Was The Zimmerman Trial A Diversion?

I’ve seen a few Facebook posts lately that lament the attention paid to the trial of Zimmerman for killing Trayvon Martin, either because, in the minds of some, it’s a “diversion from the trial of Bradley Manning” or because it doesn’t deserve so much attention because “there are shootings and killings of young black men everyday” and therefore there is no reason why this particular killing should get so much attention.

First of all, no single injustice has precedence over others. They’re all important: the injustice done to Trayvon Martin due to a corrupt and racially biased criminal justice system, the injustice against whistle blowers Bradley Manning and Snowden, the collusion of the Obama Administration with the oil and gas companies that are polluting underground water for huge profits, or with bankers letting those who committed massive fraud and tanked the economy off the hook, or with Monsanto and others who poison our food, or having NSA collect in bulk all our communications and conversations, having police officers who shoot unarmed and innocent youth get away with murder, having politicians including the president who sell themselves to the highest bidder, drone bombings of villagers in several countries and killing innocent people, including children, holding innocent men in Guantanamo prison indefinitely and force feeding them using a tube shoved down their nose twice a day, waging unending wars for Empire and corporate profits and cutting people’s social programs that help the poor, attacking women’s rights and many others.

The fact is we live in a society where there are injustices, crimes, atrocities and wrongdoings committed everyday by those holding the levers of power, or by the system as a whole with its institutions, or by government agencies and officials from the president on down that increasingly control our lives and monitor our every move and punish those who dare reveal the truth, in order to prevent a people’s movement for real and systemic change.

All these injustices occur simultaneously and in parallel and they all deserve our attention, resistance and organizing around in order to fight back and try to stop. Furthermore, all these are interrelated and stem from a socioeconomic system that’s unjust, exploitative, oppressive and discriminatory at its core. Progressives and people of conscience who see and refuse to turn a blind eye on these injustices must raise, draw attention to and protest all of them, not because we think they all are necessarily equal in their impact on society or their egregiousness or level of injustice, but because they all are important in their own right, and, also because they all are expressions of the same rotten system that puts profits for a few greedy corporations before people and their needs, a system that has no interest in combatting and uprooting racism and other forms of discrimination because it benefits from dividing and thus disempowering people. Raising propel’s consciousness requires raising and fighting back against all these and other systemic injustices.

People’s attention to the Zimmerman trial was no conspiracy to divert attention from anything. Did the corporate media dramatize it to get higher ratings and more viewership and more profits? Sure, they did. Don’t they always? But, was that why people gathered in front of Sanford, Florida police department and the City Hall in the thousand to demand justice when the police refused to even arrest the killer? I think not. I think people know an injustice when they see it and they were right protesting it. Does the fact that the jury acquitted Zimmerman mean it was a fair and unbiased trial and therefore deserve no protest? I don’t think so. Acquitting suspects in racially motivated killings is nothing new. In fact, there is a long and ugly history of it in this country. This particular case, like so many others, was clearly one of racial profiling which wasn’t even admitted to be mentioned as a factor. As I mentioned in an earlier piece, it’s like discussing black holes without mentioning gravity.

Besides, what do you want to say to the thousands of people who poured into the streets nationwide in protest, after the verdict was announced? To go home because you’re diverting attention from the trial of Bradley Manning? Of course, we need to protest the unjust arrest, detention and trial of Bradley Manning who heroically and in the most noble and selfless manner exposed some of the most egregious, criminal and vile actions of the US government. And that’s why he’s been treated with so much hatred and spite by the Obama Administration, including keeping him naked in solitary confinement, including sleep deprivation and other forms of abuse which amounted to torture, and charging him with espionage that could send him to jail indefinitely. Yes, that injustice, most definitely needs our attention and protest. And so does the treatment of Edward Snowden. But, there is no contradiction between the attention afforded to the killing of an innocent black teenager which is emblematic of a nationwide and historical trend and that paid to the awful treatment of young whistle blowers. The change we want is not just to let whistle blowers speak the truth without fear of retribution, but one that also ends racial injustice, as well as gender-based discrimination, among others.

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