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EDITORIAL: The Trayvon Martin Verdict

7/17/2013, 3 p.m.
Trayvon Martin

For black people who have been stung again and again by an often arbitrary and capricious criminal justice system, the verdict brought back by an all-female jury which freed George Zimmerman is no surprise.

Reaction has been one of shock, anger and resignation. But this verdict, coupled with recent Supreme Court decisions and other events adversely affecting black people lays to rest the fallacy of a post-racial America.

Zimmerman’s trial dredged up the issues of race, gun laws, racial profiling, and vigilantism and prompted intense debate all across this country. Blacks and well-meaning individuals had hoped that the courts would give 17-year-old Trayvon a measure of justice by finding 29-year-old Zimmerman guilty, but the jury of six women acquitted him of all charges.

Adding insult to injury has been the ill-advised and unsympathetic comments from Zimmerman’s lawyers, his brother and some commentators.

Throughout the 44-day trial and in the days since Saturday’s verdict, the mainstream media has taken great pains to try to convince us that race played no role in the trial. But those of us who wake up every morning and see a black face in the mirror know that is a falsehood. Race has infused every nook and cranny of the trial, deliberations, and the verdict. Trayvon Martin’s color is what led George Zimmerman to leave his vehicle, pursue the young man, confront him and murder him.

A black child is dead because someone deemed him a threat and every black parents’ nightmare is being replayed following the verdict much the same way it did when details of Trayvon’s murder first emerged. What is most galling is the way in which Zimmerman’s defense lawyers sullied the name and memory of a young man who had the reasonable expectation that he could walk to a grocery store, buy an ice tea and Skittles and return to the safety of his home without being targeted and killed. What is also offensive is the absurd notion that Zimmerman had the right to stalk Trayvon, provoke a confrontation and then argue that he feared for his life and killed in self-defense.

If Zimmerman had heeded the warning of the dispatcher, Trayvon would be alive today. Nothing we do or say will bring him back, but it is past time for those who desire to see a more just and equitable America to roll up our sleeves and begin the hard work necessary to transform a broken and damaged society.