Zimmerman Verdict Backlash Proves There's No Such Thing As a Post-Racial America
"We the jury find George Zimmerman not guilty, so say we all."
The moment these words were uttered, an immediate flurry of reactions flooded social media feeds, reinvigorating the debate about a so-called post-racial America. Suddenly, proof that underlying racial sentiments across the country still exist was unearthed for the world to see.
On Twitter and Facebook, on national news outlets and blogs, fellow citizens, pundits, celebrities, and politicians stated their displeasure or relief in the final verdict delivered by the jury. A wide range of issues emerged as defining factors in the case; the all female jury, the actions of the police, and most of all, the fact that Trayvon Martin was a 17-year-old unarmed black boy shot to death by a "white-Hispanic" male.
Some rejoiced, asserting that justice had been done:
"Hallelujah!" Ann Coulter tweeted.
Others expressed their grief:
"Numb," tweeted Tourè, co-host of The Cycle on MSNBC.
And some widened the scope of the case and address the grander issue of violence:
"I feel a little less safe today. I'm afraid gun owners will interpret this as open season on the rest of us," political commentator Cenk Uygur tweeted.
Furthering the disparity between opposing opinions, many pundits of national news outlets have come out strongly condemning the jury's verdict. Aura Bogado of the Nation asserts that George Zimmerman was acquitted not because he is, to use the media-coined phrase, a "white-Hispanic," but rather because "he abides by the logic of white supremacy and he was supported by a defense team [that] supports the lingering idea that some black men must occasionally be killed with impunity in order to keep society-at-large safe." While I do not agree with the drastic characterization she has prescribed for George Zimmerman and his team, to me, it highlights the extreme racially-charged sentiments of many individuals.
A more moderate approach was taken by Jonathan Capehart of the Washington Post, who responded Assistant State's Attorney John Gay's tactic to "race to take race off the table." In doing so, he made the trial about "right and wrong." "What if it was Trayvon Martin who shot and killed George Zimmerman? What would your verdict be?," Guy asked. "That's how you know it's not about race." Capehart stated that if the roles had been reversed, and Trayvon would have been found guilty of murder, then the result should be the same for Zimmerman. He didn't use race as a factor but rather expressed the immorality of the murder.
The comments made by Jelani Coob at the New Yorker best encapsulate the, at times, masked issue of racial divide in this country. He writes, "The decision the six jurors reached on Saturday evening will inspire anger, frustration, and despair, but little surprise, and this is the most deeply saddening aspect of the entire affair." The last section of phrase is filled with truth. I was sadly not-at-all shocked by the verdict; in fact, I was expecting it given the circumstances and I think many share this sentiment with me.
As a nation, we have come so far in the fight for racial equality and achieved so much. Though we will never know the full extent of what actually occurred on the night of Trayvon was killed, his tragic death has caused an important resurfacing of evident racial sensibility throughout the nation. George Zimmerman, as of now, is a free man, and our justice system has spoken, but it is time to address the fact that our nation is still not immune to the racial sentiments that this case has energized.