Ford: Zimmerman’s Acquittal Exposes the American Psyches’ Racist Reasoning
Glen Ford: Prosecution was unable to prove Zimmerman’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt because it’s thought to be “reasonable” to profile young black men as criminals
JESSICA DESVARIEUX, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore.
The verdict is out on the highly watched Zimmerman murder trial. On Saturday, a jury found George Zimmerman not guilty in the shooting death of unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman had pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder charges, claiming that he shot Martin in self-defense.
Here to discuss all this is Glen Ford. Glen Ford is the cofounder and executive editor of the Black Agenda Report. He also co-launched, produced, and hosted America’s Black Forum, the first nationally syndicated black news interview program on commercial television.
Thanks for joining us, Glen.
GLEN FORD, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, BLACKAGENDAREPORT.COM: Thank you for the invitation.
DESVARIEUX: So, Glen, my first question is: what was your reaction to the verdict?
FORD: Well, this verdict, the outcome of this trial illuminates a basic question of black-and-white coexistence in America. It’s really that simple. And there is no legal fix to this basic problem that we have of coexistence of the races.
In American law, it is basic, the doctrine of reasonableness. That is, if a person believes reasonably that they have a fear for their life or for their physical well-being, they have a right to defend themselves.
But reasonableness is about as subjective as you can get. White people generally share a belief in the inherent dangerousness of young black males. White juries share that belief. White cops share the belief. White prosecutors share it. White judges share it. In fact, that’s a basic belief of Americana. It is the basis for mass black incarceration, which has been the law of the land. And a fundamental of black mass incarceration is hyper surveillance of the black community.
What George Zimmerman was doing was playing his bit in hyper-surveilling black folks, which is an acceptable practice. We wouldn’t have mass black incarceration without it. In the South during slavery, that was the obligation of every white person, to help out by keeping an eye on those slaves so they wouldn’t rebel. So we have a straight line from there to the present.
But the fact that we have this doctrine of reasonableness means that there’s no real fix for this in the American judicial system. We’re just playing around when we toy with civil suits and such.
Our only recourse is to change the social dynamic in the country, to change it by applying pressure to it, by mass actions that delegitimize white hyper surveillance of black people, whether by vigilantes like Zimmerman or, more importantly, by the police.
DESVARIEUX: There were some mass reactions to this verdict. We know that in Los Angeles, New York City, on Sunday especially, there were hundreds of people out in the street really coalescing behind Trayvon Martin, his family, being really, really upset about this verdict. The president, President Obama, he came out and he released a statement saying that the jury has spoken, and he really has framed this whole issue as a gun rights issue. What do you make of the president’s reaction?
FORD: At the risk of sounding like the NRA, guns didn’t kill Trayvon Martin; Zimmerman did. And white society condoned the killing of Trayvon Martin.
This is a racist atrocity. It doesn’t come under the heading of gun crimes, except for the fact that a gun was used.
And we have to remind your listeners that President Obama, when Sean Bell was cut down in a hail of police bullets in New York, he had the same reaction: the courts have spoken and we must respect that decision. Well, we can’t respect the decisions of these courts. We can’t respect the reasonableness of behaviors like George Zimmerman’s or behaviors that are standard fare for police forces in the United States. We have to change the equation. We can only do that by militant direct action, by making the society rethink what it’s all about. And what it’s all about today, as it was 200 years ago, is white supremacy, is the sanctity of white life and the devaluing of black life. It’s just that simple.
DESVARIEUX: Let’s switch gears a little bit and talk about the media and how they covered this trial. As you know, CNN, they had wall-to-wall coverage of this trial. MSNBC, Fox. It’s been all over the papers as well. What was your take on how the media handled this case?
FORD: Well, I was glad to see the wall-to-wall coverage. I know Lupe Fiasco objected to it, but I think that people need to see racism as it operates in the raw. And part of looking at racism in the raw is to observe how the media behave. And it was clear very early on that the media were in favor of some kind of not-guilty verdict for George Zimmerman. And that was a gauge of how white folks in general might be leaning. So even when the media acts badly, I believe that’s part of the education process.
DESVARIEUX: Okay. Thanks so much for joining us, Glen.
FORD: Thank you.
DESVARIEUX: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.
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