The recent acquittal of George Zimmerman has become another disappointing, yet pivotal moment in America’s long and troubled racial history. This moment marks a new dawn for civil rights in the country as groups such as Florida’s Dream Defenders move to transmute national outrage into long overdue action on issues which have plagued black communities, but have been nary a blip on the media’s collective radar. However, as America is finally aroused to the plight of many of it’s own citizens highlighted by the bigotry clearly on display in Sanford, Florida; the American people remain in a state of slumber to the same bigotry being enacted abroad by it’s own elected government.
It’s been over a year since the New York Times published a detailed article on the Obama administration’s use of secret “kill lists” and the foreign policy equivalent of Zimmerman’s brand of vigilante “justice”; the signature strike. “Signature strike” is the term the CIA uses for the remote assassination of unknown individuals who fit a classified “pattern of life” that supposedly indicates terrorist activity. This “pattern of life” analysis used to direct these mass killings is virtually unknown to the public. Furthermore, the Obama administration’s legal justification is similarly evasive and has drawn critical attention from legal experts and prominent human rights organizations.
From what limited information the public has on this policy, it appears that the president and the CIA are targeting unknown, supposedly “suspicious”, darker skinned individuals in the world’s “bad neighborhoods” such as Yemen and Pakistan. Replace “hoodie” with “keffiyeh” and George Zimmerman with a predator drone, and you have a similarly nauseating mix of bigotry, ignorance, and paranoia inspired violence, that African Americans have been forced to endure since before America was a concept. The parallels are more than simply symbolic however.
The manifold indignities and horrors heaped upon black communities by a pointless “war on drugs”, are the domestic equivalent of the “war on terror” that America has exported to Muslims throughout the world. Both are wars on vague concepts that have no conceivable means of victory, fueled by propaganda that implicitly assumes that millions are merely potential “criminals” or “terrorists”. Incidents like Trayvon’s death and the killing of 16 year old Abdulrahman al-Awlaki by American drone strike are not isolated incidents, but rather the inevitable result of a militarized culture that allows free reign to for-profit prisons and secret death squads.
So far the United States has done a poor job of addressing these violent failings. While Trayvon’s untimely death holds the potential to galvanize Americans into finally addressing the hereto unmentionable nature of it’s continuing racial inequality, there is far less hope that Americans will act to correct the symmetric evil embedded in their foreign affairs. The treatment of Trayvon is instantly recognizable by many Americans, whereas the experience of a foreign government incinerating entire neighborhoods to get to a person they do not like, is not. Whether Americans can successfully challenge the racist and violent minds which dominate their increasingly unified political parties is an open question, but it doubtful that the answer is one that people from Afghanistan to Yemen would care to wait for.