What Does it Mean to Presume George Zimmerman’s Innocence?

justice-for-trayvon-martinI’ve written quite a bit lately on issues pertaining to the trial of George Zimmerman. Most of the feedback has been positive; however, there has also been quite a bit of push back, most of which sounds something like this:

George Zimmerman is innocent until proven guilty.

Yes, in this country you are innocent until proven guilty. But what does that mean in this case? What exactly are we supposed to presume George Zimmerman is innocent of?

It’s not whether or not he thought Trayvon Martin belonged in the neighborhood. We know he thought Trayvon was suspicious.

It’s not whether or not he was passionate about rounding up criminals. We know that he was.

It’s not whether or not he was a trained fighter. We know he was.

It’s not whether he has a violent past. We know he does.

It’s not whether or not he was armed. We know he was.

It’s not whether he followed Trayvon Martin. We know he did.

It’s not whether or not he shot and killed Trayvon Martin. We know he did that.

So, if it’s none of those, what are we to presume him innocent of, and what does that mean?

For a presumption of innocence to apply we are to presume that his story is correct. We are to presume that he was simply being neighborly when he approached Trayvon, and that this black thuggish uncivil barbarian attacked him so viciously it required the taking of his life.

We are to believe all of this despite the fact that he had no wounds that required more attention than a simple paper cut. We are to believe all this despite the fact that he miraculously, after having his head bashed into the concrete, did not have a concussion. Maybe the NFL should start playing on cement.

More importantly, when we presume the innocence of George Zimmerman we presume the guilt of Trayvon Martin. We presume that Trayvon was indeed the mythical black predator that stalks American History looking to ravage all that is decent in society. We are to presume that an unarmed seventeen year old is just inherently a threat. When we presume George Zimmerman’s innocence we affirm the second class citizenship, and dehumanizing of blacks. On its face it is racist. Consider this if you are still struggling to make the leap to racialization: if Trayvon was white would we be having this conversation? Clearly we would not. By this logic all you would have to do to get away with murder is 1)pick a fight, 2)make sure you are wounded, even if just superficially, and 3) shot the person. No police force in the country would allow such an obviously ludicrous explanation fly. That is because the beliefs about whites are vastly different than about blacks. The racial imagination of whites allows for the possibility that Trayvon was everything Zimmerman feared, the big black boogeyman. There is no parallel narrative pertaining to whites and therefore most whites would dismiss such a flimsy story immediately. So we must do the same. We can begin by presuming Trayvon Martin was innocent.

Imagine how that changes the paradigm.

Sadly, that is not the situation we find ourselves in. We find ourselves witnessing the full power of white supremacy. Make no mistake this is not, and never has been, simply a trial. This is a social referendum.

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