George Zimmerman’s gun auction should make clear what value America places on black life. It isn’t just that we don’t value it but that we place monetary value on ending it. This has been true for a long time. It was true in 1955 when Emmitt Till’s killers were paid $4,000 for telling their tale of cold-blooded murder to Look magazine just four months after their acquittal. That acquittal by an all-white jury took only 67 minutes; one juror even said, “If we hadn’t stopped to drink pop, it wouldn’t have taken that long.” George Zimmerman’s trial at least had the appearance of legitimacy but the aftermath is eerily similar and every bit as painful as the Emmitt Till ordeal. Zimmerman is set to make hundreds of thousands from the sell of the gun he used to kill Martin, much like Till’s killers were paid for their story. Different decades, similar results– that should terrify us enough to act.
The idea that a child could be shot by a grown man who chose to apprehend him- against the counsel of a 911 operator– on his way home and be found guiltless is preposterous. So was Till’s killers being acquitted after 67 minutes by an all-white jury, after stopping “to drink pop” in 1955. But cold-blooded murder is one thing, indifference and profiting from it is another and that’s what makes this so painful. Zimmerman’s gun was given an opening bid price of $100,000 for auction and he has vowed to use a portion of the profits to fight the “Black Lives Matter” movement. That would be like Emmitt Till’s killers announcing they’d use their $4,000 to fight the school desegregation movement. This makes Zimmerman, in some ways, even more brazen than Till’s killers. Zimmerman’s confidence, no doubt, is fueled by the knowledge that his gun will sell in Trump’s America. Zimmerman, in 2016, is living in an America that assures him there is still profit to be made from ending the life of a black child. That should scare us.
This whole ordeal should frighten us and it’s obviously maddening. Now the real question is, what will we do about it? Sixty years ago Till’s killers were rewarded for their heinous act and today it is George Zimmerman. We cannot stop Zimmerman from selling his gun but what will we do to ensure that in 2076 this cycle isn’t still in existence? Are we angry enough to do something different? To simply be angry, post articles and tweet outrage will change nothing. Building up economic and political power will. If we say we are angry because of Zimmerman’s antics, let that anger move us to collectively vote our interests and select new prosecutors. If we are angry at the lack of strength and sense of helplessness black communities exist in (as amplified by the Zimmerman case), let that anger drive us to find at least one new product or service a month we can begin securing from a black-owned business. These are the types of actions that will build power and ultimately put an end to the George Zimmerman’s of the world–not more conversation or tweeted articles.