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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

B37, 42 and 44
(By American Zen's Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari.)

     I saw 42, the movie about Jackie Robinson, for the first time last night. And in the scene where Robinson gets to Florida for the first time just before spring training where he tries out for the Montreal Monarchs, Sanford is mentioned. Sanford, in real life, is where Branch Rickey had situated Robinson, specifically in the home of an African American community leader and when Sanford was mentioned for the first time, exactly 72 hours after the verdict came in, klaxxon alarms, understandably, began ringing in my head.
     Of course, the filmmakers couldn't have possibly have known Sanford would have much more than a historical significance. Odds are 42 was filmed after the Trayvon Martin shooting but at the time it's plausible to assume the filmmakers were more concerned with their craft or were unaware of the highly polarized George Zimmerman shooting and the current notoriety or infamy it would revisit on Sanford.
     The historical record of 1947 is quite clear. While Mr. Robinson was taking the first tentative steps toward breaking MLB's color barrier, residents in Sanford were relaying unmistakable messages to both Robinson and his host that the residents didn't appreciate him rocking the boat and living in their town. Eventually, Robinson had to be whisked out of Sanford in the dead of night after being warned that some (obviously white) angry residents were on their way to express their displeasure (At this point, I actually muttered to myself, "And one of them is George Zimmerman."). The racist backlash was so toxic the Brooklyn Dodgers had to relocate the site of their spring training facility to some place less polarized (no mean feat, considering this is postwar Florida we're talking about).
     Juror #B37 made it plain on Anderson Cooper 360 last Monday that she is a supremely ignorant and stupendously racist woman who is so clueless and lives such a hermetic existence she's not even aware of her own racism. Being a racist in today's "enlightened" America is like being a carrier of a virulent, communicable disease. You're infected with this highly infectious disease, are certainly in a position to give it to others yet you yourself are not afflicted with any of the classic symptoms (such as riding through black neighborhoods in the dead of night wearing white robes and hoods and burning crosses on front yards) and are, therefore, comfortably assuming you are post-racial.
     But President Obama's historic election and reelection have proven us anything but post-racial. Gun and ammo sales, as we now know, have skyrocketed after the last two Super Tuesdays partly due to white James Earl Ray fantasies and partly in response to NRA and right wing propaganda that Obama wants to take away all their guns.
     And Barack Obama is in a unique position to bring national attention to the reverse kangaroo court of a ruling that sprung a murderer. Barack Obama is not only our only president but he's also the nation's first African American president. When Prof. Henry Louis Gates was arrested in Cambridge, Massachusetts before his house four years ago yesterday for the crime of trying to enter his home while black, it was the result of white overreach and law enforcement mission creep that turned a ridiculous case of white suburban paranoia and/or mistaken identity into a major civil rights violation on the person of who is arguably the most distinguished African American professor in the United States.
     Still, no one was hurt and Prof. Gates was eventually released after being charged with contempt of cop yet Barack Obama had no problem elevating this travesty to the presidential level by calling the Cambridge Police Department's actions (or reactions) "stupid." He elevated it yet another level by inviting the racist white cop who'd arrested Gates and Prof. Gates himself for a beer with himself and Vice President Biden, as if a black man and a white man having a beer in a tightly secure and controlled environment would cure America of racism.
     George Zimmerman, and countless others, have since proven that, to paraphrase the old beer slogan, "Out of the darkness comes more darkness and, in it, the things we ignore and fear will be there."
     Such as our fear of being racists despite our best and most carefully constructed delusions. And it boggles the mind why the President felt the need to get personally involved with an incident that, while certainly egregious and unforgivably disrespectful to Prof. Gates, involved no death and no spilling of blood while remaining saturnine over the entire Zimmerman trial and bad joke of a verdict in which an innocent African American boy two weeks past his 17th birthday was gunned down as if he was a rabid dog.
     In short, why didn't Obama play the race card when he could've done so much more effectively than he had in the wake of the Gates incident? True, his Justice Department, whether at the President's behest or not, is revisiting the Zimmerman verdict and are investigating whether Zimmerman can be tried on federal civil rights charges that theoretically could involve the death penalty. But it's not the same thing as the President lamely saying, "The jury has spoken, justice has been served, blah blah blah."

The Potential Gangbanger is in the Grass
     To revisit Juror B37 for a few minutes, her comments on Anderson Cooper's show (links to both halves here and here) on CNN left many laymen and even legal minds scratching their heads wondering how such a shockingly idiotic and willfully ignorant woman got on the jury. In fact, some have openly speculated the prosecution deliberately took a dive like a punch drunk club fighter with mob creditors. Each side had six preemptory challenges to use among the dozens of jurors they'd interviewed during the voire dire process. Yet, a careful auditing of Juror B37's answers to the questions revealed how woefully insufficient this woman was to assume the burden of jury duty in a murder trial. She displayed a hostility to the press (which apparently didn't extend to CNN in the interests of publicizing her unwritten book that, amazingly, got her a literary agent mere hours after the verdict), a willful ignorance bordering on the prideful and an inability to distinguish a rally from an actual riot in her own town. Indeed, if Juror B37 didn't merit a preemptory challenge, that may speak volumes of the unfitness of the others who were rejected.
     On Cooper's show, she even showed an ongoing ignorance despite being privy to many of the facts of the case made known only to her fellow jurors and the litigants. Yet, despite this level of disclosure, she still insists the Sanford police dispatcher told Zimmerman to leave his SUV and pursue Martin when in fact the opposite was said. She still, to this day, believes Trayvon Martin was shot late at night and more than hinted he brought on his own murder by walking around a strange neighborhood at night when blacks should know better. Sanford is a sundown town and always will be one and that's just the way it is and the way it always should be to Juror B37. (Fact: Zimmerman began stalking Martin around 7 PM, not late at night, not that the hour should've made any difference.) Keep in mind, this is a woman who imagined phantom riots by uppity blacks yet was disturbingly undisturbed over the killing of a black boy so young just down the street. 
     Furthermore, she seemed blithely undisturbed by the massive holes in Zimmerman's story, not the least of which was Martin hiding in the bushes and rushing him (a quick peek at the crime scene photos shown to all the jurors just before their deliberations plainly reveals no such bushes exist in that part of the gated community). To add insult to injury, she even told Cooper she'd be happy to have Zimmerman doing her own neighborhood watch. It's hard to believe anyone could become a fan of George Zimmerman after just a couple of weeks at close quarters with the man but to believe one could be so pro-Zimmerman after that space of time more strongly suggests a preexisting bias that wasn't admitted to during the voire dire process.
     And, the very fact she reached out to literary agent Sharlene Martin within hours of the verdict indisputably proved her first instinct was not to get on with her life or even resume the tending of her precious rescue birds but making a quick buck off of Trayvon Martin's death, a get-rich-quick scheme which her execrable and shockingly unscrupulous literary agent for all of a day was only too glad, willing, ready and able to realize (and which the MSM was only happy to assist in by breathlessly reporting on a non-existent book deal for the 14 hours the story was still alive.).
     And now the Bird Lady of Sanford is becoming so reviled and ridiculed, Twitter users can justifiably pat themselves on the back for scuttling this book project before a word had ever been written (Where, O where was the Blue Bird of Public Opinion before The Bridges of Madison County and Brad Thor?). And a letter has been drafted and circulated by four of the five other jurors publicly distancing themselves from B37 and her odious comments.
     As always, those interested in justice, the people at the grass roots level, are right and the authorities are wrong. As John Oliver said on the Daily Show recently, the problem was not that the system in Florida was broken but that the system as crafted by right wingers and ALEC worked perfectly for Zimmerman and against Martin. The only people at the grass roots level that are wrong about this are the right wingers who have nothing at stake and have no business getting involved other than the President briefly mentioning the case and that if he had a son, he would look like Trayvon. If there's anything that scares white people, it's black people getting organized and mobilized (or, in the mindset of Juror B37, "rioting."). Selma and Birmingham in the mid-60's proved that.
     Otherwise, Presidents Obama and Jimmy Carter, both Democrats, failed Trayvon Martin. The half-assed and half-hearted prosecution failed Trayvon Martin. The mainstream media failed Trayvon Martin. And, lastly, while those of us opposed to racial bigotry are on the side of the angels on this one, we also failed Trayvon Martin for making it possible for racist lunatics such as George Zimmerman to get his hands on a gun and to use it to murder with impunity an innocent child armed with nothing more dangerous than processed sugar.
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Anonymous Anonymous said...
Thanks, Jill; this is the best analysis I have seen of the Sanford events.

Anonymous Syrbal/Labrys said...
I do think they look for idiots when seating juries; sadly these days in America they don't have to look far. As for Presidents failing citizens; we are not a monarchy; Congress gets plenty of blame and so should state governments. As more states seem to run the places like Royal Hunting Grounds for the Old White Guys Gun Club, we will see only more of this sort of thing.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
What a shame that President Stein doesn't understand the importance of this issue. Perhaps you could inform her, that she could wave her magical presidentin' wand and make everything all better.

Anonymous CC said...
Anonymous (July 18, 10:48 PM) is still beating the tired, dead horse of "President Stein" because s/he can't refute what JP has to say about Obama.

Blogger Unknown said...
I got a ticket while driving through Sanford 49 years ago in the World's best split window Corvette, so my understanding of Sanford is better than that of most commentators. It's no contest.

What I would like to say is two things. First, all of the criticism of the police ignores the fact that they work for the local prosecutor, whom you may have noticed immediately reccussed himself from everything. Prosecutors, as a class, hate to see the police waste time on cases that they are not going to bring. Second, Obama is taking heat for remarks about men in the military who take advantage of women in the military and face farcelike consequences. Who knew. Probably never happened before...eh? The Commander in Chief is not supposed to say the obvious. Rank has it's privleges, but free speech isn't one of them.