Trayvon Martin and The New Black Panthers.

It’s complicated.
Edward Wyckoff Williams, a columnist, political analyst for MSNBC and a former investment banker said recently that the tragic death of Trayvon Martin has ignited a firestorm of emotion across the country, in the African-Americancommunity and beyond. He says that at the heart of the case there are centuries-old ideologies about black masculinity and white fear. As I tried to point out in an earlier post, we are neurologically wired for defense of our tribe, and in the Trayvon Martin instance, George Zimmerman was defending his race against a perceived threat. The FloridaStand Your Ground” law and conceal carry permits, of course did much to help.
Recently, a group named the New Black Panther Party offered $10,000 to anyone who makes a citizen’s arrest of George Zimmerman, the white Hispanic man who admittedly shot the 17-year-old Martin on the night of Feb. 26 in Sanford, Fla.Despite apparent evidence that the Sanford police were negligent in the handling of the case, they appear to be attempting to regain a forfeited moral high ground.

In response to the New Black Panther Party’s bounty offer, the Sanford Police offered, “The city of Sanford does not condone the actions and recommendations of the New Black Panther Party,” in a statement. “Attempts by civilians to take any person into custody may result in criminal charges or unnecessary violence.”

Williams claims that this statement “offers insight into the death of Martin, the response of the police at the scene and an antiquated, discriminatory mindset that requires addressing now. If the Sanford police had exercised an equally balanced reaction to Zimmerman, as expressed in the statement to the New Black Panthers, Zimmerman would be behind bars today.”

Williams wonders “How can police sanction vigilante justice in the name of self-defense by Zimmerman against an unarmed child but condemn a response of “perceived” vigilante justice by the New Black Panthers? The double standard inherent in this inequitable response is solely defined by race.”

Williams is not alone. Most  African-Americans would say that in American society, the very potential for black aggression is immediately met with force and an admonishment to use caution and temperance. How is it they wonder, that Zimmerman is somehow excused for being rash, unreasonable and violent and that he and his family are deserving of more protection than a child walking home with Skittles and an iced tea?

Politicians, pundits and community leaders alike have expressed discontent with the methods of the New Black Panthers. Originally their quest was described as a “bounty” on Zimmerman’s head. A spokesman for the party has since clarified its intent not to use violence at all but simply to act as responsible citizens.Williams wants us to know that regardless of the veracity of the New Black Panther Party’s intent, actions or statements, the truth remains that vigilante justice is excused for white people in America but never for blacks. In fact, just days after the statement, Hasim Nzinga, a 49-year-old leader of the Panthers, was arrested on gun charges. This is in stark contrast to Zimmerman who, more than a month following Trayvon’s death, remains free and uncharged.
Strange dudes. You must admit.
He reminds us that the Ku Klux Klan committed violent offenses for more than a century and hardly ever facing prosecution. But black men are swiftly arrested for nonviolent offenses every day.

Williams says Martin, as described by Zimmerman in the 911 tapes, was “suspicious.” Why? Because, as Zimmerman claimed, he was “a black male.” Despite the suggestion of the lead investigator on the scene to charge Zimmerman with homicide and unintentional manslaughter, the police officers at the station chose to overrule that decision and let Zimmerman walk. In what universe does this happen?

Sanford issued a press release “requesting calm heads and no vigilante justice” in response to the Panthers. But vigilante activity has already occurred, the most direct result being the death of Martin, who, according to his English teacher was an “A and B student who majored in cheerfulness.”

The double standards around race in general and black masculinity in particular are deeply entrenched in old racial codes that have been reinforced by Hollywood, media images and false metanarratives for decades. And, anyone can understand how it must make Williams and all black men and women feel to know that they are still chained to the racial slavery of opinion that surrounds our culture today, just as it did 60, 200 and 400 years ago. That every time they step out of their homes, African-Americans are in some way a target for fearful and prejudiced whites, who may or may not be carrying guns.

But, it is equally true that by an order of magnitude, more black males commit violent crime than that of their white peers, so it may not be unwarranted that black males should arouse greater suspicion when, walking while black. Not reasonable, but maybe understandable.

Looks like another guy who was majoring in cheerfulness. To me.
But, Amadou Diallo‘s brutal death on Feb. 4, 1999 — just a day before Trayvon Martin’s birthday — ignited what then-president Bill Clinton called a “national dialogue on race.” Diallo, a Guinean immigrant, was killed after four plain-clothed officers fired 41 shots, though he himself was unarmed and had simply reached for his wallet. The officers were all acquitted. It seems America is in desperate need of more than a “dialogue” on race, but a moratorium on gun violence, racial profiling and the double standards inherent in our sociopolitical construct that correlates black male identity with criminality.
When simply having brown skin while walking becomes a crime, then Jim Crow isn’t a thing of the past — it is a reality of 21st-century life.Tea Party activists attend rallies with guns openly displayed to underscore their intense desire to retain their rights provided by the second amendment, while marches for justice by African Americans are required to be nonviolent, yet garner significant police presence to ensure order.
The problem with Zimmerman’s behavior and the police department’s failure to adequately investigate, detain and arraign is that such a failure sanctioned the very actions the police now claim to abhor. Had they answered Zimmerman with the response given to the Panthers, no need for consideration of “race” as a factor in law enforcement’s role would be necessary. Instead, police discarded the civil rights of an innocent child — at the word of a man with a criminal record — and by doing so engendered the very tactics of vigilantism against which they now claim to guard.
To sanction vigilante justice in one instance is to open the door to unbridled violence in another. Without acknowledgment of that truth, there can be no justice.

About Steve King

iPeopleFINANCE™ Chief Operating Officer. Former CEO of Endymion Systems, Inc. a $36m Information Systems Services company. Co-founder of the Cambridge Systems Group, the creator of ACF2, the leading IBM Mainframe Data Center Security product; acquired by Computer Associates. IBM, seeCommerce, marchFIRST, Connectandsell alumni. UC Berkeley alumni. View all posts by Steve King

2 responses to “Trayvon Martin and The New Black Panthers.

  • pennylibertygbow

    How are you Edward, I see we already have a great deal in common. Thanks for that Great information on the Martin case. My name is Penny and I just began to blog, it would be such an honor if you would take some time to check out my blogs, constructive criticism is always welcome, and it’s nice to have friends you have things in common with. I love history, on my blog I created the first online African America encyclopedia which is filled with rich history and many colorful, bright, genious, artists, scientists from the African American heritage. Please check me out, I’d be so happy. kindly penny

    I would really, really, appreciate someone of your talent to overlook one of my blogs. kindly, penny

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