November 21, 2013

George Zimmerman & Interlinked Oppressions

I am so angry right now, I am actually considering deleting the photo off the top of this post because I can’t stand looking at this awful human being’s disgusting face. As many of you know, George Zimmerman, the dude most famously known for murdering an unarmed black teenager and getting away with it, is in trouble with the law again. Shocking, right?

This time, it’s for violence against his (hopefully now ex) girlfriend, Samantha Scheibe, who called 911 after he smashed a glass coffee table and pointed a shotgun at her. Those of you who are big fans of his will be happy to know that he has already posted bail and is back in society! Originally, bail was set at $4900, but was raised to $9000 after the judge became aware of another allegation: that he had tried to choke Scheibe a week ago. In spite of all the horrifying information available about this situation, the judge initially was going to clear the newly bailed out Zimmerman to drop by Scheibe’s address to pick up belongings he had left there. Thank god, someone with capacity for rational human thought convinced the judge that this was a really bad, really dangerous idea and the decision was reversed.

How many times is this shit going to play out before the justice system decides to get real and protect society from Zimmerman? I’ve seen some snarky comments online already about how Zimmerman ended up in jail this time because this time his victim is white. While being white in the US is obviously a position of privilege, we need to bear in mind that he’s already out on bail and he also has, at this point, got a LONG and DETAILED history of victimizing women while remaining essentially untouchable. Just as far as known reports go, we have this awful case, just a couple of weeks ago he nailed a bulls-eye filled with bullet holes to the side of his estranged wife’s parents’ house (this is after he punched her dad and stabbed her iPad with a knife, for those of you keeping track at home), he has been accused of molesting at least two women for over a decade, and he stalked and assaulted his former fiance in 2005.

And EACH TIME, he pulls the same morally bankrupt, downright sociopathic, absolutely delirious excuse: he tears down the victims’ credibility, frames them as hysterical liars, and pretends that THEY VICTIMIZED HIM. In the most recent conflict, he made a 911 call after the police had already showed up at Scheibe’s apartment (in response to her initial call), wherein he refused to open the door to the cops that were already there and told the dispatcher that his “pregnant” girlfriend had gone “crazy”.  Oh, by the way, Scheibe is not pregant. Similarly, Zimmerman spun a wild yarn about ex-fiance, Veronica Zuazo, saying that the true story behind the stalking allegations was that she had called him because he was coincidentally “in her neighborhood” and that she had instigated physical violence against him because he wouldn’t spend the night at her apartment.  In fact, he filed a counter-claim against her and they both ended up with equal punishments: a restraining order against each other and a one year bar against possessing firearms. This really isn’t a he said/she said thing if totally unrelated women independently keep making the same claims about him over and over again.

Similarly, Zimmerman painted Trayvon Martin as the aggressor in their totally unnecessary encounter that lead to Martin’s death. Never mind the fact that acquaintances and colleagues of Zimmerman’s have stated openly that Zimmerman and his family are super racist and that he has an explosive temper. Or the fact that over the span of the previous 8 years, Zimmerman had made nearly 50 batshit calls to his local police department, often to report the “suspicious activity” of people of color, including a “suspicious” black child estimated to be 7-9 years old. Despite self-identifying as Hispanic, Zimmerman also has no qualms about making bigoted statements about Mexicans, so while he is also technically a person of color, he clearly sees himself as being set apart from them.

Let’s be clear here: these are only the things we know about. Considering how wildly under reported crimes like sexual assault/abuse and domestic violence are, the fact that Zimmerman has this much easily accessible public dirt on him should probably have everyone worried about all the awful things he’s likely done without getting caught. Shellie Zimmerman has described her estranged husband as seeing himself as being invincible and above the law, which sounds delusional until one considers the fact that it’s actually kind of true. How many times is Zimmerman going to waltz through the criminal justice system before we take his guns away for good and figure out a way to get him to stop committing acts of violence against marginalized people?

This isn’t just about Zimmerman being racist (which he is) or a misogynist (which he is), it’s about a person repeatedly exercising his social power to victimize members of oppressed groups.  We live in a culture where having plenty of money and being socially/politically well-connected delivers near-immunity from being held accountable for bad behavior – especially if that bad behavior is targeted at our society’s undesirables, especially the poor, women, sexual and gender minorities and people of color (multiply that effect by orders of magnitude when those categories overlap).

George Zimmerman is a shining example of why we need coalitions, alliances, and intersectional goals. While we all feel the effects of inequality differently and to varying degrees, it’s more important to address who does have power rather than who doesn’t. Making a few things better for one group is not going to cut it. The powerful are the ones who benefit from infighting between the disempowered: as we stand divided, we stand conquered. Dismantling institutions like white supremacy, patriarchy, heterosexism, and class privilege is a big job – one that will take all of us. As long as any of us are being beaten, raped, murdered, starved, humiliated, or degraded because of our ascribed statuses, our identities, it affects us all. Or, in the immortal words of MLK Jr., whose eloquence and bravery I could never approach: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

So, let’s start talking. What does justice look like and how are we going to get it?

(cross-posted at Feminist Nonfiction)

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