Saturday, July 13, 2013
Until The Lions Have Their Own Historians (Trayvon Martin On My Mind)
Until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.
~ African proverb
I've been staying silent on the George Zimmerman trial. But really, why are we calling it the "George Zimmerman trial" when in fact Trayvon Martin's on trial, and he's dead? Just as in the African proverb, George Zimmerman, the hunter, is being glorified enough to be acquitted. I understand the difficulty of the prosecution's task -- disproving Zimmerman's self-defense claim beyond a reasonable doubt in a state that has a "stand your ground" law. It would be the height of irony and cruelty if the "stand your ground" law allows you to stand your ground and defend yourself against a confrontation that, but for your own actions, would never have happened, especially since it involved a teenage boy.
I feel so much for Trayvon's parents. I've seen this movie before. My family has its own George Zimmerman. His name is Christopher Allen Smith, he is white, and he killed my cousin Gidd Robinson in broad daylight in front of his kids. But for Gidd's mother, Gidd's fiancé, and our huge extended family banding together and putting pressure on the Yolo County District Attorney's Office to prosecute, Christopher Allen Smith would have gotten away with it. Like George Zimmerman, Christopher Allen Smith was in his vehicle at the time the events leading to a homicide occurred and could have driven away. Like George Zimmerman, Christopher Allen Smith decided to confront someone because he didn't like what he saw. Unlike George Zimmerman, Christopher Allen Smith stayed in his truck and, shooting across the passenger seat and his own child, shot my cousin, who was walking his daughter to school, because my cousin allegedly flipped him off.
In the case of my cousin, the story as my family understood it was that he was walking his young daughter to school, and Christopher Allen Smith was speeding down the street. My cousin yelled at him to slow down because there were children out. Instead of going on, Christopher Allen Smith turned his truck around, got into a yelling match with my cousin, and, allegedly thinking my cousin had a gun, reached over the passenger side of his truck and across his own seven year-old son and shot my cousin. Then he sped off, dumped the gun in the river, and rubbed his hands in mud to get rid of the gunshot residue.
Just like Trayvon Martin's murder, the case made no sense. Initially, the Yolo County District Attorney's Office didn't want to prosecute because they believed my cousin, who did have a criminal record, had a gun that he had thrown in the bushes or disposed of in some way, although searchers never turned up a gun. Then they didn't think they could prove that it was unreasonable for Christopher Allen Smith to believe that my cousin had a gun, in other words, that his claim of self-defense was imperfect and would support a murder charge.
But it didn't make sense.
My sister argued in a meeting with the Yolo County D.A.'s attorneys and staff, "It doesn't make sense. If Christopher Allen Smith was in the driver's seat of his truck, and the passenger side was closest to the sidewalk where my cousin was, and if he thought my cousin had a gun, why didn't he just hit the gas and drive away?" We all reasoned that in the time it would have taken him to reach in his glove compartment, pull out a gun, and shoot across his own child to repel some supposed threat, he could have hit the gas and taken his child to safety. What person shoots a gun across his own child when he can more easily flee to safety? And what person who has just been shot in the chest area is able to dispose of a gun or is even thinking of disposing of a gun? It just didn't make sense. Until the time that our extended family (which is huge) started meeting with the Yolo County D.A.'s office, the focus was on my cousin's criminal background and their belief that they could not prove imperfect self defense., i.e., that Christopher Allen Smith's belief that my cousin had a gun was unreasonable. And they had no murder weapon.
It took Gidd's mom and Gidd's fiance, both of whom were strong like Trayvon's parents, and my huge extended family, including Black Man Not Blogging (BMNB) grilling the Yolo County assistant district attorneys and investigators as to why this wasn't being charged as a hate crime and why the FBI had not been involved, to eventually get the FBI involved. My understanding is that the FBI eventually found the murder weapon, and the Yolo County D.A.'s investigators found the evidence needed to show that Christopher Allen Smith frequented white supremacist websites and had an arsenal of illegal guns. If it hadn't been for Gidd's mom and his fiancé standing up, relentlessly pursuing justice, and getting the extended family involved in two meetings with the Yolo County D.A.'s office in which we relentlessly questioned them about the evidence, I doubt that Christopher Allen Smith would have been prosecuted, despite his highly implausible claim of self defense.
So as I watch snippets of the Trayvon Martin trial -- I can't bear to watch the defense not only make a mockery of Travyon's murder but make a mockery of the criminal justice system by starting a murder trial with a knock-knock joke -- who does that? -- I am reminded that justice isn't blind. I am reminded that, when it comes down to a racist's claim of self defense in killing a person of color, unless the victim has his own "historians," the murderer gets to glorify his claim of self-defense. I am angered that this trial has come down to whether a scared teenager attacked someone who was following him when that follower was clearly instructed by a 911 operator not to confront the teenager and was not in danger at the time he decided to follow the teenager. I am angered by the defense stating that Trayvon inserted race into the matter by calling Zimmerman "a creepy cracker." I am angered at the prospect of someone creating a situation where they can confront someone for no reason and, when the situation turns to their disadvantage, they can "stand their ground" and shoot the person they confronted without reason. I am angered that the defense called for four minutes of silence and said, "That's how long Trayvon had to run," as if running would have saved his life. This history of black men getting shot in the back for running in this country is long and sordid.
Other than the young woman who was on the phone with Trayvon, Trayvon doesn't have a "historian" to tell his side, allowing the Zimmerman defense team to glorify the hunter, George Zimmerman.
If both Christopher Allen Smith and George Zimmerman had simply driven away, two people would be alive today.
I'm not hopeful for a conviction in this case, and I'm sad for Trayvon's parents because, no matter what, they'll never see their son again. There is a twist to all this if Zimmerman is acquitted, as BMNB put it: "If he gets off, he'll be about as safe in America as Trayvon was."
The hunter may well indeed become the lion. Better have his own historian.
For more on the murder of my cousin, visit here.