“It Pretty Much Happened The Way George Said It Happened,” Said Juror B37

“Black boys in this country are not allowed to be children. They are assumed to be men, and to be full of menace.”

—Eugene Robinson, Washington Post columnist

by now you have heard that “Juror B37” has talked to Anderson Cooper of CNN and that she has signed on with a literary agent in hopes of cashing in on her jury service. Judging from the quality of her analysis, judging by her confusion and the way she apprehended what was going on in that courtroom in Florida, judging by her utter  Anderson Cooper, host of CNN's AC360,* interviews Zimmerman trial juror B37, whose face was kept in the dark./ failure to understand the larger issues involved in this case, I will say that if her book gig fails, she would make a perfect host of “Fox and Friends,” where bias, as well as confused, sloppy thinking, is an asset.

In any case, this juror believed that the man who shot Trayvon Martin in the heart was a man “whose heart was in the right place,” whose real problem was his over-eagerness “to help people,” who, well, I’ll let her say it:

…I think George was pretty consistent and told the truth, basically. I’m sure there were some fabrications, enhancements, but I think pretty much it happened the way George said it happened.

Yeah, “George” may have fudged the truth a little bit, he may have told things in such a way as to make it look better for him, but it “pretty much” happened the way “George” said it happened, which, of course, made Trayvon Martin ultimately responsible for his own death:

COOPER: So you think, based on the testimony you heard, you believe that Trayvon Martin was the aggressor?

JUROR: I think the roles changed. I think, I think George got in a little bit too deep, which he shouldn’t have been there. But Trayvon decided that he wasn’t going to let him scare him and get the one-over, up on him, or something. And I think Trayvon got mad and attacked him.

“Trayvon got mad.” There was exactly zero evidence for that conclusion, but, as I said before, Trayvon Martin was found guilty of his own killing.

Juror B37 went on to say that she didn’t believe race had anything at all to do with this case:

COOPER: Do you feel that George Zimmerman racially profiled Trayvon Martin? Do you think race played a role in his decision, his view of Trayvon Martin as suspicious?

JUROR: I don’t think he did. I think just circumstances caused George to think that he might be a robber, or trying to do something bad in the neighborhood because of all that had gone on previously. There were unbelievable, a number of robberies in the neighborhood.

COOPER: So you don’t believe race played a role in this case?

JUROR: I don’t think it did. I think if there was another person, Spanish, white, Asian, if they came in the same situation where Trayvon was, I think George would have reacted the exact same way.

This white female  juror cannot see, or says she cannot see, what so many black people know in their bones: that race had very much to do with this case and that if Trayvon Martin had been white, none of what subsequently happened would have happened.

And that, I submit, is the problem this case highlights: there are a lot of white people who don’t understand that being black in America is a different experience from being white, that being a young black man in America is especially a different experience.

Eugene Robinson, an African-American and columnist for The Washington Post, wrote:

If anyone wonders why African Americans feel so passionately about this case, it’s because we know that our 17-year-old sons are boys, not men. It’s because we know their adolescent bravura is just that — an imitation of manhood, not the real thing.

We know how frightened our sons would be, walking home alone on a rainy night and realizing they were being followed. We know how torn they would be between a child’s fear and a child’s immature idea of manly behavior. We know how they would struggle to decide the right course of action, flight or fight.

And we know that a skinny boy armed only with candy, no matter how big and bad he tries to seem, does not pose a mortal threat to a healthy adult man who outweighs him by 50 pounds and has had martial arts training (even if the lessons were mostly a waste of money). We know that the boy may well have threatened the man’s pride but likely not his life. How many murders-by-sidewalk have you heard of recently? Or ever?

Contrast that with what Gene Lyons, a columnist I respect and admire very much, wrote some days ago—something I haven’t been able to get out of my head since—about the Martin-Zimmerman case:

On the evidence, it’s clear that both Zimmerman and Martin acted badly, with tragic consequences — Zimmerman by carrying around that accursed gun he was in no way qualified to handle, and Martin through foolhardy teenaged bravado. One life ended, another destroyed.

But not necessarily symbols of anything greater than their own confusion and folly.

That kind of statement, that Trayvon Martin was acting out of some kind of “foolhardy teenaged bravado,” that there is no symbolism attached to this case beyond “confusion and folly,” could only have been written by a guy who has not raised black sons. It may qualify as the most ignorant thing Gene Lyons has ever written.

All of which brings me to a discussion on Morning Joe this morning, which is must-see TV for anyone truly interested in the two Americas that so many black Americans wake up to each and every day. I will post the segment below, but I want to call your attention to observations made by two black men of very different political persuasions, Eugene Robinson, the liberal Washington Post columnist, and Michael Steele, former chairman of the Republican National Committee.

Both men, who have raised boys, said that they had to teach their sons that being a young black man in America requires learning a set of rules that white sons don’t have to learn. If they are to survive or thrive, even as middle-class black kids and later as adults, there are certain things they have to know, to do. Michael Steele said to his kids:

Remember, when you walk out that door, you are a black man in America. And you need to understand what that means when people see you, how they look at you, how they approach you, what they think about you, and how they will deal with you. Because it’s not the same for your white friends. It’s not the same for your other friends. Because a lot of history walks with you out that door.

That’s unacceptable in twenty-first century America.

White folks should not ignore that history, or pretend it didn’t happen, or pretend that all is now well. We shouldn’t pretend that there are no larger issues attached to the tragic encounter between Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman. There are. And that is why all of us, black and white, need to find ways—starting with recognizing the reality behind what happened in Sanford, Florida—to change what it means to be a young black kid-man in America, especially now that half the country has adopted stand-your-ground vigilantism as a way of life.

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8 Comments

  1. ansonburlingame

     /  July 16, 2013

    Well, Baloney to how it is different to raise a black boy instead of a white one. The basics are the same. Some things are the right thing to do and some are wrong and color of skin makes no difference. Learn it, teach it and practice it, white, black, Hispanic, etc.

    In 1st, 2nd and 3rd grade my oldest son was a racial minority in school. Great experience
    for him and he learned how to be friends with most and avoid the ones that decided to pick on him. He did not turn into a “fighter”, an atagonist, an angry young boy, or later an angry young man. The only “fights” were between two brothers by and large, the older picking on the younger one, when he could get away with it. For decades they have also been the best of friends, true brothers.

    Duane you are so furious over mistreatment of blacks in America and fail to see the reverse, or at least acknowledge it. My guess is your youngest son did not pick on others. And I bet he has observed a group of blacks picking on others as well. He probably learned long ago to just walk away from such stuff unless real dangefr or harm was about to errupt. Then he would hopefully seek adult help to mitigate the turmoil, maybe come home and ask you what he should have done, etc. I am sure you would have also provided great guidance as well and casting about angry words would not have been part of such guidance.

    Maybe, who knows for sure Trayvon was told to “stand his ground” as a kid, don’t let anyone pick on you, be a “man” and stand up for your “rights”, it. Well there is a good way to do so and bad ones as well. Based on evidence, Trayvon sure picked a bad way that fateful evening as well.

    Not to attempt to retry the case, but I recall previous school incidents where Trayvon was caught painting racial slurs and suspend, or at least disciplined for such. Right there would have been an indicator for ANY father or mother to use that experience to CHANGE such behavior. Certainly encouraging such behavior or even hinting at praise or admiration would be wrong for any sane parent to do, black, white or whatever.

    As well Trayvon was NOT raised parentless in some ghetto. But in the trial the evidence indicates an angry, maybe fearful as well, young man that for sure “stood his ground”, in anger, first with words and then……..

    As for the intellect or ability to think and analyze on the part of one juror, maybe one now trying to “cash in” on her experience, well go sit on a jury and see what you find in just about any jury room. I did so ONCE and it was an eye opener for me. All 12 of us were individuals with varying levels of experience, education, ability to think and speak with some degree of articulation, etc.

    Put 12 men and women, selected from the general population in a room and FORCE them to make a rational decision as a group. Even in the most “cut and dried case” there is always going to be one or two that ………

    One final question for you Duane, or others supporting your outrage over this case. If you were a member of that jury pool would you have recused yourself as being too biased, before the trial ever started, because you would have been unable to consider a fair and impartial verdict based only on evidence presented in the trial, period?

    Of course most members of the jury wanted to see Zimmerman found guilty of “something”. I would have felt the same way. But under the law, well such was not possible. Now do you thus blame the jury, or the prosecutor, or the judge, or the defense?

    Just put a name on your outrage and blame that man or woman involved in the trial for grave wrongdoing. And remember, Zimmerman, as was his God given right, DEFENDED himself and his actions to the full extent of the law as well. Is that wrong?

    If your son had been in the “dock”, accused of such matters, ………?

    Anson

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    • Anonymous

       /  July 16, 2013

      AB, The one thing about this case that bothers me, and we will never know the answer, is the fact that Trevon Martin may very well have been standing his ground. We will never know for sure what caused him to want to fight Zimmerman or if Zimmerman was in fact the aggressor initially. We only have one story to go by. I know if I were being stalked by someone at night I would be worried and adrenaline would most like take over my body.

      Now, just think if Trevon would have had a gun and just simply shot Zimmerman out of fear and claimed he was just standing his ground. Unfortunately for him he had to rely on his fists. Most comments I have read by people, mostly white people, is that Trevon acted irrationally by fighting Zimmerman. Go figure.

      That being said, because there was only one side of the story being told, this was a difficult case to prove for the State. I think the larger problem in finding anything to pin on Zimmerman lies with the State. The jury should have had more options and it appears that the judge knew this by adding manslaughter as an option.

      Lastly, as I have said before concerning guns, I encourage all to get trained if you want to jump onto the concealed carry band wagon. There is a fine line between 20 years in prison and self defense. Even though Zimmerman is free today his life will be Hell and it could have been much worse for him.

      Kabe

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      • King Beauregard

         /  July 16, 2013

        “The jury should have had more options and it appears that the judge knew this by adding manslaughter as an option.”

        There you go. Normally, when a prosecution is serious about a case, they don’t charge only the most serious charge they can think of; they also go for every lesser charge to ensure the defendant can’t just walk. So I say the prosecution took a dive.

        And as for manslaughter, well. I got into a fight with Karl Tiber when I was in the sixth grade, and I wasn’t in fear for my life, just my pride. The fight happened on a sidewalk, same as Zimmerman / Martin fight. Zimmerman can claim he was in fear for his life but I don’t buy it; he was scrapping with a teenager, not with a monster from “Lord of the Rings”. Lethal force was still not justified.

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        • Anonymous

           /  July 16, 2013

          King, I heard one Civil Rights lawyer suggest that the lack of other charges may be the best grounds for civil action in this case. He said they should compare the charges in other similar cases to see if there are any indiscretions. Interesting, though it sounds like a reach to me.

          Kabe

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    • I have ignored some of your comments because, well, you only know a lot of what you know about what happened at the trial from watching excerpts or reading news reports about it. Nothing against that, it’s the way most of us usually get our news, but it leaves at least a few holes in your knowledge of what happened at the trial.

      An important and crucial example is when you said “the evidence” showed that,

      MARTIN was seen atop Zimmerman banging his head into the sidewalk.

      Except that there wasn’t anyone who saw any such thing. There wasn’t any evidence, apart from Zimmerman’s self-serving account, of Trayvon Martin “banging” Zimmerman’s head into anything, much less the sidewalk. The only witness who claimed to see Martin “atop Zimmerman” was John Good, and if you had watched the trial, you would know that Good explicitly testified that he did not see the guy on top slamming the other guy’s head into concrete.

      You therefore have to ask yourself why it is that you believe someone actually saw Trayvon Martin “atop Zimmerman banging his head into the sidewalk” when it clearly isn’t true. I mean that. Ask yourself why it is that you believe something, something extraordinarily important about this case, that is patently false. Perhaps that is an important clue as to why you and I differ.

      Having said that, you concluded in one comment that “Two young men acted ‘stupidly.” First, Zimmerman was twenty-eight and Martin was barely seventeen, having been so about a month. One was a man and one wasn’t, but the fact that you see them both as “young men” is part of the problem. It’s what Eugene Robinson and Michael Steele were trying to say. Martin was a high-school kid and Zimmerman was the one who had the responsibility of an adult, an adult with a deadly weapon, an adult with mixed martial arts training, an adult with some knowledge of criminal law (even though he lied about it), particularly self-defense and Stand Your Ground laws.

      Moreover, there was exactly no evidence that Trayvon Martin acted “stupidly.” The only account of how he acted at all at the end of the event came from a man who, if he wanted to remain free, had to portray Martin as the aggressor who acted for who knows what reason. Martin could have reacted, for all we know, because Zimmerman flashed his gun at him or otherwise threatened him with it. We don’t know, but some of us are very quick to think we do. Some of us are very quick to think that Martin was the aggressor. Why is that? Could it possibly be because he was a black kid in a hoodie? Isn’t that possible? Again, ask yourself.

      We know that Zimmerman thought Martin was up to no good for essentially no other reason than he was an unknown black kid in a hoodie. He labeled him, among other things, a “fucking punk” and an “asshole” and later identified him as a “suspect.” It is because of the reactions of the George Zimmermans of this world that people like Eugene Robinson and Michael Steele have to tell their kids-becoming-adults about the special rules that govern how they should, potentially as a matter of life or death, act in public. That’s the point you don’t get and I suppose never will. You are blind to that separate reality, a reality that is true for even famous and relatively well-off black folks.

      I can’t argue about what kind of kid Trayvon Martin was. He had some problems in school like a lot of kids do, a lot of white kids included. Is that how we want to finally evaluate the character of people? How much or what kind of trouble they got into in school? I can’t argue that Martin didn’t attack Zimmerman after he perceived him as some kind of threat. I can’t argue that he didn’t do something that night that contributed to his death. I wasn’t there.

      But what I can fervently argue is that George Zimmerman was an adult and Trayvon Martin wasn’t. What I can vigorously contend is that Zimmerman, given his training and standing as a neighborhood watcher, should have acted like an adult, even if Trayvon Martin didn’t. What I can confidently assert is that Zimmerman, even if his suspicions were justified, still had the responsibility of identifying himself and telling Martin what he was doing, if not simply remaining in his car and waiting for the police, who were only minutes away. That’s what I can say. And that means Zimmerman bears some amount of responsibility for killing an innocent—I repeat: innocent—kid.

      As far as your comment that there is no difference between raising “a black boy instead of a white one,” I’m afraid that is the problem. You refuse to acknowledge what it might be like to be a black teenager in this culture. Suppose your kids were evangelical Christians. Suppose you were raising them in a Islam-dominated culture that didn’t look too kindly on “aggressive” Christians, especially those who called themselves “evangelicals.” My guess is that you would have enough sense to offer them wise advise about how to behave out in public, in front of law enforcement officials, in all the various social situations. In short, you would raise them with a different set of rules, in terms of how to interact with those around them, than Muslim parents would raise their kids. And you would be right to do so. But that has nothing at all to do with teaching them “the basics” of other social behavior. Muslims and Christians both teach their children “right and wrong.” But a Christian in certain Muslim nations had better be aware that some kinds of behavior can get you in trouble in a hurry. Blacks, in this white-dominated culture, feel the same way, despite the fact that they do teach their kids right from wrong.

      Next, I am not “furious” over anything. It sounds like fury to you because you can’t accept the fact that your lily-white reality is not the same reality as the one Trayvon Martin or his family experience, at least in some ways, on a daily basis. Sure, we all need to do what is right and follow the rules. But for some of us, doing all the right things and following the rules isn’t always enough. For some folks, teenagers who are black for instance, merely wandering home after a visit to a 7-Eleven is enough to get you killed and your killer allowed to soon go on his way. You tell me what “rule” Martin broke that night and how you know he broke that rule. And then tell me how it was that the man who killed him got to go to work the next day.

      Finally, what upsets me as much as anything about this case is the outrage that many white people expressed over the demand for at least a trial in this case. The system was predisposed to believe Zimmerman, and some of us think that was the case because Martin was a black teenager. Thus, some of us believed that a trial was necessary to sort out the facts. That outraged many in the white community, and the defense attorneys expressed as much after the trial was over. They were indignant that their client was even accused of any type of crime. It was open and shut as far as they, and other white people, were concerned. That attitude is why a lot of people of color don’t trust the system. It is why a lot of black folks are marching in the streets.

      And you, and others, can ignore them, you can pretend they are completely wrong and you are completely right, you can tell yourself that this kid deserved what he got. But the frustration and, in some cases, outrage, they feel won’t go away. We all have to live together in this country, like it or not, and we best get on with the business of trying to understand each other. I can think of no better way of doing so than trying to understand why black folks like Eugene Robinson, one of the calmest, most thoughtful columnists in the business, and Michael Steele, a very conservative Republican who defends right-wingers at nearly every turn, are both upset today.

      Duane

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  2. anonymous

     /  July 16, 2013

    Quite frankly, I don’t care if Trayvon Martin got mad or even threatened George Zimmerman. He was being stalked by an adult man 50 lbs larger than himself on a dark rainy night. Whether he knew that Zimmerman was armed at that point is irrelevant. He was bound to be fearful and probably angry. Why would it even be expected that that he wouldn’t be, under the circumstances. And why on earth would anyone expect that he should be the one to behave in an adult manner. If he did, it would certainly be different than most of the 17 year olds that I know, white or black.

    To me, the most irrational thing in this whole situation, other than a grown man carrying a gun around and stalking & killing skinny kids, is that there are people out there who are judging this dead kid, because he had the audacity to be angry and fight back because someone was following him. Now that is just plain scary.

    Like

    • Your comments reflect the feelings of a lot of people, and not just African-Americans. The things that have been said, or implied, about Trayvon Martin, who was just barely seventeen, have been disgusting. And it has all been done to justify his killing, to suggest that somehow he was responsible for it. That is scary.

      Duane

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  3. anonymous

     /  July 24, 2013

    AMEN!!!!!!!!!!

    Like

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