“I cannot believe this is the America I live in right now,” tweeted Fruitvale Station star Michael B. Jordan in reaction to George Zimmerman’s acquittal in his second degree murder trial for the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. (The tweet sent from his @michaelb4jordan account on July 14 has since been deleted.)
Zimmerman was found not guilty on all charges, including the lesser charge of manslaughter, which was introduced late in the proceedings, at 10 p.m. on Saturday. Zimmerman has maintained that Martin attacked him, and that he acted in self-defense. That altercation in Sanford, Florida on February 26, 2012 led to a fatal shooting Zimmerman’s defense team argued was not enacted out of malevolence.
Jordan’s deeply visceral reaction to the not guilty verdict might have been spawned by the character he portrays in the film Fruitvale Station, which has garnered considerable buzz.
In this film, set for immanent release nationwide, the final moments in the life of Oscar Grant are portrayed before Grant was killed by a Bay Area Rapid Transit police officer while riding the subway.
The officer who fired the fatal shot later received a limited sentence of one year, sparking outrage because Grant was subdued and lying on his abdomen when the officer fired his weapon in his back. Additionally, Grant, like Martin, was not engaged in a crime.
The parallels between these two cases has been brought up by many people as Fruitvale Station has opened in a limited release this weekend.
“[T]his might be in bad taste but in light of this verdict?,” The Roots band member Questlove tweeted, “i really INSIST you people see Fruitvale Station not now but RIGHT NOW[.]“
this might be in bad taste but in light of this verdict? i really INSIST you people see Fruitvale Station not now but RIGHT NOW
— Questlove Jenkins (@questlove) July 14, 2013
Jordan was so moved by Zimmerman’s acquittal, he almost cancelled an appearance related to a Fruitvale Station screening, and he asked audience members who attended a Q&A after the Los Angeles screening to “keep it away from Trayvon.” Yet, he still managed to share his poignant insights on the verdict.
”My heart hurts so bad right now,” Jordan told the attendees, according to a report by Deadline Hollywood. ”I wasn’t going to come after I found out about George Zimmerman getting acquitted. It broke me up. That’s why I think this film means so much, because it keeps happening again and again. [We must] learn how to treat each other better and stop judging one another just because we’re different. It’s not just a black and white thing, it’s a people thing. It’s the only way that things are going to take the necessary steps to move in the right direction so things can get better because I don’t think it’s ever gonna stop, but something’s gotta f**king change.”
Although Zimmerman has been proven innocent by a court of law, many view his acquittal as an indication that justice cannot be served for a young, African-American man who is also innocent, but through being in the wrong place at the wrong time, loses his life.
For those who see their stories as mirror reflections, the concurrence of Zimmerman’s “not guilty” verdict with the opening of Fruitvale Station is an indication that, from Oscar Grant to Trayvon Martin, American society is still unevolved when it comes to valuing black men.
“Trayvon Martin is part of a Young Black Male Holocaust, one which includes Emmett Till, Oscar Grant, Bobby Hutton, James Cowlings,” tweeted one user, illustrating this belief.
Trayvon Martin is part of a Young Black Male Holocaust, one which includes Emmett Till, Oscar Grant, Bobby Hutton, James Cowlings… RIP
— Professor A.L.I. (@aliblacksteven) July 14, 2013
Despite the pain many are enduring as a reaction to a verdict — that for many disembowels faith in the notion blacks are seen in our nation as possessing full humanity — the linking of Grant and Martin brings hope.
“Stop saying the system needs 2 change and JUST CHANGE IT, ppl. YOUR vote matters.Midterm elections! Show up for TrayvonMartin & OscarGrant,” tweeted Academy Award winning actress Octavia Spencer, who plays the mother of Oscar Grant in Fruitvale Station.
Stop saying the system needs 2 change and JUST CHANGE IT, ppl. YOUR vote matters.Midterm elections! Show up for TrayvonMartin & OscarGrant
— octavia spencer (@octaviaspencer) July 14, 2013
Follow Alexis Garrett Stodghill on Twitter @lexisb.
This post has been updated.