As Trayvon’s parents and the Rev. Al Sharpton have pointed out, the arrest is not a time for gloating and it should not be followed up by a call for revenge. Rather, it should be a call for justice. It is reasonable to expect that justice, such as it is, will prevail because of the widespread publicity which the case has attracted.
Still it must be acknowledged that a judge could refuse to allow the case to proceed to trial because of the complications that have arisen when Mr. Zimmerman invoked the insidious “stand your ground” law. Those who have advocated strongly for justice in the case must be prepared for that possibility.
But now that the case has entered the “criminal justice” system, that does not mean the passions which Trayvon’s killing have ignited must be allowed to fade. Rather, this is the moment when all possible resources of African Americans and our friends and allies must focus on the total and absolute elimination of the conditions that allowed the killing of this young man and the possibility that it was done with impunity.
Getting rid of the “stand your ground” law is one aspect of those conditions but it is only part of a much larger institutionalized system that keeps African Americans under law enforcement control and stigmatizes our people, especially our men, as America’s throwaways and rejects.
From every pulpit, from every podium, at every street corner the demand must sound loudly and clearly for the dismantling of the law enforcement and penal system – there is nothing about justice in it – that legitimizes this criminalization of our people and consigns our young men to a life of hopelessness, a system that legalizes their exclusion from the exercise of their citizenship, such as voting and getting a job and, generally, the constitutional guarantee of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” They devise all kinds of ways to take our lives, to take our liberty and to deny us the right to pursue happiness.
This phase of our struggle requires a new definition of “civil rights.” We need a campaign for genuine human rights for black people in this country. We need a thorough examination of how we have been relegated to the scrap heap of America and we have a duty to take steps to end the most abhorrent form of racism that masquerades as law enforcement.
When we answer the call for that struggle, we will show that Trayvon Martin did not die in vain, whatever the outcome in the courts.