This story originally appeared on the blog WeAreRespectableNegros.com.
eorge Zimmerman was quite the contrite killer
eorge Zimmerman was quite the contrite killerduring his bond hearing. In an act of great self-sacrifice and generosity he took the stand and offered up the following apology to the family of the murdered Trayvon Martin:
Zimmerman, 28, appeared in court in a dark suit and gray tie, and, in a surprising move, took the stand. There, in a voice verging on meek, he apologized to the family of Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old he admits he shot—but only, he says, in self-defense.
“I wanted to say I am sorry for the loss of your son,” he said to the parents, who attended the hearing in the central Florida city of Sanford, where the shooting took place. “I did not know how old he was. I thought he was a little bit younger than I am, and I did not know if he was armed or not.”
As a student of language and semiotics, I would suggest that the latter part of Zimmerman’s statement is particularly rich with meaning. Context is key to the analysis of language. Language also constructs meaning through unstated assumptions shared by speaker and audience; oftentimes a speaker–here being Zimmerman–can run into a crisis of communication when the listener does not share his unstated priors and worldview.
Zimmerman is part of a collective consciousness that views all black people as adults regardless of their age. Because African Americans, especially men, have no right to self-defense in their person against White authority (it is rarely mentioned that Trayvon Martin had every right to “stand his ground”) all bets are off. Zimmerman is working through this logic as he basically suggests that if Martin were younger, then the presumption of being armed and dangerous may not have applied.
However, because common sense dictates that all black men are armed, at all times, and have the magical ability to transform harmless objects into guns or knives, Zimmerman was acting under a reasonable person’s standard of behavior. Anyone approaching a black man would naturally assume that the latter was especially and uniquely capable of deadly force. Thus, Zimmerman’s appeal to shared community norms is a basic one: anyone in his position would have reasonably and naturally assumed that a black teenager wearing a hooded sweatshirt in the rain and carrying a bag of candy is an imminent and deadly threat.
Zimmerman’s statement of “apology” to Trayvon Martin’s family is one of the most honest and pronounced distillations of the White Gaze and its debased view of black humanity which we as a country have witnessed in many years. If one ever wondered about the existential dilemma faced by black masculinity in American society, or was searching for an object lesson in how black folks are “niggerized,” look no farther than George Zimmerman’s “apology” for committing murder.
Zimmerman can assault plain clothes cops, batter his fiancée, ignore police directives, stalk innocent people, carry a weapon in violation of his vaunted “black watch” rules, and shoot unarmed people without doubt or worry. Moreover, it takes a national uproar to even have him properly investigated and eventually arrested on suspicion of having committed murder. Let a black man do the same and see what happens. It does not take a leap of faith, or radical act of imagination, to understand how divergent the outcome would be.
Ultimately, Zimmerman is a murderous clown. As such, and in keeping with the national tragedy and three ring circus that is the color line in America, Zimmerman will find martyrdom as he is a stand-in for every white conservative ever accused of racism or racial bias. During the days and weeks to come, the script will be flipped as he becomes the object of a cause celebre. In this grotesque play, George Zimmerman is the good man done wrong by the system. Trayvon Martin is simply collateral damage.
Those blacks end up dead, in jail, or lying in the morgue for days unclaimed anyway. So what is the measure of a black man’s life, one that is doomed to failure, against the shining star and bright future of “good” men like George Zimmerman?