Protesters gather July 13, 2013, for rally in Los Angeles' Leimert Park area after announcement of George Zimmerman "not guilty" verdict. (photo by Jason Redmond/REUTERS)
Many eyes blinked dumbly, like those of someone realizing they have just been stabbed, and people’s heads shook in slow disbelief when the announcement came Saturday night, July 13, 2013, that George Zimmerman, the man who admittedly killed Trayvon Martin, had been found “not guilty” of murder.
It remains a difficult conclusion to process––and likely shall remain so for years to come––because certain definitive facts of the case were never disputed. And those, namely actions initiated by Mr. Zimmerman, are what led to the 17-year-old Martin’s death.
Once the presiding judge ruled to allow manslaughter as an optional verdict in place of second degree murder, it seemed almost a given that manslaughter was the very least on which the jury would decide.
Appearing on television Journalist Bob Schieffer’s Face the Nation program July 14, author Michael Eric Dyson and NAACP President Benjamin Todd Jealous both noted that despite attempts to minimize racial aspects of the case, race was clearly a factor. No one could really dispute that Zimmerman had apparently come armed, loaded, and prepared for the purpose of shooting something or someone. They could not dispute that against instructions not to do so, he had left a vehicle where he was perfectly safe and created a situation that quickly turned deadly. Although the term “racial profiling” was banned from use in the courtroom, no one could seriously dispute that Zimmerman’s sole reason for approaching the teenager was because he was black and male.
Justice and Fear
Television analysts of the case have said the jury’s decision likely hinged on the assessment that Zimmerman feared for his life at the moment he pulled the trigger and that specific moment of fear legally justified his use of lethal force. Why did no one think it likely that Trayvon Martin had started to fear for his life the moment Zimmerman started stalking him without reason?
Despite the noted racial disparities in the community of Sanford, Florida, prior to Martin’s death, many believed this actual case would have a very different outcome and prove a redeeming one for America itself. As such, the belief––or perhaps hope––was that it would prove the country had moved beyond the kind of blatant displays of racism that made the first half of the 20th century look like a campaign of genocide against African-American men.
It appeared all but certain that a jury would return with a verdict demonstrating a clear condemnation of the murder of the young black teenager and that such a denunciation would serve as an announcement of something like this: See, this is who we are now in 2013, a nation of people who refuse to continue treating segments of our population like expendable practice targets. Instead, the verdict of “not guilty” coming from a jury of five white women and one Latina, communicates that America is far from the post-racial nation that so many would like to see it become.
Protests against the verdict––in New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles, and elsewhere–– so far have been largely peaceful. That means Americans in general are insisting on showing respect for the country’s judicial system. The big question, however, is how can anyone expect those whom the system consistently fails and frequently destroys to continue defending it? Without changes in the mindset of those who maintain this amorphously operated system, why would they?
co-author of Elemental The Power of Illuminated Love
and Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance
Causes Aberjhani * Supports
I make contributions to a number of charities through my lenses on Squidoo but the following are a few that interest me the most: