Keeping hope alive has become increasingly difficult over the past decade as we (in the Black community) continue to wrestle with the concept and perception of justice and injustice in America. In contemporary America, this has become particularly true since a vigilante murdered 17-year-old Trayvon Martin on February 26, 2012 in Sanford, Florida, while he was walking home from a local convenience store with an iced tea and a package of skittles in his pocket. There were no video or cellphone cameras present when Trayvon Martin was fighting for his life almost a decade ago. There were no eye-witnesses present. Although there was a man arrested and charged with Trayvon’s murder, the trial ended with an acquittal on all counts.
Now here we are, a decade later, with hours of video documentation, and not only that we also have Facebook live streaming, body camera footage, and the acknowledgement that police body cam video footage, in many cases, is conspicuously missing, disabled or has been turned off while hundreds of murders and assaults continue to be committed against Black and brown people over this past decade alone. This forces all of us to acknowledge how inadequate the criminal justice system is in America. Throughout the centuries, the truth of America’s problematic racial history and the history of law enforcement that directly ties policing in America to the legacy of slave patrols has proven again and again that the justice system is bankrupt and woefully inept in demonstrating the concept of equal justice under the law. We can no longer deny that America’s demonstration of what justice is, has not included Black communities as a part of that determination. Over the past ten years alone, there has been a mountain of irrefutable evidence, statistics, documentation, studies, scholarship, literature, protests, and dead Black bodies that proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that in this country, the Black community has been and continues to be targeted and traumatized by the justice system and the culture of policing in America.
Dr. King once claimed that, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” For Black Americans, America’s participation in what is considered to be “universal morality” has been tragically deficient. We are no longer convinced that America’s understanding of morality is either moral or just. Our community’s level of hope has been depleted to historic levels. The belief that we, as Black people, under these current systems, laws, and policies, can receive any type of justice from a system of justice and policing that was literally designed to hunt, maim and kill us for running away from enslavement, torture, inhumanity and oppression has been diminished to the point whereby our belief in the American system of justice is almost nonexistent.
Currently, the trial being broadcast on most major television networks as well as cable stations is that of Derek Chauvin, the police officer, who killed George Floyd almost one year ago. We have ALL been exposed to the cellphone video tape that documented the killing. During the trial, that tape was used by both the prosecution and the defense to make their case. We all have been exposed to the tape played over and over again as we witnessed the hours of testimony and argument during the trial of the accused officer. One might contend that watching a man die over and over again only serves to desensitize people and plays directly into the continuous dehumanization of black and brown bodies and Black people. There’s also an argument to be made, that the video tape effectively shows the inhumanity, blatant depravity and corrupt indifference to human life and the humanity of Black people that America has condoned and supported for decades and centuries.
America’s moral compass is dysfunctional and her continued complicity and support of immorality, injustice, and systemic and institutionalized racism, discrimination and bigotry throughout history has become painfully clear. We can no longer ignore the fact that Justice in America is definitely NOT blind.