MONTGOMERY VILLAGE, Md., July 18, 2013 — The verdict in the George Zimmerman trial took a lot of people by surprise. It also enraged many and has been seen as a step backwards in the apparent progress of the U.S. in race relations and racial justice.
It is easy to understand why so many people are upset. Zimmerman, armed with a pistol followed an unarmed teenager, assuming that he was up to no good. He was told not to engage him by the police and not to get out of his car. He apparently did both. Today Zimmerman is the only witness to what happened that rainy night in February. Trayvon Martin’s only crime was that the teenager was taking a short cut through a residential community, carrying a cell phone, Skittles and a drink.
However, in hindsight one can see that there were very simple clues to the outcome of the trial. This has been confirmed by at least one juror, who was interviewed on CNN. All through her answers, she appears to have believed what Zimmerman said and while recognizing that he acted reckless by not following the advice the police gave him, she didn’t consider these actions relevant to the killing of Trayvon. To her the whole episode started when Trayvon punched Zimmerman. She believed Zimmerman was justified in using deadly force and that all his prior actions to the shooting were irrelevant.
So how does this thinking reflect the hints all along that the trial would end in acquittal?
Location of the Trial
Whether we believe it or not, the South is still a place where racism exists (heck, it exists in all points of the compass, but it is less prevalent and intense elsewhere). It is the way of life in small rural communities like Sanford. While there is a veneer of racial communion, it is only skin deep.
When the police came to the place where Trayvon lay dead, they took a statement from Zimmerman and released him. Their actions only confirm that to the officers, the Caucasian shooter had to be believed. After all, the dead child was an African American and, worst of all, was wearing a hoody. Only after the clamor of the media and citizens, did the police arrest him.
Five of the Six Jurors Were Caucasians
The overwhelming majority of humans tends to believe and trust people who look like them, talk like them and think like them. This is not unusual. It is much more difficult to accept a person that you don’t understand or that you don’t share values or socialize with.
This was confirmed by the comments of the juror, by the media and even the daughter of one of the defense lawyers. The juror indicated that she couldn’t understand when Rachel Jeantel spoke, so she didn’t trust her and only felt sorry for her. Several reporters automatically called Jeantel illiterate after she explained that she couldn’t read cursive writing. (Cursive is no longer required in many school districts.)
The one that takes the cake is the Instagram by the daughter of Don West one of the defense lawyers in the trial, posted following the testimony by Rachel Jeantel. It shows a photo of West and his daughters eating ice cream with the caption: “We beat stupidity celebration cones.” This is something that any person who speaks with an accent or different from the norm can confirm. In the minds of many Americans, these people are stupid or worse.
Most of the witnesses that helped Zimmerman’s case were in fact Caucasians. Most were well spoken and articulate. The only person that actually was close enough to identify who was on top in the melee, Jonathan Good, was apparently critical in confirming to the jurors who was to be believed. It is ironic that he didn’t intervene to stop the fight.
Another interesting clash was the one between the Medical Examiner (ME) who testified that Zimmerman’s wounds were not serious and definitely not life threatening and the paid witness that testified the opposite. The paid witness appears to have been more credible than the ME with his heavily accented testimony.
Guns and the Jury
This was by design. Apparently one of the questions made to the jury pool was whether they believed that citizens had the right to carry firearms. It appears obvious now that the jurors didn’t see anything wrong that Zimmerman was carrying a gun while performing his self-assigned duty as a Neighborhood Watch captain. Yet this is contrary what the Neighborhood Watch admonishes. They indicate that weapons shouldn’t be carried and that the police should be called and that no personal action should be taken.
In the absence of any witnesses of the final minutes of the confrontation and only Zimmerman’s account to be presented, this jury was ready to render a verdict. Even the relatively lax conviction of involuntary manslaughter appears not to have entered the discussion.
Another interview that may shed some light into Zimmerman’s psyche is the interview that his brother Robert did. When asked if he knew if Zimmerman had any regrets about shooting Trayvon Martin, he responded that in his home he was told to never regret a well-considered decision. Psychologist would have a field day with this statement.
Some commentators even suggested that “if you wear the uniform, be prepared to be challenged or worse.” These same commentators labeled those that decided to wear hoodies in sympathy with Trayvon’s family and friends “panderers.”
The message is clear for African Americans in places like Sanford:
1. Don’t wear hoodies
2. Don’t take short cuts through Caucasian neighborhoods
3. If a Caucasian follows you, confronts you or even looks at you, lie down on the ground and offer no resistance
4. If you are still killed, make sure the jury that decides on the trial of your killer is not predisposed to let him or her go free because you didn’t do 1 through 3.
Anyone that believes the trial was not about race and that there are no racial problems in America, I have a safe firearm to sell you.
Mario Salazar writes his column 21st Century Pacifist for The Washington Times Communities. Follow Mario on Twitter @chibcharus #TWTC and Facebook at Mario Salazar.
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