The acquittal of George Zimmerman for his killing of Trayvon Martin has already sparked a torrent of fervid commentary — millions of words — and will no doubt produce many millions more in the days and weeks to come. But good sense and insight have been near-impossible to find in the roiling surges of this tsunami. One place where you can find these rare commodities is — as you might expect — Arthur Silber’s blog. Silber has posted a powerful essay on the case and its implications, extending and deepening a likewise excellent piece by Ta-Nehisi Coates in The Atlantic, which Silber builds upon to striking effect.
You should read the whole piece — read the whole of both pieces — but be prepared for some counter-intuitive conclusions, the chief of which is this: in the Trayvon Martin case, the system did not fail; the system worked, it did what it was supposed to do. The problem is that what it is supposed to do is to maintain and replicate the brutal, violent and, above all, dehumanizing injustice encoded in the core of the national culture.
Trayvon Martin’s life was broken on the hard, metallic spikes of this core; an unspeakable personal loss. But the travesty was not the case itself — an inevitably ambiguous affair (an unwitnessed encounter between two men, one of them left dead) hobbled with a daunting burden of legal proof required to produce a guilty verdict. No, the real travesty is the system that produced the volatile circumstances of that fateful night, and all of the seething, hateful, fearful, alienating currents that lay behind the encounter.
But read the eloquent insights of Silber and Coates for more.