You Can’t Expect Justice From the System If You’re Black

Blog, Keyannie Norford

When George Zimmerman was found not guilty and acquitted of all charges in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, I was shocked. It completely confused me because this man followed an unarmed teenager, who was simply walking home to his family.

Zimmerman followed Trayvon Martin after being advised by a 911 dispatcher not to. He then proceeded to follow and kill Trayvon. Then when he finally gets his day in court, Zimmerman is freed. Like most people I was highly upset. Not only did I feel that the justice system let us down, but I felt that it was an example of how our justice system treats people differently, depending on who you are. Specifically, the outcome brought to mind two recent cases where, like Zimmerman, the defendants claimed self-defense. But in those cases, the defendants – both Black — were not so lucky.

Example 1: Marissa Alexander was an African-American woman living in Florida who was being abused by her husband during her pregnancy. She fired warning shots at a wall to defend herself in her own home. She didn’t hurt or harm anyone and she had no prior criminal history. Yet she was prosecuted and sentenced to 20 years in prison after a judge ruled that she had no right to invoke the state’s Stand Your Ground law.

Example 2: CeCe McDonald, an African-American woman living in Minnesota, was chased down a road by a group of neo-Nazis, who were high on meth and shouting racist and trans-phobic slurs at her. She was slashed in the face to the point where she had to get 11 stitches. As a last resort, she chose to defend herself with a pair of scissors. She was sentenced to 3 years and 5 months in prison.

Then Zimmerman comes along and is set free. Funny isn’t it?

But in trying to explain how this happened, we also have to look at the jury system. In the state of Florida, juries are comprised of six people, not twelve. In the case of Trayvon Martin, all six jury members were female and five of the six were Caucasian. Where was the representation? Shouldn’t a jury be diverse so that all points of view and people of different ethnicities can be treated fairly? Not that this group of people was racist, but they couldn’t identify with both sides of the case.

Situations like this, personally, make me scared. Being a youth of color is hard already, and seeing that there was no justice makes me believe that the killing of African-Americans is not important, because it is always somehow justified. What kind of life is it, when you have to be super-cautious just because you don’t want to be targeted for doing nothing in the first place? The Trayvon Martin case proved to me that our justice system and the people who sit on juries are not always fair.

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