The not guilty verdict against George Zimmerman last week has spurred massive protests and riots across America—or, more appropriately, AmeriKKKa. The anger and sadness is not simply about a skittles-carrying 17-year-old who had a sweet smile and loving family, but is a response to the impunity that all cops and would-be cops are afforded when they kill unarmed poor and racialized people.
Just as we remember Trayvon, we remember Junior Manon, a young, unarmed black teenager in Toronto who was jumped on by four cops, suffocated and beaten to death. We remember Eric Osawe, a father of two who was shot and killed in an Etobicoke raid. We remember Neil Stonechild, an Aboriginal youth who froze to death after police dropped him off in a remote, rural area, wearing one shoe. In all cases, as with hundreds of other similar cases, the police responsible were not convicted of crimes.
The protests and outrage are a response to the way some communities, like the gated community Trayvon was walking through, are protected and secured against people who are seen as not belonging, while other communities—brown, black, indigenous, poor—are raided, brutalized by violent arrests and denied services. They are a response to the unjust “justice system” of capitalism, one in which people who murder villagers for protesting mines, poison the air and water, and steal the meager savings and homes of poor people are almost always declared innocent. Meanwhile, those who try to defend themselves against the daily oppression they face are almost always declared guilty. It is a telling comparison that a black woman in Florida was recently given 20 years for firing warning shots to stop her husband from beating her. It is clear that the only ones who will be freed for “standing [their] ground” are those who stand for the interests of patriarchy and the wealthy.
It is important to remember that it is not simply racism, but capitalism, that perpetuates such grave injustices on a daily basis. Capitalism requires an impoverished class that will work for pittances and will serve as scapegoat “criminals” to distract attention from corporate and state crimes. One way the state stops this underclass, or proletariat, from organizing is through policing and prisons. While this underclass disproportionately includes people of colour, large sections of the white population also make up this underclass (though they are often a slightly more privileged section). Meanwhile, racialized people can benefit from capitalism by aligning themselves with ruling class interests, as George Zimmerman and Barack Obama have done.
Only by overthrowing a system that values profits over people can we end the racism, patriarchy and classism that tries to keep people in their place. Only by recognizing that the entire system of capitalism is unjust can we truly work towards justice.