I Want Justice, But Not Vigilante Justice

by Luvvie Ajayi

Photo via PolicyMic.com

I want justice for Trayvon Martin.

I am PISSED at the fact that while he lays six feet under, his killer sleeps in a bed of his choosing every night. I am sick imagining the pain his mother and father must feel right now. And I am livid that this young boy went for candy and came back dead.

What’s amazing is that George Zimmerman is still a free man, and hasn’t worn steel bangles yet. It’s been weeks since he took the life of a young boy whose only weapon was skittles and an iced tea. No sugar-coating this matter here, but Trayvon died because he was young, black and profiled. I demand that he doesn’t die for naught. I want justice.

But, I don’t want vigilante justice. There’s a Black Militia group saying they want to arrest Zimmerman themselves, and many people have hinted at the fact that he should be gunned down in public. Our rage is justified, but neither of these outcomes would helpful in addressing the underlying issue at hand or fixing the problem.

The reason we’re here is that Trayvon was executed by a vigilante. A paranoid private citizen who deemed it his responsibility to patrol a gated community pointlessly ended the young boy’s life. The crime was committed, and Zimmerman’s freedom is entirely the fault of the Sanford police department and the system. The fact that Zimmerman was allowed to walk away from the boy he shot, because he claimed self-defense and the only eye witness lay dead on the ground is ridiculous. He took the law into his own hands, and, although it may make some feel better, it will really help no one if someone does the exact same thing and ends his life before he sees a day behind bars.

Although the events that occurred that February night are tragic, Zimmerman and Martin stand as larger representations of a greater problem. They are symbols of a deeply unjust system that permits a strong message to be sent perpetually: black lives aren’t worth a golden bullet. It is that system that needs to handle Zimmerman, not us.

Therefore, I think it’s important for that system to deal with George Zimmerman, otherwise, it removes the pressure off of the police to address how terribly mishandled this case has been. Vigilante justice would be their get out of jail free card.

Trayvon’s death cannot be in vain. The system needs to also be put on trial, so that the failure of the “Stand Your Ground” law, as well as the Sanford PD, can be seen in its raw form. I want the world to be able to shake its head at a country that prides itself on being a leader, while constantly devaluing the lives of its citizens. The self-righteous pedestal the United States stands on is becoming shakier, as more Amadou Diallos, Sean Bells, and Trayvon Martins are lynched, without real consequences for their murderers.

America is constantly telling black people how many damns it doesn’t give about black lives and it is angering. I don’t want vigilante justice to take the life of Trayvon’s murderer because it’ll only distract from the real victim here: the black boy who lost his life simply because of the skin he was in. Bailing out the police and allowing a vigilante to take out Zimmerman will let the system that permitted this atrocity to happen off the hook. Let them face this. I want justice for Trayvon, not his murderer’s blood on our hands.

  • QCastle

    Listen to that boy scream for his life. At this point I dont care who kills his murderer.

  • Isis

    I want The same he gave to Trayvon. Jail is Too good for an animal that hunts a child down And kills him

  • http://pervertedalchemist.blogspot.com Perverted Alchemist

    The whole “eye for an eye” thing has never worked in terms of vigilante justice. If anything, all it did was made things much more problematic for all parties involved.

  • Sasha

    Completely agree with this post! One sentence stuck out to me: “America is constantly telling black people how many damns it doesn’t give about black lives and it is angering”. It seems as if African Americans have internalized this message.

    On a slightly unrelated note, Trayvon’s story made the cover of the express newspaper here in DC, I am very happy this case is finally getting the exposure it deserves.

  • Gavee

    Anyone who knows about Sanford, FL knows that this type of thing has been happening since forever. Those folk that live there are sooo happy that it is FINALLY being brought to the national arena. Maybe now they can revamp the entire system that is in place now. Sanford is a throwback to the 40′s-60′s America where people of color are concerned. I thank GOD that Trayvon will not have died in vain.

    So in reference to the vigilante justice, I know it wouldn’t be right but knowing the history, I would understand.

  • Sepiastar

    I know the mentality appears immature but I agree, I would not lose a “wink” of sleep if someone killed him today! This is an ongoing tragedy and the real problem is we are outraged but never take any drastic actions (that’s why it happens to our young men continuously). Someone suggested boycotting Orlando, why NOT? If the vigilante group wants to perform a citizens arrest, why NOT? The marching, crying, pleading, and expecting the justice system to once see the event from our perspective hasn’t produced any notable results. Why are we afraid to let everyone know that we value our lives and the lives of our children and if you think you’re justified to attempt or cause our demise, then suffer the consequences of your actions. It’s amazing, why don’t we EVER read about the repetitive, senseless killings of young white males by the cops, or better yet neighborhood vigilantes. Because, those suburban white soccer moms would eat the system alive!!! Why are we so accommodating??

  • jamesfrmphilly

    a black person killing this nut is the best thing that can happen

  • Dalili

    I agree. Vigilante justice would give fringe lunatics a reason to emerge and begin a cycle of vengeance. Besides both Zimmerman and the those involved in the investigation have to be held accountable.

  • Bee

    Okay, seriously, fix the comment system, Clutch. Hopefully, this repost of my comment goes through (and doesn’t show up a gazillion times – if it does, then I apologize):

    I don’t agree with the premise of this post. The way this country treats is far more than just angering. It’s rage-inducing. I second QCastle, Sepiastar and Jamesfrmphilly. Listen to the tape. For too long, this country has made us feel like there’s something wrong with us fighting back. I’ll just parrot Malcolm X: by any means necessary.

  • luverly

    The author seems a bit self-righteous and naive to the REALITY Of what is going on here.

  • blazian

    Either way, Zimmerman won’t survive for too much longer. If the system fails Tray and Zimmerman remains on the streets, someone will take care of him. If the system works and Zimmerman goes to prison, someone will take care of him in there, too. Zimmerman signed his own death warrant the minute he pulled that trigger and murdered Tray.

  • cupcakes and shiraz

    I agree- Zimmerman shouldn’t die. Death is too easy for him. He should live and suffer with the consequences of his actions.

  • apple

    Lessons not learned in blood are soon forgotten. When you be nice white people continue to walk over you, or these things keep happening because people see no consequences for their actions. So I hope he is murdered in cold blood. I never felt this until now. So if he is killed , I hope it’s the most vile painful way ever. I hope he suffers and I don’t give a sh*t cause obviously he didn’t

  • Lady P

    I tried my best to only scrape the surface of the tragedy (lynching) of Trayvon. I knew the more I read and heard of the inconsistencies of this case, the more I would exist in a state of affliction. The more I hear of this case, the angrier I become. As far as I can remember, even if I didn’t listen to the news, the news would find me. People would call to ask if I heard about yet another black man being slain. From W.E.B Dubois’ lobbying against lynching in the late 1800’s to Emmett Till’s death followed by several others over the years until now, I always understood that the plight of the black man is inevitable. The game changer of it all is when you birth your own son.

    My life has gone from “Lord bring my child home” to “Lord, is this my last time seeing my ONLY child?” In 1997, when Abner Louima was brutalized, I received a phone call. Every since that tormenting day, I knew then there is a possibility that my son could still be murdered, terrorized, or brutalized through pure bigotry by ANYONE. Hearing of a crime so hideous, a sense of d*mn comes over your spirit. The brutalization of Abner Louima was an awakening for me that I had to teach my son early on that racism, hate crimes, and ignorance still exist. Over the years, in order to provide a happy-go-lucky lifestyle and a quality education, we always lived in low-crime friendly neighborhoods. This provided some peace that your child is safe or it USE to.

    This is where the Trayvon’s lynching is bringing about an emotional rollercoaster ride within my soul. Since this has taken place, I listen to the birds chirping in the morning. It is the sign of life to me with an instant “short-lived” gratification of peace. Black Americans regardless of our income, where we live, or who we are just do not know what we will face by the end of the day. I am not wishing harm on any of our black young men. They are all our sons. None of their killings are justifiable. When living in a bad neighborhood (stray bullet), walking though gang territory (crazy gang initiation), or PERHAPS looking suspect (maybe self-protection); there is a possibility that your child’s life may be at risk. Truth of matter is being a black man (young or old) in America; your life is still at risk. This is the acknowledgment in which Trayvon’s death has brought back to us.

    Trayvon cannot lay six-feet under in vain. Why? In 2012 (after all of these wrongful deaths) it is still abundantly clear that it doesn’t matter how innocent our children are, educated, well-mannered, dress, speak, plead, where they come from, run, walk , say “Hi”, bye, Sir, ma’am; they are still hunted down like a deer. A part of me is in agreement with the Black Militia group. It is to the point that we have to fight fire with fire. I want justice for Trayvon and all our sons, so whatever it takes to turn these laws around, I want that. If we don’t fight back in some way or another, we (ourselves) are sending a message that you have a right to kill our children because he is black and YES he is a threat to society because YOU think so. I’m angry and I do want justice to prevail by any means. At this point, really? What else can we do? I know this is out of frustration, but I want some array of light that our children have more of a chance of making home in the future verses now as well a chance at fair justice.

    I don’t know if anyone will read this, but it has helped my headache to share my emotions. ~ Thank you Clutch Magazine!

  • TheBestAnonEver, Part 2

    Actually, he didn’t sign his death warrant on that day. If not for Trayvon’s family and the lawyer, Crumb, Zimmerman would be a free man without anybody knowing about it. Another black man was shot in the back a few years ago and the men responsible were not arrested based on the same law Zimmerman is currently using as cover.

  • Bee

    Your second sentence is spot on. I agree with you. As QCastle said, listen to that boy hollering for his life on that tape. No mercy should be shown Zimmerman. (I tried to post another comment and it didn’t go through, as it seems none of my comments go through on this site, so hopefully this one goes through).

  • http://afrikanmami.blogspot.com African Mami

    I want him TORTURED!!!!!! I don’t care about the intellectual aspect of this murder. He should be put in torture chambers….will it bring back Trayvon, absolutely not, but he sho will feel PAIN!

  • Tiffy

    I see what the author is saying but he needs to be brutally gunned down maybe once we start fighting things will be changed

  • RachPar

    “The author seems a bit self-righteous and naive to the REALITY Of what is going on here.”

    What exactly are you talking about? In what way?

  • Whatever

    If I was his mother and Zimmerman wasn’t sent to prison I’d be sure he got one in the chest.

  • NNaattaayy

    You heard the tape too? Its sickening, Oh my dear Lord. It was like a nightmare, he was running for his life screaming “Somebody please help me!” and that monster chased him and shot him. Its so sickening! This family needs justice, either the police arrest Zimmerman and throw him in prison for life or someone else shoot him, because him walking around free is unacceptable.

  • http://afrikanmami.blogspot.com African Mami

    I’ve read and slow clapped. I hear you…but do they hear you is the real question.

  • All Black Men

    I am gonna go there with it. But quite honestly I am a bit exhausted with mourning parents of victimized black children. My deepest and sincerest condolences truly go out to Treyvon Martin’s parents but as a father of a black child, had someone taken my child’s life under this circumstance, the only emotion I would be able to show anyone not from the community or related to me would be absolute disdain and supreme vengeance for the perpetrator. Not until other people understand that the consequence for these types of transgressions against the black community will be met with immediate commensurate consequences will people give second thought to committing these types of actions.

    Too many black folks are passive and scared to pay for their freedom and security with their lives. Once people understand that we (black men) will not hesitate to pay for our freedom and our wive’s and children’s security with our lives then this type of thing will continue to happen. I am a reasonable, professional, well-educated, and conscious black man who will have compunction about removing someone from this earth who harms my wife or lays hands on her. To hell with this nonsense brand of “justice” which has to be purchased at a rate of $200 – $1000+ atty’s fees, etc… True justice is not a commodity. Any system that treats it as such is not a just system.

    It just unnerves the hell out of me looking at that fat, “wanna-be-cop”, COWARD having murdered an innocent child and and being allowed to walk free without so much as a charge even being dispensed.

    How many black children will have to die under these types of circumstances before we truly get fed up and take a position of “zero tolerance”?

  • All Black Men

    In reading this article I have to express that the author has little to no understanding of the power dynamics in play with racism and classism. To beg and plead for justice from a system that for over 300 yrs. has demonstrated that it has none is outright… less than intelligent. Your perspective is one of a “house negro” who doesn’t want to upset the status quo either out of your own benefit from the status quo or because you are too scared of the consequences of defending your security and freedom with your life.

    Perhaps you should sit in the black seat or go to the back of the bus as an on-looker while those among use attempt to establish a freedom and security that you are either to disillusioned or too cowardly to created for yourself.

    Those who habour racist mindset are simplistic and child-like in their worldview and behaviors. These individuals happen to be some of the judges, attys, police, and jurors from whom you would seek justice. They see no power in compromise, negotiation, or in being just. They do however understand reprisal as well as immediate and direct consequences which is how you rear a child. You don’t negotiate or compromise with a 5 yr. old do? That would be pretty ineffective as it has proven to be 300+ yrs. and counting.

    “… once you know their language (brute force) learn how to speak their language and then they’ll get the the message and some understand can be established…” Malcolm X

  • Travis
  • Travis

    Agree 100%

  • Bee

    I hear you, and I feel your pain. The fact that some of us can take the self-righteous “this doesn’t justify violence” approach in the face of such a horrifically violent racist murder frightens me. We are simply too complacent as a people. And, as African Mami said, the question is, do they/others hear you?

  • Bee

    100% agree with every word you said, and would only make one change: “Once people understand that we (black men AND WOMEN) will not hesitate to pay for our freedom and our LOVED ONES and children’s security with our lives then this type of thing will continue to happen.” Arguments such as yours fail when you make it into a masculine stance. Just saying. But I agree with your sentiment completely!

  • fancypants

    Think of the civil rights movement. Militant groups such as the Black Panthers did not affect real change. It wasn’t until others used the rights afforded them as citizens that the laws changed and heinous crimes finally started to be prosecuted. Their affect was widespead, even effecting us today. Likewise killing Zimmerman will do nothing to fix the problem; it will only “fix” this one incident. We must fight for the system to change so that other children won’t have to suffer Trayvon’s fate.

  • Travis

    Your perspective flawed at best. You have no understanding of the civil rights movement. If you did you would understand that the civil rights movement was nothing more than a sellout of the Black Power movement, resulting in more empty laws and bogus community leaders like Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, etc. If this civil rights movement was so effective why do African-Americans control less of their political, economic, and cultural environments? Blacks own fewer businesses than before the civil rights movement and endure a chronically higher and increasing unemployment rate as well. Why are more black men incarcerated now than in any other time in US history. Pardon me for saying but your perspective is just down right ignorant of the facts.

    You can keep your civil rights movement, your mainstream appointed black community leaders, and your pseudo black president. You “house negroes” be killin’ me. Really?!?!?

  • Srenda

    Do you know how many people would love it if black people would choose more “vigilante justice” so that white folks could throw you in jail and throw out the key? How good would you be to your spouses and kids then while you’re playing dominoes or spades in your little cell with another hero? Anybody see Boyz in the Hood? Payback’s a bitch. Unless you are ready to give up all of your comforts, your family, your freedom, check yourselves. You want to put fear into the hearts of white people or people who target black men? Here’s a newsflash: Most white people are already scared of us that’s why things like this happen. They’re paranoid and trigger happy, ready to kill you or lock you up for nothing if they could. Take your pick.

  • Bee

    I can’t believe you just dissed and dismissed the Black Panthers, as if they were meaningless. Yes, the nonviolent protest and movements were important and helped bring about some progress. But the Black Panthers were futile? Really? If they were so useless and futile, tell me, why was the CIA and FBI on their a$$es the whole time? The CIA and FBI does not eff with small time meaningless groups. Please read your history, honey. It saddens me that so many folks these days simply have no clue about their own history.

  • fancypants

    Wow. Okay, first I didn’t dismiss the Black Panthers. They we very valuable to the community. My point was from a systematic perspective. You have to change the system if you want to affect the whole. There are laws that need to be changed. This country needs to self-reflect on how they view and treat Our children. We need to do whatever it takes to make sure there are no more incidents such as this. I’m not proposing we sit back and let the system do its thing; obviously that is not going to happen. We need to FORCE the system to do the right thing by staying on their butts and letting them know we’re not going to let them get away with this. But I believe in being strategic. Beat them at their own game. If that makes me a house n***a then I guess I betta get back to sweeping the porch (while I peek at Massa’s portfolio and figure out how buy his company out from under him)…

  • Heems

    Why aint this COWARD in jail? he’s a MURDER! And a threat to society and he walk free after he killed this innocent boy that’s (INJUSTICE)

  • All Black Men


    I dig where you’re coming from. I’ll be the first to recognize that if not for the black females willing to pay for their freedom and security with their lives (e.g. Harriett Tubman) we would be in a much dire situation that we are… if that’s possible. The reason I explicitly express that black men have to step up in protection of our community is because we have allowed ourselves to become marginalized nearly to the point of insignificance from a social perspective as providers, nurturers, protectors, etc…

    When other groups think to commit these atrocities against the black community, they do so primarily because they recognize the absence of the black male figure in most black homes. Around the world, men assume the primarily responsibility of protecting the home and the community. It is not uncommon in other more traditional or eastern societies for invading forces to rape entire communities of women in the absence of their male protectors. This is not to say that a black female should not be prepared to defend her family or her man with her life. I am however saying that in a patriarchal society, a female assuming the role of protector is a open invitation to challenge by anyone regardless of race. A few years ago a black female was beat down at a Cracker Barrel restaurant by a white male in front of her children. I dare say that if she had an able bodied black man by her side, her aggressor would have given that attack much more consideration. If you’re a reasonable female you’ll have to agree.

    Again I am not saying that black women at times might be required to fight side by side with black men in securing our freedom and protecting our homes and communities but I think that it may be a fallacy in perspective to assume that black women are as equally equipped to physically secure their safety as a healthy, able-bodied, male.

    If there is some aspect of my reason which is flawed please feel free to point it out. However I do think we are of one accord.

  • All Black Men


    You sound a bit confused. You state that “… I didn’t dismiss the Black Panthers…” however in your previous comment you state “… Militant groups such as the Black Panthers did not affect real change.”

    “… while I peek at Massa’s portfolio and figure out how buy his company out from under him…”

    Sorry but your perspective is just plain SIMPLE. Everybody knows the game it’s call capitalism and imperialism and the only person it seems to be a secret to is you. Would you like for me to save you the time in researching to tell you how the game is played? Maybe I should start with the IMF (International Monetary Fund)… or perhaps I should start with organized western religion.

  • All Black Men



    Sorry but I gotta say you sound like one scary negro… too scared to affect any real change. And while you’re making news flashes, I got a news flash for you. They’re already f#$%ing locking us up and throwing away the key. Have you been in a coma over the last three decades. Nearly 1 MILLION black men (approx. 875,000) are incarcerated at this time primarily for non-violent offenses. Within this decade that number is predicted to reach 1 MILLION.

    Question, where did I say anything about going to jail??? To allow myself to be judged by an unjust system that supports and enforces my (black male) persecution would be insane and cowardly. Please!!! All I can say to you is that I am prepared to maintain for my physical freedom with my life… I hope anyone who attempts to relinquish my freedom and security for an unjustified reason be prepared to do so at the expense of their lives because it’s probably going to cost that. This is how history is written and unfolds. You should try reading more, particularly about history.

    Regarding my spouse and children’s safety and security… in traditional societies, other male members of the family and community stepped up to take care of and look after the safety and security of them. I can only assume that my family and friends would fulfill that responsibility. Combined with financial planning, my spouse and children will probably be in a better position even in my absence than most black women who have never had the benefit of having a responsible and caring black man in their lives such as myself.

    You don’t understand that we’re at war right now.
    - 72% of all African-American children are born out of wed-lock (e.g. in poverty, without the benefit of father figures, predisposed to an environment that encourages criminality, etc…)
    - Nearly 1 MILLION black men incarcerated and the number continues to increase without challenge without any effort at REAL rehabilitation in this society.
    - 50+% under/unemployment rate among black males in the US.

    You’ve got to be either blind or a fool to not recognize what’s going on. Maybe you’re just young and naive. Whatever the reason for your perspective, you are ill-equipped in your current state of mind to change anything.

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