Sunday, April 15, 2012

Trayvon Booknotes: Mosley and Hochschild

It's a relief to see justice moving forward in the Trayvon Martin case. Amnesty International has issued a press release welcoming the Florida State's Attorney's decision to press charges against George Zimmerman,
"Trayvon's death has struck a nerve across the country, raising disturbing questions about the justice system, race relations, gun violence and the "Stand Your Ground" law itself," said Everette Harvey Thompson, Southern Regional Director for Amnesty International. "Many troubling issues have come into focus in this case, including the searing history of violence against minorities in the United States. Only the courts can establish justice. A young man has lost his life and we must have answers and accountability. It is up to the criminal justice system to find out what happened and hold someone accountable if a crime is committed. That determination is now in the hands of the courts."
See also AIUSA's earlier post Race Matters for a human rights framing of the issues raised.

A couple of book-related footnotes: Several years back we read Walter Mosley's Easy Rawlin's mystery set in the wake of the Watts Riots, Little Scarlet. Mosley has written a piece for the the Daily Beast on the Trayvon Martin case where he shares his own story of 'walking while black' and riffs from there, poetry slam style,
The crime is an unarmed man-child shot down in the streets of America when the admitted shooter is allowed to walk free. The crime is a nation of possible Florida vacationers who have to march in protest in order to get the tourism-based state to turn its eye toward justice. The crime is a corporate-owned media that picks and chooses among the cases for which it will open the floodgates of national opinion. The crime is the everyday citizen of America in the 21st century using archaic and inaccurate terms such as white and black rather than fellow American. The crime is a broader media that has convinced our citizens that they are in such imminent danger that they feel it necessary to vote for legislation such as Stand Your Ground.
And he hasn't even got to the critique of our prison system or our involvement in Afghanistan yet!

The other piece of note to our Loyal Readers also comes from the Daily Beast, about the namesake for the town of Sanford where the shooting took place.  We read Adam Hochschild's King Leopold's Ghost so long ago that you may have forgotten that Henry Sanford was a lobbyist for the interests of King Leopold II of Belgium. Michael Daly reminds us,
As recounted in Adam Hochschild’s King Leopold’s Ghost, Sanford mounted what he called a “gastronomic campaign,” supplementing discreet payoffs with lavish feasts as he convinced Congress to officially recognize Leopold II’s claim of the Congo as a colony. Sanford assured the legislators that the king’s primary aim was to “humanize” the people there. 
In fact, the exploitation of the Congo by the King's rubber barons resulted in millions of lost lives. Sanford also believed that African-Americans should be sent to Africa and proposed subsidies to encourage emigration.

Now that the immediate need for justice has been met and we begin to think about whether this case will have any lasting impact, learning about the town's namesake is another reminder of how difficult it is to confront the ghosts of historical injustice and bring about the kind of systemic change Mosley urges on us.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...