The murder of Trayvon Martin and the release of his murderer is cause for every surrealist, and every person of conscience, to take a good look at the
putrid conventions of the society they live in. In the screams of this helpless young man as he was shot, we hear the screams of all our oppressed.
I am proud that two members of my group, Adam Francis Cornford and Lee Ballentine, both of whom I have interviewed here previously, have decided to speak about this.
“Even if the prosecution’s version of events was true–and there is good reason to believe it wasn’t the whole truth–Zimmerman was unjustified in killing Trayvon Martin. So he was getting punched and getting his head banged on the sidewalk after he chased down an unarmed teenager who had every right to be there and confronted him physically. The worst that would have happened to him is a concussion. The problem here is not only that Zimmerman had demonstrated hostility to young black men–it’s that he was allowed to carry a gun.There is a madness in America about guns. The fact that there are so many of them and that they are being used in more and more conflicts–as well as being discharged accidentally and killing that way–is a death spiral in a country whose rulers have determined to beggar 99% of the population. They’re pushing us into smaller and smaller spaces and watching us turn on each other.”
Adam Francis Cornford
It is clear that this moment can’t be blamed on six Florida women. The jury’s mission is to apply narrow rules of responsibility while protecting the rights of the defendant from the great power of the state. They seem to have done that.
Once you allow a fearful, angry racist to represent society in the “Neighborhood Watch,” arm himself with deadly force, and tell him he should “stand his ground,” it’s no great leap for him to pursue a black stranger, provoke a confrontation, and kill him when he fights back. Society was not on trial, but it needs to be.
Let’s be clear. Zimmerman is not an anomaly; he is society. Economic hard times for everyone but the wealthiest have lured the most racist into the open and given them platforms (like the internet) to spit their poison. African Americans were the most recent arrivals at the pre-recession table of plenty, and the rule is “last hired first fired.” It’s hard times in America for all but a few.
The far right was racist all along. The near right distrusts government anyway, and having a black president has legitimated their more or less unconscious and unexamined racism too.
More than anything, as artists we need to show our black friends and colleagues and neighbors that we are paying attention. That we know this society is sick. That we stand with them for change. As Martin Luther King wrote: “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”