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Sunday, February 25, 2024

In Sanford, Florida: With liberty and Justice for Some

By Ardain Isma

CSMS Magazine

The dramatic acquittal of George Zimmerman, a robust Caucasian male, over the death of Trayvon Martin, an innocent, teenage boy, has awakened the dormant debate over race relations in America. However painful this latest travesty might be, it has also shed light on a vexing irony: The war of dialectic over “the honest debate” has proven to be just a deep culture trait that one activates only when it seems fit his/her purpose.

More than forty years after the violent death of Dr. Martin Luther King Junior, where are we in the struggle for social justice? Where are we in the fight for racial equality? Are we closer than we have ever been in the quest to craft the elusive colorblind society? The list of questions can go on like foams on top of ocean waves, weaving aimlessly in a universe of salty water until they come crashing down and evaporate on the belly of whatever ship that appears nearby.

Until the verdict was read and the outburst of repudiation across the land hit like a river in fury after a violent rainstorm, the country waited with abated breath, hoping for the desired outcome, for Zimmerman to be declared guilty of his crime and for justice to prevail. It does make sense. Doesn’t it? In a country where the rule of law is a fact, not an illusion, how does someone go unpunished after he has committed cold blooded murder? The answer to this question cannot and will never be found in the interpretation of the established laws that allow this to happen in the first place.

Humans make laws, and they craft them according to their strategic interests. The soi-disant “Stand Your Ground” law, under which they shielded Zimmerman and ultimately set him free, was created precisely to protect gun owners, members of the NRA, overwhelmingly conservative and solidly anchored on the wrong side of the race relations’ debate. Money, they have; and lots of it, too. So much so that they’ve come to learn how to shrewdly activate it in order to influence politicians and get the laws to swing their way.

In the wake of the gruesome killing, Zimmerman, who strongly ties to these conservative groups, went on to the social media and triggered his own campaign. His friends in hell responded in droves. This was the beginning of a sustained effort—in money and in other forms of logistics—to guarantee the dreaded outcome.

Breaking the impasse

So, how do we overcome this dilemma? Violence is definitely out of the question. In urban America, a conflagration is usually the result when violence meets violence. So, the dialectic of war cannot be the awesome answer to deracinate bigotry and xenophobia where we think the war of dialectic has failed.  It will further the resolve of those who want to maintain the status quo. It will strengthen their iron hands and give them the excuse to unleash their war machine on deprived, defenseless, and vulnerable citizens.

I’m no gullible, and I’m in no way saying that we should forfeit our rights and raise the white flag, capitulating to those who profess sadistic ambitions. Nor do I believe that changing the rule of the game can solely be won inside of a courtroom. Those who engineered those laws of inequality were politically motivated, and only through proactive political means could we uproot racism from our midst. We MUST cry and yell and scream and stamp our feet, until “Stand Your Ground” and other forms of shortsighted laws are repealed in order to pave the way for the honest conversation that all of us seek to achieve.

By all accounts, it’s already taking place. Ben Jealous, the NAACP chief, has already signaled the official start of what seems to be a tireless fight for social justice. Attorney General Eric Holder has also weighed into the fray. From sea to shining sea, millions of Americans—blacks and whites—have taken to the streets to demand justice, not just for Trayvon Martin who is the quintessential figure of this latest wave of anger, but also for millions of victims like him—disproportionately black males who are rotting in jail because of biased laws designed to protect perpetrators like George Zimmerman.

Let’s be serious. We need a true dialogue in its sincerest form, going in with a firm understanding that in this fight, minorities are by no means alone. Millions of Europeans Americans have long sympathized with the cause, as proven by the thousands who poured in to the streets on behalf of justice for all. It is no thought of naivety if I believe the struggle for justice should be colorblind. I strongly think it is necessary to create a free and fair society where, in the words of MLK Jr., everyone will be judged “not by the color of their skin, rather by the content of their character.”

Blacks and Whites have been intermarrying for years, resulting to millions of children of mixed races thriving in all corners of America. They must have a seat around the table. I know we will never be able to change the attitude of all Americans, for human heart is such a complex thing. So the struggle for a colorblind society may forever remain illusory, but it is our daily struggle to reach this imaginary end that will someday make us a better, freer, and stronger society—so strong that opportunist politicians will have no other choice other than to repeal these unfair laws while caving in to the people’s demand.

We must continue to maintain the momentum long after this latest tragedy ceases to make front page news. We need justice for all, not justice for some as it is in Sanford. We shouldn’t even think of retreating, for the result of such a scenario will be nothing but a dreaded nosedive toward a furtherance of class antagonisms and greater polarization.

NoteDr. Ardain Isma is editor-in-chief of CSMS Magazine. He teaches Cross-Cultural Studies at the University of North Florida (UNF). He is a scholar as well as a novelist. He may be reached at:publisher@csmsmagazine.org

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