Saturday, July 13, 2013

Quote of the Day

"They always get away." These were the words George Zimmerman uttered as he followed and later shot Trayvon Martin – words that reflected his belief that Trayvon was one of "them," the kind of person about to get away with something. How ironic these words sound now in light of the jury verdict acquitting Zimmerman.

Trayvon is dead, and Zimmerman is free.

Can we respect the jury verdict and still conclude that Zimmerman got away with killing Trayvon? I think so, even if we buy Zimmerman's story that Trayvon attacked him at some point. After all, who was responsible for initiating the tragic chain of events? Who was following whom? Who was carrying a gun? Who ignored the police urging that he stay in his car? Who thought that the other was one of 'them,' someone about to get a away with something?

The jury has spoken, and we can respect its conclusion that the state did not prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. But we cannot fail to speak out about the tragedy that occurred in Sanford, Florida, on the night of February 26, 2012.

Was race at the heart of it?

Ask yourself this question: If Zimmerman had seen a white youth walking in the rain that evening, would he have seen him as one of 'them,' someone about to get away with something?

We'll never really know, of course. But we can seriously doubt it without assuming that Zimmerman is a racist in the conventional sense of the word.

Racial bias reverberates in our society like the primordial Big Bang. Some years ago, Rev. Jesse Jackson made the point in a dramatic way when he acknowledged that he feels a sense of relief when the footsteps he hears behind him in the dead of night turn out to belong to white feet. Social scientists who study our hidden biases make the same point in a more sober way with statistics that demonstrate that we are more likely to associate black people with negative words and imagery than we are white people. It's an association that devalues the humanity of black people – particularly black youth like Trayvon Martin.

George Zimmerman probably saw race the night of February 26, 2012, like too many others would have. Had he not, Trayvon probably would be alive today.

The jury has spoken. Now, we must speak out against the systemic racism that still infects our society and distorts our perception of the world. And we must do something about it.

– Richard Cohen
Press Statement from the Southern Poverty Law Center
in Response to Verdict in State of Florida v. George Zimmerman
July 13, 2013

Related Off-site Links and Updates:
George Zimmerman is Acquitted in Trayvon Martin Killing – Lizette Alvarez and Cara Buckley (New York Times, July 13, 2013).
Trayvon's Dad: My Heart is Broken, My Faith is Not – Steve Almasy (CNN, July 14, 2013).
Zimmerman Verdict is a Clarion Call for the Nation to Grapple with Racial Injustice – Judith Browne Dianis (The Huffington Post, July 13, 2013).
Departnent of Justice Urged to Press Civil Rights Charges Against Zimmerman – Dylan Stableford (Yahoo! News, July 14, 2013).
'Stand Your Ground' Did Not Work for Black Florida Mom: Marissa Alexander is Serving a 20 Year Prison (July 7, 2013).
How the NRA and Its Allies Helped Spread a Radical Gun Law Nationwide – Adam Weinstein (Mother Jones, June 7, 2012).
Trayvon and George: Subjects, Objects, and Life Goes On – William D. Lindsey (Bilgrimage, July 14, 2013).
White Supremacy Acquits George Zimmerman – Aura Bogado (The Nation, July 14, 2013).
Six Million Trayvons: How the George Zimmerman Mindset Has Rigged the Justice System Against Young Black Men – Judd Legum (, July 14, 2013).
George Zimmerman to Get His Gun Back – Matt Gutman and Seni Tienabeso (ABC News, July 14, 2013).
Open Season on Black Boys After a Verdict Like This – Gary Younge (The Guardian, July 14, 2013).
George Zimmerman Protesters Take to the Streets With Anger Over Acquittal – Anthony Castellano (ABC News, July 15, 2013).
Trayvon Martin's Legacy – The Editorial Board (New York Times, July 15, 2013).
The Zimmerman Acquittal: America's Racist God – Anthea Butler (Religion Dispatches, July 15, 2013).
The Six Decisions That Could Have Saved Trayvon Martin's Life – Ryan Grim (The Huffington Post, July 15, 2013).
The Whole System Failed Trayvon Martin – Charles M. Blow (New York Times, July 15, 2013).
White Privilege: Innocent; Trayvon Martin: Guilty (Video) – Dennis Trainor (Acronym TV, July 15, 2013).

Take Action! Urge the Department of Justice to File a Civil Rights Case Against George Zimmerman

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