Kentucky Voices

Ky. Voices: Zimmerman verdict angering, predictable

Zimmerman verdict angering, predictable

July 21, 2013 

Annalee Abell of Lexington is a graduate student at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

The Trayvon Martin verdict was unsettling, angering and absolutely predictable.

It is another example of the system failing black America and a reminder that white America determines that failure.

Now to be sure, George Zimmerman is a Hispanic-American, but conducts his daily life through the lens of a white American and suffers from the "white advantage" that judges black citizens immediately based on appearances and images projected through the media.

Though both sides continually argued that this case was never about race, the unfortunate truth is that every aspect of the interaction between George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin was tainted with racial stereotypes and preconceived notions.

It was race that drove Zimmerman to follow Martin in Sanford, Fla. Stereotyping Martin as a threat because he was black and wearing a hoodie led to an altercation that ultimately resulted in Martin's death.

And we must ask ourselves as a country, would Zimmerman have followed Martin if he had been white?

What Zimmerman, the defense and the prosecution failed to identify during the trial is that Zimmerman's profiling of Martin is subconscious racism, something imagined by Zimmerman and part of the advantage that citizens with lighter skin enjoy. Zimmerman also has a history of reporting black citizens in the community that he was assigned to as a watchman.

So where do we go from here as a country? How do we change the American psyche?

Martin has identified and reminded the nation that it is not only the laws that suppress black Americans, but the subconscious mentality of white America as well. It is this mentality that perpetuates the idea that black life is worthless and, at best, dangerous. Our nation's history is tainted with familiar names such as Emmett Till, Medgar Evers and so many others who died either fighting for their basic American citizen rights or living out their daily lifestyle. Martin's name will now join that extended and ongoing list of racial injustice that persists in our country.

Zimmerman's acquittal also contradicts the belief that we have moved into a post-racial and colorblind society as a country with the election of Barack Obama, our nation's first black president.

Instead, a jury found that Trayvon Martin's life was not important enough to convict a killer who openly acknowledged that he shot the teen. Zimmerman is free to kill again while Marissa Alexander, another black Florida resident, was sentenced to 20 years in prison after firing a warning shot to her allegedly abusive husband because she was concerned for her safety.

Both cases further suggest that the justice system does not value black life, and they make a mockery of the hypocritical "stand your ground" gun laws in Florida.

Zimmerman may not be guilty in the eyes of the law, but with an all-female, almost all-white jury, the defense was able to sketch Martin as violent and out for trouble. This is a lens through which the white female jurors would probably have viewed Martin as well.

Juror B37 has already said that she agreed with Zimmerman's judgment and would have also disregarded police orders and followed Martin. B37 also declared that she believed that Martin's death was his own fault. Martin was exactly where he was supposed to be and carrying nothing more than a pack of Skittles.

In the aftermath of the verdict, Martin's name will continue to carry heavy weight as America looks for justice.

He will join the long list of racial tragedies that plagues our country, from the days of slavery through the civil rights movement and the bloody days of Bull Connor and Birmingham to modern times where racial issues are often ignored.

Martin's death is a recent example that racism is far from dead — and we aren't doing anything to combat it.

Annalee Abell of Lexington is a graduate student at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

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