Only a complete system revamp can prevent Zimmerman case from happening again
RT: How do you feel about this ruling, Mr. Comissiong?
Salomon Comissiong: I feel the same way as so many people of color in this country feel about this ruling. It’s a complete injustice, but to put things into perspective, it is business as usual in the US. People of color had routinely been at the losing end of the stick when it comes to police brutality, when it comes to whether it’s vigilantes, neighborhood watchmen perpetrating the crimes and killing black youth, black men, black women. Routinely, time and time again the murderers are let go, or at the very most they are given some kind of slap on the wrist. When we saw Johannes Mehserle, the police officer that shot Oscar Grant in Oakland, California in the back, he did a little more than a year for killing this young black man in cold blood, and it was caught on camera. I am completely outraged but frankly not too surprised, given the complexity of the racial essence in America and the fabric in this society that is wheeled with institutional racism.
RT: How do you think the system needs to be changed if that’s the case?
SC: It can’t be, because not all police officers, not all your neighborhood watchmen are bad. But that’s not the case. If it was just a few bad police officers, a few watchmen. If that was the case, it would be easy to try to rule out and remove these folks from their jurisdictions. But it is a systematic problem, it is an issue. In order for this to change, the entire system has to be de-constructed in order to be reconstructed. There have to be complete responsibilities given to communities, especially to communities with color, to have oversight when it comes to whether it’s neighborhood watch or police in general.
RT: Is this the case about racial tensions within the country or is this more about gun control debate? Or is it both?
SC: It’s unequivocally a case that has to do with racial tensions. But more deeply it’s a case of institutional racism. It’s the case of black people routinely being targeted by the police, by vigilantes. I want to point out, because that’s what the media ignored last year. The Malcom X Grassroots Movement put out an extensive report that showed that last year in 2012 at the very least 313 black people were killed in the United States by the police, by neighborhood watchmen, by vigilantes or so-called security guards. That’s one every 28 hours. That was ignored. The vast majority of those people were unarmed. This is an epidemic, this is nothing new. This is an epidemic and that’s why anything less than a complete revamping of the system, anything less than a complete attention placed on these kinds of injustices, this is nothing short than an injustice itself.
RT: Will the public anger subside after a while or will there be far more repercussions following the verdict of this trial?
SC: I am hoping it doesn’t subside. Recent history tells us that, unfortunately, because of the bells and whistles and distractions that continue to occupy the minds of so many different Americans. The folks hit their apex just when the Travon Martin murder itself came to light, by the way of black activists and black journalists bringing it to light and forcing the so called corporate media to pay attention. People reached their apex and then it kind of dropped. I am hoping this time that folks keep remaining vigilant and consistent about this because of consistency is the only thing is going to give us a chance to change the system. It only takes a consistent critical mass. Only 1 percent of the US population that was actively involved in the civil rights era and we see what kind of impact that made. A critical mass that is consistent about this day and day out, week and week out, month and month out can have positive ramifications and change the system to be something that is actually humane and just.