By Imam Khalid Griggs
During the first half ofthe 20th century, Dr. W.E.B. Dubois, sage, human rights activist, and social commentator, asked a rhetorical question to African Americans, the perpetual victims of American racial injustice, “How does it feel to be a problem?; to have your very body and the bodies of your children assumed to be criminal, violent, malignant.”
The July 13 not guilty verdict of George Zimmerman in the slaying of 17 -year old teenager Trayvon Martin echoes the ominous implications of Dr. Dubois’ question of almost a century ago. Is equitable treatment and criminal justice possible for those identified by America’s 21st century racial and religious bigots as “problems?”
The criminal justice system in the United States is a microcosm of the social and racial attitudes ofthe larger society. For example, in 1857, Chief Justice Taney ofthe U.S. Supreme Court wrote in the majority decision in the landmark Dred Scott Decision, ” … beings of an inferior order (Blacks) and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations, and so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.” So it should come as little surprise that in today’s retrograde climate there has been a virtual repeal by the Supreme Court of the protections of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, voter suppression in multiple states, a rollback of Affirmative Action, genocidal consequences from the wars on drugs and terror, and violent targeting of Muslims and Islamic houses of worships by religious and racial bigots.
Social and religious freedoms in this country were won through the valiant sacrifices of thousands of common citizens and courageous leadership, not by the largesse or graciousness of enlightened politicians or judges. In order to safeguard these hard-fought freedoms, Muslims and all Americans must stand together to resist racial and religious bigotry, wherever it may exist.
The Trayvon Martin tragedy is another indicator of the state of racial attitudes in America today. A random sampling of various social media sites after the Zimmerman verdict indicates the vast polarity of racial attitudes existing today. We join with millions of other Americans in expressing outrage at the denial of justice to the family ofTrayvon Martin. We decry the message that was sent by this jury, even if inadvertently, that profiling, stalking, and harming and individualbecause of the color of his/her skin will go unpunished. As Muslims, we will actively engage with others in demanding equitable, fair, and just treatment for everyone, regardless of class, color, national origin, or religion.
Imam Khalid Abdul Fattah Griggs is the Imam of the Community Mosque of Winston-Salem, Associate Chaplain for Muslim Life at Wake Forest University, Vice President of Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), member of Central Shura of ICNA, and Board Chairman ICNA Council for Social Justice. He is a founding member of Muslims for Social Justice (NC), member of Movement to End Racism and Islamophobia, Board member of Interfaith Winston-Salem, and Trustee of Parliament of the World’s Religions.
Imam Khalid is a human rights and prison reform activist, national lecturer, freelance writer and author of Come Let Us Change This World: A Brief History of the Islamic Party in North America. He is the former editor of ICNA’s Message Magazine, community access television Board Chairman, producer, and host, and Co-convener of Black Leadership Roundtable of Winston-Salem Forsyth County.
Justice in the Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin trial was served.
Both the prosecution and the defense were involved in selecting the jury; and the jury voted, “Not Guilty”.
We as muslims should be standing with the decision and not fanning the flames of racial division.
Your article is doing a disservice to the deen and the ummah.
Thank you for sharing your opinion. However, as the article attempted to point out, the American judicial system is a mere reflection of the larger society. Human beings bring their own prejudices and biases to the jury pool. Surely you are not suggesting that America is free from the cancer of racism,especially as it relates to the criminal justice system. Over 230 innocent human beings, all convicted by jury trials, have been freed from lengthy prison sentences and exonerated because of DNA evidence. Racist prosecutors, in collaboration with racist law enforcement officials were responsible for the arrest and conviction nationwide of over 100 innocent souls who languished on death row until they were similarly freed. As Muslims, we all want peaceful, harmonious race relations in America;just not at the expense of justice or recognition of current social realities.
Justice was not served and this jury was not selected with out there being bias.Ex.one juror made reference to Travon as a color boy and thought there was riots after Zimmerman was arrested.Remember also it was hard to get a prosecutor on this case because of his father being judge and ties to the judicary.Not fanning racial division David really what has the news media done but make Travon out to be the aggressor when all he was doing was going and coming from a convient store.Zimmerman had over fifty calls complaining to the dispatcher and you he was talking about Black indivuals.Only five calls where admitted into the court by this wanna be robo cop.He had a my space page which carried racial epithets about blacks.Also Zimmerman defense team received money from some of most notorious racist,anti-labor,civil rights etc.forces in the country.The most notable the Koch brothers.This case was all about race and the very image of hyper black masculinty of the black male and being inherently violent.Also small traces of marijuana in Travon system.But never was Zimmerman addiction to a prescription drug brought up that could make one violent.Or his criminal record by the mediawhich was buried if you didn’t reference to alternative news sources.This descion by this jury was a travesty of injustice.And remember it was a jury of his peers so do you really feel they could of given out a fair verdict!
As salaamu alaykum,
Thank you for this timely and poignant piece. As an African American Muslimah I am sickened by the disproportinately high numbers of African American males who are profiled and killed by law enforcement despite being unarmedn not to mention the mass incarceration of African Americans when compared to whites who have committed the same crimes. It is bad enough that African Americans today suffer the injustice and indignity of inherently racist policies like New York City’s “stop and frisk” policy but now African Americans must fear racist vigilantes like Zimmerman while having committed no crime and walking where they have the right to walk. This verdict sets a dangerous and intolerable precedent all over the United States and particularly in those states with the “stand your ground’ law that any Black male, or Brown male for that matter, can be stalked and murdered and the stalker can get away with it by claiming that he feared for his life.
I fear that this verdict will make it “open season” on Black males. Justice was not served in the Zimmerman trial. And by the way, it was George Zimmerman who was on trial, not Trayvon Martin.
Br. David Curran. Justice was not served. Switch the scenario. If Trayvon Martin Shot and Killed George Zimmerman he would be in jail.