“We have been killing, and banking on the death of Black lives for as long as we’ve been a country.”
I woke this morning to familiarly disgusting news.
George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watchmen who was acquitted of murdering Trayvon Martin in July of 2013, was again trending as the result of purportedly putting the gun he used to fire the fatal shots on an online auction site, claiming “many have expressed interest in owning and displaying the firearm” including “The Smithsonian Museum” (The Smithsonian Museum quickly released a statement claiming this to be patently false).
Thankfully, within moments of the item appearing on GunBroker.com for an asking price of $5,000, the Kel-Tec PF-9 9mm handgun he used to murder an unarmed 17-year-old boy and then later brag about it was promptly removed from the site, but not before media outlets worldwide reported on its sheer audacity, attention that Zimmerman’s well-documented ego-centrism undoubtedly enjoyed.
This, of course, is far from the first time that Zimmerman has through statements and actions represented the lowest form of humanity, most recently before this when he appeared to retweet a picture of Martin’s dead body last September.
So when I woke to the deplorable news this morning, despite wanting to aid in its spread to outraged humans everywhere, I felt uneasy about doing so, precisely because Zimmerman is not only an unapologetic sociopath, but a narcissist craving the traffic that his grisly offer would surely drive.
Alicia Garza – one of the founders of Black Lives Matter following Zimmerman’s acquittal – succinctly highlighted the need to deprive Martin’s killer of any additional attention.
“GV is a vile human being who craves attention — our attention. Sharing and all that just gives him more attention. He’s trending right now and every time we share that article it boosts his asinine bullshit.”
She is right, I thought, I refuse to cover the specifics of this story on Injustice.in. I refuse to be a part of the media process that continues to place his name ahead of the innocent child he murdered with impunity. I refuse to be a part of the trap he is deliberately setting for a media landscape that places a trending news cycle in the highest of premiums. I will not be a part of that.
That lasted all of two hours.
Fortunately, and unfortunately, I then came across a superbly elegant piece from Ranier Maningding, the creator of the popular site Love Life Of An Asian Guy, a site devoted to the “discussion of race relations, politics, decolonization, Asian-American and POC identities and pop culture analysis.” I’ve been a huge fan of the forum for awhile now, mostly because as a white male to whom the site is explicitly NOT intended for, the insights I am able to gather there empowers me with the precise knowledge of how to effectively shut down deflections and micro-aggressions that come constantly from white communities on topics of privilege, racial inequality, and the realities of how far we have yet to climb towards the mountaintop of a truly just society.
It is precisely because, as Maningding repeatedly stresses, that his site is “not meant for people like me” that I nonetheless end up learning (hopefully without interfering) and equipping myself to use the resources I have available in my life as a result of my privilege to aid in tearing down all forms of social hierarchy.
And as much as I logically support Garza’s plea for social media to not give Zimmerman anymore traffic than he’s already unjustly accrued, there is tremendous value in the author’s discussion.
In his post, a visibly distraught Maningding writes in list form:
- “George Zimmerman, the Florida man who fatally shot Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager, plans to auction the handgun used in the 2012 killing on Thursday.”- For just one second, take your eyes off George Zimmerman and understand that he’s able to sell a MURDER WEAPON because he KNOWS a market for it exists. He KNOWS that at the bottom of the well, there are unfathomably racist white supremacists who want this gun.And folks, this isn’t some ancient artifact from Egypt or a lost painting by Pablo Picasso, this was a gun used to kill Trayvon Martin, a REAL BOY, who walked this earth nearly 4 years ago. His family is still alive. His parents are still mourning his loss. He wasn’t a celebrity or an underground king pin or a criminal on the terrorist watch list. He was an innocent, sweet kid with so much potential in life.So unless you would be okay with someone purchasing the gun of Adam Lanza, the white guy who massacred 20 children at Newtown, Connecticut, or the gun of Dylan Klebold, one of two white male shooters at Columbine High School, I highly advise you recognize how FUCKED UP this is.
- “The firearm for sale is the firearm that was used to defend my life and end the brutal attack from Trayvon Martin on 2/26/2012… This is a piece of American History.”- Most people forget, but the Black Lives Matter movement started after George Zimmerman was acquitted of killing Trayvon. What this means is, the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter was a RESPONSE to Trayvon’s death and the injustice of the trial.So when YOU, you sick piece of shit, say #AllLivesMatter, THIS motherfucker, George Zimmerman, is who you’re actually supporting. Because the minute #BlackLivesMatter came onto the scene, the #AllLivesMatter assholes chanted in support of not only white people, but George-fucking-Zimmerman.DON’T FORGET THAT. THAT IS WHO YOU’RE FIGHTING FOR.
- “I am honored and humbled to announce the sale of an American Firearm Icon,”- As fucked up as this quote is, he’s right… Kinda.You see, this gun isn’t an American Firearm Icon, it’s a thesis statement: a gun used to kill a Black person, now put up for auction? That is the goddamn HISTORY of America all wrapped up in one.We have been killing, and banking on the death of Black lives for as long as we’ve been a country. From the enslavement of Black people forced to work on plantations to our 21st century industry of police brutality, this country has made a FORTUNE off Black bodies.I want to feel like this is just another story, especially since I read so many equally disgusting ones, but I gotta tell you… this was one of the worst things I’ve read in 2016.
The piece knocked me out more than any official news reporting on the subject ever could.
To begin, Maningding’s astute observation that where products exist, markets then logically follow as applied to the painful reality white America still refuses to reconcile and work to eradicate itself with is equal parts depressing and brilliant: Zimmerman may have had his gun removed from the auction site, but he put it up there knowing damn well that some “unfathomably racist white supremacists” will gladly purchase, to show off their “piece of White American history.”
There is no disputing or escaping this truth.
As the author accurately notes, Zimmerman genuinely sees his gun as “a piece of American History” but he knows exactly who would want this “icon.” With exhaustive sadness, Maningding concludes by noting “As fucked up as this quote is, he’s right” before adding “We have been killing, and banking on the death of Black lives for as long as we’ve been a country. From the enslavement of Black people forced to work on plantations to our 21st century industry of police brutality, this country has made a FORTUNE off Black bodies.”
That is the part of American history and contemporary “race relations” that a majority of white people still refuse to open their eyes towards. It is easier to isolate the issue as “one crazy person” or even “one crazy racist person” than to admit that white supremacy allows a monster to feel emboldened knowing his daily activity will attract viewership, make headlines, and continue to further the racial trauma that four centuries of systemic oppression wreaks upon Black America.
This is not a plea or demand for White America to universally condemn Zimmerman’s behavior; while I can reasonably contend that most of the white friends I know would see this as abhorrent (even if they don’t necessarily see this is as overtly racist), you’re all adults and I’m not going to nag or mandate you into hearing what people of color continue to scream about.
George Zimmerman is not an isolated incident anymore than Eric Garner was.
George Zimmerman’s behavior today reflects somebody acutely aware that there are not only thousands of white supremacists who would directly love to own his gun as a trophy, but additionally that there are millions of white Americans who would have happily looked the other way and shrugged their shoulders.
The destruction of Black bodies in this country is not only as old as America itself, it is as thriving today as ever, wherein the same breath that Black protesters can find themselves getting beaten and slurred at Trump rallies while police in Colorado continue to arrest black teenagers at disturbingly high rates for marijuana possession, a drug that has been legalized in the state for over two years. A vicious process of assault, destruction, and profit continues to define our racial legacy no matter how hard White America works to deny its very existence.
It’s not about Zimmerman now, just like it was barely about him when he was acquitted in 2013.
It’s about a system that continues to callously disregard the loss of African-American life while simultaneously dismissing nearly everything short of burning crosses as racially motivated. A system unapologetic in its profit from misery, in its intake of grief.
It isn’t enough that nobody bought the gun, or that the website refused to sell it, so let’s not pretend the lunatic got what he had coming.
If you choose to see this incident as isolated, or person as delusional, the same way you choose to see police brutality as the actions of “a few bad apples” it is because you choose to isolate yourself.
Your isolation is not only disrespectful, on a daily basis it deliberately threatens the lives of people of color.