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Reactions to Zimmerman Verdict Indicate Poor State of America Race Relations

Posted by Steve Markowitz on July 15, 2013

Reactions after the “not guilty” verdict for George Zimmerman in the death of Trayvon Martin indicate the great divide that remains in America on the issue of race and race relations.  It would be erroneous to blame the poor state of race relations on the Zimmerman trial.  The anger and distrust that already existed only bubbled to the surface after the verdict.

Given the lack of eyewitnesses and since Trayvon Martin could not testify, no one other than George Zimmerman knows what happened during the altercation that resulted in Martin’s death.  At the same time it is evident that either Zimmerman or Martin could have taken steps to avoid the fight.  Zimmerman could have decided not to follow Martin, as suggested in the 911 call.  Conversely, Martin could have decided not to get involved in a wrestling match with Zimmerman.  This is a case where two testosterone-filled males did not take appropriate action to avoid confrontation.  To claim that there was more involved including racism is not backed by any evidence other than the fact that the person killed had darker skin than the person who pulled the trigger.

Members of the African-American community are outraged by the jury’s decision.  The New York Times published some of those reactions that included:

  • Trayvon Benjamin Martin is dead because he and other black boys and men like him are seen not as a person but a problem.” –  Rev. Dr. Raphael G. Warnock, pastor, Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta.
  • the racism and the injustice that pollute the air in America” and “Lord, I thank you for sending Trayvon to reveal the injustices, God, that live in Sanford.” – Rev. Valarie J. Houston at Allen Chapel AME, Sanford, Florida.
  • I pretty well knew that Mr. Zimmerman was going to be let free, because if justice was blind of colors, why wasn’t there any minorities on the jury?” – Willie Pettus, Richmond, VA.
  • There’s no justice for black people.  Profiling and targeting our black men has not stopped.” – Maxine McCrey at Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York.
  • If the roles were reversed, Trayvon would have been instantly arrested and, by now, convicted.  Those are realities that we have to accept.” – Jeff Fard, community organizer, Denver, CO.
  • I’m heartbroken, but it didn’t surprise me.  The system is screwed.  It’s a racist system, and it’s not designed for African-Americans.” – Velma Henderson, 65, retired state employee, Chicago, IL.

New York Giants star football player, Victor Cruz, took his anger even farther saying: “Zimmerman doesn’t last a year before the hood catches up with him.”  While Cruz has since apologized for the tweet, such pronunciations lead to violence and people getting hurt.

The negative reactions to the verdict from the African-American community are understandable given the lengthy history of discrimination in the Country.  However, it does not make these reactions correct or justified.  More reasonable comments have come from others in the community including the Martin family who bear the real morning for Trayvon.  Milton Felton, a cousin said: “My heart is heavy.  But that’s our justice system.  Let’s be peaceful about it.”

FiascoMore poignant comments came from rapper Lupe Fiasco who tweeted:

Rub your face in it!  Swallow down that hard pill!  Black blood spills in the streets of America nightly at the hands other blacks.

Yeah gimme that anger … once again that rage … that misguided angst when you true enemy is your own complacency and cowardice.

Curse kick scream yell tweet unfollow.  Don’t matter to me if y’all don’t start valuing yourselves N*****S will be in the same boat tomorrow.

Nobody knows what really happened except trayvon and Zimmerman.  The justice system relies on reasonable doubt not our emotions.

Some in the white community have also used the Trayvon Martin tragedy for political gain.  New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said: “Sadly, all the facts in this tragic case will probably never be known.  But one fact has long been crystal clear: ‘Shoot first’ laws like those in Florida can inspire dangerous vigilantism and protect those who act recklessly with guns.”  The so-called “shoot first” law played no part in the jury’s decision to acquit Zimmerman since his defense focused on self-defense.  Once again Bloomberg has not allowed the facts to get in the way of the truth.

Shortly after the verdict, President Obama correctly said “But we are a nation of laws, and a jury has spoken.”  It remains to be seen whether Obama will have the political courage to stand by this most basic tenant of the America’s democratic and legal systems.  Already there are signs the Administration is equivocating.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the US Justice Department is considering whether it will file federal charges against Zimmerman based on civil rights violations, i.e. race.  Such a reaction would be more pandering to a political base that forced a trial of Zimmerman that should not have occurred.  In the initial Zimmerman investigation, Sanford’s police chief, Bill Lee, found that charges against Zimmerman lacked probable cause.  He was later forced to resign over that position.  It was only after Florida’s governor intervened and found a state prosecutor willing to proceed with charges that the case was filed.  That prosecutor did not even allow the case to go before a Florida grand jury for fear that they too would decide not to proceed with prosecution.

America continues to have a severe race relation’s problem.  However, it will not be solved by stereotyping any race, either in the minority or of the majority.

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4 Responses to “Reactions to Zimmerman Verdict Indicate Poor State of America Race Relations”

  1. Jeff Markowitz said

    Well said.

  2. Liz T-D said

    This is one of the most thoughtful and balanced pieces I have read on the verdict and the issue.

  3. smarko1 said

    Thanks Liz for your kind comment.

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