Zimmerman Trial Shows That We Have A Long Way to Go
Dear Hip Hop:
The George Zimmerman trial is now winding to a close. I often don’t understand the hype surrounding mega-trials but I admit to having followed this trial very intently. One of the primary reasons that I have followed is because so much of the discourse has been about what type of man is capable of committing violence and what type of man is not, as if we cannot access an extensive history asserting that men from all walks of life are capable of great violence. Yesterday saw a defense witness argue that Zimmerman would have been no match against Trayvon Martin in a fight (see here). What’s interesting to me about this determination is that while the witness had trained Zimmerman, he has nothing on which to base his statements about Martin except for a few pictures of him. He basically had to build his argument based on Martin’s gender, height, and weight (158 pounds by the way). Oh, and his race. With so little information, surely some of the witness’s argument must rest on beliefs about Black men’s inherent athleticism and propensity for violence. How else do you explain someone making definitive statements about a young man that he never met or observed?
I take this as a forceful reminder that while I might have a blog about anti-violent ideals, I still reside within a body that many associate with violence. It’s enough to make me feel like throwing the remote at the television and screaming “Maybe I should just be the violent thug if that’s what you are going to think of me anyway.”
Once I’m away from these brief moments of fury, I’m able to remind myself that I am descended from men with an extensive track record of demonstrating their humanity in the face of those who would accuse them of being violent sub-humans. In this, I mean to stand not only in solidarity with African-American men but also in alliance with all men who spurn the idea of conforming to simplistic renderings of manhood wherein we are capable of exhibiting only power, anger, and lust. To rise above crude notions of manhood is a true display of strength even if no expert witness is likely to sit in a court and testify to its might.
Keep in mind that my opinions here are not meant to vouch for the veracity of either side in the Zimmerman trial. I’m in (what certainly feels like) the minority of folks who holds that we will likely never fully know what took place between Martin and Zimmerman. After all, out of our two best witnesses, one has every reason to lie and the other is sadly no longer alive. Here is what I do know for sure. First, come the end of this trial, there are going to be a whole lot of people who are very upset. Second, despite decades of work from civil rights activists, feminists, and social science researchers, America still clearly clings to the same archaic notions about male propensity for violence that it did 200 years ago. This leads to a third conclusion –sober and honest discourse on manhood is needed now as much as ever.