Commentary Trayvon, tragedy and travesty
Misani | 7/18/2013, 2:59 p.m. | Updated on 7/18/2013, 3 p.m.
Like many Americans, my sleep was troubled this weekend. It was troubled by the ghosts of past injustices, a feeling given fresh currency by a late-hour “not guilty” verdict given in Sanford, Fla., that freed George Zimmerman in the shooting death of unarmed teenager
Equally aroused, unfortunately, was the 800-pound gorilla called race, and many of us were hoping and praying that justice would enter the hearts of the six women jurors, none of whom were African-American like the slain Martin. One of the defense attorneys for Zimmerman said he was glad the outcome did not turn a “tragedy into travesty,” and as was the case during much of his cross-examination, he was wrong again.
No, Virginia, there is no Santa Claus; nor is there justice in American courts—Supreme or otherwise—particularly when it comes to Black Americans.
Yes, my sleep was troubled, and there came the jangling discords of all the cases of police brutality—and these were not “wanna-be cops”—that I’ve covered in my years as a journalist. I had barely just moved to New York City for the third time when I was dispatched to cover the Howard Beach incident. Then, there was the outrage Tawana Brawley inspired and the wanton shooting of several teenagers by Bernhard Goetz in 1984, who claimed he was being robbed. His later acquittal was my re-introduction to jury nullification.
Even before I started scurrying to rallies and marches and sitting hour after hour in the city’s courtrooms, the back stories of recent injustices, mainly by the NYPD, shaped my outlook, especially what I had heard of Eleanor Bumpurs, Michael Stewart, Clifford Glover and Randy Evans—all of them victims of overzealous police officers.
But last night’s visitations were more immediate, and once again, I saw families in tears after the acquittal of cops who killed Amadou Diallo, Anthony Baez, Sean Bell, Ramarley Graham and savagely sodomized Abner Louima. They tugged at my memory; most of them were cases I had covered that often left me feeling like Digger O’Dell, fighting each time to ward off that scab of callousness that inures one’s
Beyond the precincts and journalistic pursuits that have informed so much of my thinking about race and society are the lessons I’ve gathered from history. One would have to turn a blind eye to history to think that five white women and another of mixed-race would convict a white man of killing a Black boy. Pages of American history weighed on my sleep last night, and I thought of chapters of atrocities about the lynching of Black men in America, the senseless mayhem that has made living in this country a daily challenge for Black Americans.
To date, there has been much talk about the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, the assassination of Medgar Evers and the insidious slaughter of four little girls in Birmingham, Ala., and the commemoration of President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. Another important event in our nation’s history that occurred 150 years ago was the Draft Riots in New York City in the midst of the Civil War.