National pressure on the US Department of Justice and the FBI have evidently succeeded in eliciting a federal probe of the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin and the subsequent investigation, which anyone with a brain and a functional sense of decency has found to be wildly inadequate. This is good news.
That said, it isn't like the Justice Department and FBI are magically devoid of the systemic racism that necessitates their involvement in the first place. One hopes it will make a difference that the nation is watching.
The biggest issue, however, naturally remains the "Stand Your Ground" law, which creates an enormous space around this shooting in which the shooter, George Zimmerman, is legally not guilty of anything. Note the careful language in the Justice Department's statement: "With all federal civil rights crimes, the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a person acted intentionally and with the specific intent to do something which the law forbids—the highest level of intent in criminal law. Negligence, recklessness, mistakes, and accidents are not prosecutable under the federal criminal civil rights laws."
So what happens when the law allows for someone to stand hir ground and shoot to kill if they have "reasonable grounds to believe" that someone is intending "to take hir life, or do him great bodily harm"? And what happens when the shooter is wrong? Whoops?
That's something opponents of "Stand Your Ground" legislation have mentioned every time another state legislature makes it law. But they're dirty hippies so fuck them etc.
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Meanwhile, the media coverage continues to be ridiculous. Check out, for instance, the way the Miami Herald reports on this new development (emphasis mine):
The U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division and the FBI will investigate the killing of Miami Gardens teenager Trayvon Martin by a neighborhood watch volunteer, the department announced late Monday.So, the shooter is a fine, upstanding neighborhood watch volunteer, and the victim is a troublemaker on suspension from school. Perfect.
The announcement coincided with a statement from Florida Gov. Rick Scott asking the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to offer "appropriate resources" in the case.
The federal and state agencies are intervening in what attorneys call a botched investigation into the killing of the Michael Krop Senior High School student, who was killed Feb. 26 in Sanford, a town of 55,000 just north of Orlando. Trayvon, 17, on suspension from school, was staying at his father's girlfriend's house when he walked to a nearby a 7-Eleven store to buy candy and iced tea.
But! If you're one of those people who thinks that George Zimmerman, who identifies as white and Hispanic, may have acted rashly because of racism, that is a conversation there's no need to have because, if there's anything wrong with George Zimmerman, it's not that he's a product of a racist culture in which young black men are routinely demonized as dangerous thugs and in which non-black men obsessed with black criminality in states with lax gun laws are not seen as a grave threat to the black people in their communities, indicative of multiple institutional problems that make incidents like this one inevitable (and not totally uncommon); it's that George Zimmerman exists in a fucking void and no one else has any responsibility and he's CRAZY:
George Zimmerman, 28, a neighborhood watch volunteer with a long history of calling in everything from open garage doors to "suspicious characters," called police to say he had spotted someone who looked drugged, was walking too slowly in the rain, and appeared to be looking at people's houses. Zimmerman sounded alarmed because the stranger had his hand in his waistband and held something in his other hand.No matter how many times shit like this happens, it's never publicly discussed as a sickness in our endemically racist culture; it's always about how the individual perpetrator, if found to be culpable at all, is mentally ill, unstable, reckless, personally weak and profoundly broken.
Never mind that the only common denominator among violent racists is racism.