)—especially if said woman is a member of a questionable ethnicity group and/or economic bracket (though her gender and sexual history, real or imagined, should suffice).



But now even the perma-victims among us have potentially awoken to a curious induction ceremony…

For now even the bad woman can look out across the wide expanse of this country, even the gay man or woman can cast eye upon the golden plains of this land, even the forlorn black male seagazer, the Hispanic dreamer, the phantasmic black woman, the Asian immigrant—all can turn their eyes upon this wild country, and see before them an incredible bounty of victims, theirs to pillage, theirs to burn and rape, theirs to disenfranchise, theirs to shoot and kill…with a little ingenuity, and the correct cultural formula, we can all be acquitted.

This is no longer the province of white people alone.

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