The Trayvon Martin murder and
the anti-racist movement

(CV #47, September 2012)

On Sunday, April 8, the Detroit Workers’ Voice Discussion Group discussed the Trayvon Martin murder and the movement that arose to condemn this racist crime. The following article is from the invitation to the meeting.

 We will be discussing the details of the event itself — the murder of the 17-year-old black youth Trayvon by the neighborhood watch guard George Zimmerman in Sanford, Florida, February 26th. We will dissect the lies put forth by Zimmerman and his supporters, who claim that he acted in self-defense, and show that the incident was indeed a murder.

We will discuss the refusal of the Sanford police department to arrest Zimmerman [he was finally arrested on April 11] and show that this illustrates the institutional racism that lies behind, encourages, and abets racist murders like these. We will discuss the Florida “stand your ground” law which allows the use of deadly force on the slightest pretext. We will show how it is part of the growing repressive apparatus of US capitalism, and also how this apparatus is connected to continuing racism and chauvinism against black people and other minorities.

We will discuss how the murder of Trayvon Martin has swiftly called forth an outburst of protest across the country. Beginning with declarations from Trayvon’s family, the movement has escalated into rallies and marches in Sanford, and elsewhere in Florida, and spreading around the country, nearly every day since the event. People everywhere have worn hoodies as symbols of solidarity. In the social media many similar cases of racist abuse and murder are being exposed and attacked, both current and from the past. This is an important development, which is part of the incipient resistance of the working class to the capitalist attacks that are escalating during the economic crisis.

The murder of Trayvon Martin is both a racist atrocity and a sign of the repressive atmosphere in the US, in which liberal mayors ordered the police to throw the Occupy movement of its encampments, while the conservatives are busy demonizing blacks, immigrants, Islamic people, and others. Overall, the US now jails a higher percentage of its population than any other country in the world. While the US has only 5% of the world’s population, it has 25% of the world’s prisoners. At the same time, black males are imprisoned disproportionally, and there are now more black males in the grips of the criminal justice system (in jail, on probation, or on parole) than there were slaves prior to the Civil War.

Finally, we will discuss how the Trayvon murder, and the mass protests against it, raise not only the question of how to build the struggle against these atrocities, but also of why the civil rights movement and the black rebellions which capped it, though resulting in definite progress, were unable to eliminate racism and white supremacy. Today these evils are taking outrageous forms, both familiar ones and new ones. Activists, especially black activists, are asking, “why do we still have to fight this?” They are saying that “now we even have a black president, yet we are still shot down like dogs! Now, over 150 years after the abolition of slavery, we have to counsel our children how to avoid being murdered by white racists. What’s up with this?”

There may be a black president, but the capitalist class still rules the US, and it is on the rampage against both the working class and various minorities. The Obama administration has only feigned sympathy to some of the victims of racism, while doing nothing to stop the growing wave of repression and racism. Worse, the Obama administration is continuing the reactionary and chauvinist campaign started by then-President Bush after the Sept. 11 attacks of 2001; it is adding more and more police-state measures, carrying out more and more anti-immigrant raids, and giving the police more and more powers. Obama’s stand is symptomatic not only of the reactionary stand of the American bourgeoisie as a whole, but of the deepening class divide in the black community between the bourgeois black leadership, which has joined the oppressors, and the black working and unemployed masses, whose conditions of life degenerate by the day.

Lenin said that imperialism is “reaction all along the line”. This truth is revealed once again by the racist murders in the U.S. today, and the high rates of imprisonment in major imperialist countries like the US and Russia (the first and second most enthusiastic jailers of their own population). Not only is the capitalist class seeking to slash living standards of the working masses in the economic crisis, but it is introducing one repressive measure after another and singling out blacks, immigrants, and other minorities as special targets of attack. Help build the struggle against racist murders and the growing apparatus of anti-working class repression! <>

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Last changed on August 23, 2013.