The Fire This Time: What James Baldwin Would Say About Zimmerman Verdict


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The outrage that many of us feel about the verdict itself- “…this is a crime of which neither I nor them nor history will ever forgive them, that they have destroyed and are destroying hundreds of thousands of lives and do not know it and do not want to know it.” (5)

The disdain that many of us hold towards a grown man who racially profiled, pursued, engaged, and killed an innocent child who was defending himself from said profiling, pursuit, engagement, and death –  “I might have pitied them if I had not found myself in their hands so often and discovered, through ugly experience, what they were like when they held the power and what there were like when you held the power.” (48)

To supporters of Zimmerman who assert that justice has been served - “A few years ago, I would have pitied them, pitied them in order to not despise them.” (56)

To jurors who deliberated under the premise that a young, black Martin MUST have been engaging in criminal activity if Zimmerman deemed it necessary to follow him, and eventually shoot him, despite mountains of evidence and common sense suggesting otherwise – “In the United States, violence and heroism have been made synonymous except when it comes to blacks..” (58)

To white folks (and others) who are naive about the racial component of the trial, its media coverage, and subsequent verdict - “….whatever white people do not know about Negroes reveals, precisely and inexorably, what they do not know about themselves” (44).

Response to some white peoples’ (and others’) racist reactions on the news, blogs, and social media - “White man’s profound desire not to be judged by those who are not white…..profound need to be seen as he is, to be released from the tyranny of his mirror.” (95) 

Regarding the exhaustion and despair of those who have experienced social injustice firsthand, and see the verdict as a predictable example of mainstream’s America apathy towards oppression, and unwillingness to listen - “It is galling indeed to have stood so long, hat in hand, waiting for Americans to grow up enough to realize that you do not threaten them.” (74)

To those who ask what does the Zimmerman Trial say about racial progress in America - “This has everything to do, of course, with the nature of that dream and with the fact that we Americans, of whatever color, do not dare examine it and are far from having made it reality.” (88)

……Continues, but adds prospects of hope and improvement – “Privately, we cannot stand our own lives and dare not examine them. Domestically, we take no responsibility for (and no pride in) what goes on in our country (89)….. Perhaps, people being the conundrums that they are, and having so little desire to shoulder the burden of their lives, this is what will always happen. But at the bottom of my heart I do not believe this. I think that people can be better than that, and I know that people can be better than they are. (90)

What black families have told and will tell their children about the verdict - “I know how black it looks today… We have not yet stopped trembling yet, but if we had not loved each other none of us would have survived. And now you must survive because we love you, and for the sake of your children and your children’s children” (7) 

A Reminder to Keep Hope Alive for those who fight on the side of Social Justice - “The very time I thought I was lost, My dungeon shook and my chains fell off” (10)

What could happen if our collective empathy, consciousness, sense and sensibilities don’t catch up with the social demands of the present time  - God gave Noah the rainbow sign, No more water, the fire next time!” (106)

Rest In Peace to Trayvon Martin

We Out Here,

Josh A

*All quotes pulled directly from “The Fire Next Time” by James Baldwin. The book can be found at several bookstores and/or online. james-baldwin-the-fire-next-time

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1 comment

  1. I believe that the excerpts from Mr. Baldwin’s book “The Fire Next Time”, says it all. I, too do not understand how a young teenage Black boy, can be murdered while walking home from the store. In a place that should have been safe. I do not blame Trayvon Martin if he did ask Zimmerman, “why are you following me” and I know if this had been a White teenager, he would not have been subjected to Zimmerman’s profiling. Had Trayvon, been able to take the gun away from Zimmerman and managed to save his life, he would have been found guilty of 1st degree murder. No, ifs ands or buts about it !!! Our children must not forget what we have gone through to get to here…and that we still have a long way to go… I will continue to pray for the Martin family and in God’s wisdom Zimmerman will suffer his just deserts and the Federal Courts will find that he did violate Trayvon’s civil rights…..God Bless…

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