No justice for Trayvon Martin under this system
Throughout the United States, public outcry and mass outrage have grown over the murder of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin by ‘Neighborhood Watch Captain’ George Zimmerman. Martin, a Black youth in Sanford, Florida, was killed by Zimmerman, 28, as he walked home from a convenience store. City and state officials have thus far refused to arrest or charge Zimmerman, and a federal grand jury is scheduled to take place on April 10th to determine whether or not criminal investigation should carried out.
The murder of Trayvon Martin on February 27th and the state’s refusal to arrest Zimmerman has elicited a widespread response. So far, professional athletes, celebrities, media activists and even Democratic Party politicians (including US President Obama) have been vocal on the issue. In cities throughout the United States, demonstrations are being held to raise awareness on the issue.
Many of those speaking out on the case or participating in public actions donned hoodies, the type of jacket Martin was wearing when he was killed. Zimmerman, who wants to be a cop, said Martin’s dress caused him to be suspicious of the youth and led to the fatal altercation.
A common slogan for those rallying in the wake of Martin’s murder has been, ‘Justice for Trayvon Martin.’ Incensed by Zimmerman’s continuing freedom, many are demanding his immediate arrest.
The demand for Zimmerman’s arrest is certainly understandable given the circumstances of the case. Zimmerman approached Martin in the streets and shot him in the chest. As well, the incident may be prosecutable under US law as a “hate crime,” a term used when ethnic or other prejudice in part motivates a crime. Zimmerman was recorded as having uttered a racist epithet immediately prior to shooting Martin.
Yet the demand for the arrest and prosecution of George Zimmerman as justice for Trayvon Martin has real limitations. Notably, it is the demand that the same system which perpetuates this type of racist oppression be utilized to implement justice. While this type of demand should be expected by the mass movement, dominated as it is by liberal and petty-bourgeois influence, it is primarily this issue which divides everyday radicals and revolutionaries from the masses.
Along the fringes of protest to this most recent incident of condoned racist violence, various elements have advocated a different kind of justice.
A spokesperson for the New Black Panther Party, a more militant derivative of the Nation of Islam, offered a $10,000 reward for Zimmerman’s capture and called on “10,000 black men” to carry out justice by finding Zimmerman and subjecting him to a public “street” trial.
Others have noted that the sort of racist violence which resulted in Martin’s death is endemic in Amerika today. So long as the system remains intact, socialistic-minded commentators have noted, more black youth will be gunned down on the streets for “looking suspicious.” Therefore, the answer lies not in the state arresting Zimmerman or any particular action against him. Rather, the solution to the problem of violent oppression is revolution: a complete alteration of power relations in which oppressed peoples would themselves exercise political and economic control over their own communities. Insofar as that is not an immediate possibility, another suggestion has been offered: using mass riots to demand Zimmerman’s arrest and serve notice that further racist violence will have real social repercussions beyond tame protests and civil disobedience.
Compared to the dominant demand that justice for Trayvon equals prosecution in US courts of Zimmerman, these more radical ideas are an advancement and should be broadly disseminated. There can be no justice in this present system. Even if George Zimmerman is arrested and convicted of murder, the system which enabled the murder to occur in the first place will continue, and there will be more Trayvon Martins, more Oscar Grants, and more Shaima Alawadis.
One major error encountered in this situation even by radicals and revolutionaries is assuming a movement can be conjured up in the US which can overturn dominant social relations absent a wider anti-imperialist revolutionary struggle globally. The death of Trayvon Martin, and the freedom of his killer, is part of the same system that massacres Afghan families, bombs infrastructure, supports insurrections in anti-hegomonic Third World states, cripples traditional regional economies and imposes ever-increasing exploitation and destitution, and is destroying the natural world we depend on. The struggle for justice in the case of Trayvon Martin is systemic and global.
It is important for radicals and revolutionaries to transcend the mass-oriented demands of judicial justice in the case of Trayvon Martin, highlight the systemic factors in his murder and its handling by the state, and call for a new basis of social relations based on self-determination and collective liberation. Equally so, it is important to tie the struggle sparked by this killing into the wider global struggle against US-led militarism and imperialism. It is necessary to unite the struggle of people oppressed in the US to the struggle of those exploited under imperialism globally, to the advancement of both.
Only through successfully struggle against national oppression inside the US can racist violence and state terror be brought to a halt, and only with the successful struggle of Third World people against US-led imperialism can this become reality.