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From The Socialist newspaper, 17 July 2013

USA: Zimmerman, Trayvon and racism

It's the system that's guilty!

"The bottom line is that if Trayvon Martin had been white, he would still be alive today," said an angry demonstrator at one of the numerous nationwide protests in the USA against his killer's 'not guilty' trial verdict.
The trial of George Zimmerman, the self-proclaimed vigilante who killed 17 year-old African-American Trayvon Martin on 26 February 2012, was the most anticipated trial and verdict since the Rodney King police beating trial over 20 years ago. The not guilty verdict underlined the fact that racism and inequality in capitalist society is entrenched in the criminal justice system. The following is based on a leaflet and article by US supporters of the CWI and gives the background to the trial and its likely repercussions.

How many more Trayvons will be killed and how many more Zimmermans will walk free before something is done?

A black man is killed every 28 hours in the US by a cop or a vigilante. One thing is certain beyond a shadow of a doubt; the working class and poor can have no faith in the courts or the American justice system as a whole. Only we have the power to change anything.

Since its inception, American capitalism has bred racism. It's an important tool for big business to divide and conquer working people, fostering a cancerous inferiority complex within communities of colour and acceptance for the use of state-sponsored and extrajudicial violence against the so-called "other".

In fact, the only reason Zimmerman was even brought to trial was because of the mass outcry and protests last year when the news spread about Trayvon's killing. We must now turn the mass outrage over the verdict into mass action. The time has come to build a new social movement which challenges the entrenched racism and inequality of our society.

Trayvon was killed not once but twice, first by Zimmerman and then by his trial. This time it was character assassination, where reality was flipped on its head making Trayvon the aggressor and Zimmerman the victim. The trial tapped into the racial prejudice of African-American "criminality" perpetuated by the mass media since the time of slavery and Jim Crow [racial discriminatory laws].

Recent events further emphasise this. This May, in the Bronx, the judge in the Ramarley Graham case dismissed the charges against NYPD cop Richard Haste. Yet 18-year-old Ramarley was shot by the NYPD cop in his grandmother's bathroom, and he was unarmed. It was alleged he was attempting to dump marijuana down the toilet, yet no drugs were found. The judge decided to toss out the indictment against Richard Haste due to an "accidental" mistake by the assistant district attorney on the case when presenting the charges against Haste to the grand jury.

Also, there is the more recent case of Marissa Alexander, an African-American mother in Florida who had given birth nine days earlier. Like Zimmerman she also used the "Stand Your Ground" plea after she was attacked by her husband, who she charged with physical abuse. Marissa fired a warning shot from a licensed and registered gun in her name, injuring no one. Unlike Zimmerman, who walked free, Marissa was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Divide and rule

The systematically cultivated image of black people in America, maintaining the fear and mistrust and the negative stereotypes, is necessary for this oppressive system to exist. It prevents ordinary people of all races from putting aside their differences and turning their fire towards Wall Street, corporate politicians and the ruling elite as a whole. They are the worst criminals of our society who run free, amassing unimaginable wealth by exploiting the rest of us and maintaining their power by dividing us.

This is why Malcolm X said, "you can't have capitalism without racism." It's a divide and rule strategy the elite must use so that we blame each other instead of them. Racism has been built into the very fabric of American capitalism. If we want to fight racism we have to take on the whole system!

Hanging over this verdict are the haunting shadows of the 1992 Los Angeles riots and the 2001 Cincinnati riots (after Timothy Thomas, a 19-year-old black male, was shot dead by Steven Roach, a white police officer).

But such explosive events only give big business and their police, prisons, and surveillance apparatus the license to go on the offensive against workers and youth, particularly youth of colour. What really strikes fear in the ruling elite is not a riot, but a strong movement of working people with bold demands, mass organisations, and a fighting leadership.

The question that stands before our communities is: will we see a replay of the events in LA or Cincinnati, or can we redirect this justifiable anger into a powerful movement for liberation? We must keep in mind the death of Emmett Till in 1955 that became the inspiration of the civil rights movement.

This August marks the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, where civil rights leader Martin Luther King made his famous speech demanding racial equality. Now is the time to construct independent community organisations that will fight back against racial and class oppression, organising block by block, school by school, city by city, uniting across the whole country.

We must make Trayvon our rallying cry today to rise up for justice and equality with the aim of dismantling the entire system of American capitalism and racism, and fighting for a socialist future based on freedom, equality and the general welfare of society as a whole.

A programme to end police violence, extrajudicial violence, and racism

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