CNN: Is ‘black manhood’ on trial in Zimmerman case?

Jeff Poor | Media Reporter

In an article posted on The Nation’s website last week, Mychal Denzel-Smith suggested that in the George Zimmerman trial underway for the murder of Trayvon Martin, it isn’t Zimmerman who is on trial, but Martin and black manhood.

Denzel-Smith made an appearance on Sunday’s “CNN Newsroom” to back up that claim and accuse Zimmerman of depicting Martin as a “very cartoonish version” of a 17-year-old black boy.

“To believe Zimmerman’s story, I think, because to me it reads like a very cartoonish version of what a 17-year-old black boy would say and do in this situation,” Denzel-Smith said. “I think you know, to believe that Trayvon Martin was to jump out of the bushes and to approach George Zimmerman and to strike him in the face without any type of provocation sounds to me like you have to believe that there is an inherent criminality and inherent violence in 17-year-old black boys that you see.”

Denzel-Smith went on to suggest that Zimmerman thought his neighborhood was threatened by Martin because of Martin’s skin color.

“The operator didn’t explicitly tell him not to follow but said they didn’t need him to,” Denzel-Smith continued. “But I think George Zimmerman — again, this is my opinion — but after identifying Trayvon Martin was a young black man that he felt his neighborhood was in more danger than you know, the police could handle at that specific time and that he needed to assure himself and his neighborhood they would be protected.”

Joining Denzel-Smith for the segment was Rod Vereen, attorney for the prosecution’s witness Rachel Jeantel. Vereen agreed with Denzel-Smith’s suggestion that black manhood was on trial in the case.

“Of course it is,” Vereen said. “People have a tendency to want to believe that young black men are growing up in these urban neighborhoods to be violent. And that is absolutely not the case. They want to make it appear Trayvon Martin comes in a broken home and that he lacks parental guidance and youthful guidance and therefore, was more apt to be the aggressor in the situation with Mr. Zimmerman, without any evidence to support that inference.”

Host Don Lemon reminded Vereen there was a more important aspect, which was the death of Martin. But Vereen said if the races were swapped and Zimmerman had been black and Martin had been white, Zimmerman would have faced a harsher justice system.

“I agree. This is about the death of a young man without regard to race and the media has been involved,” Vereen replied.

“And of course, you know, what precipitated this was the impression that there were two different justice systems. And some say had Mr. Zimmerman been black and had Mr. Martin been white, the situation would have been different. He would have been arrested at moment’s notice soon as the police would have arrived at the scene and saw a young white man laying on the ground and that Mr. Zimmerman was standing with a firearm in his hands, he would have been arrested.”

“And so you have the impression there are two different justice systems which is something that is not far-fetched,” he continued. “I mean, we have been listening to that over the years. I have been practicing law for 23 years and there seems to be a difference with regard to how certain individuals are treated within the justice system. And so I can understand why there has been criticism of the way this case has been handled and why Mr. Zimmerman was allowed to be released without being charged with an offense.”

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