George Zimmerman’s acquittal on all charges Saturday night has provoked endless reaction, analysis, and discussion. Appropriately so. The killing of an unarmed, Black, 17-year old, the failure to arrest his killer for 44 days, the rallying of the political right behind George Zimmerman, and against his victim, all speak to some of our oldest, ugliest national impulses. Unfortunately, the outpour of opinion on Trayvon Martin’s life and death has not always demonstrated the thoughtfulness, compassion, or humility befitting such a divisive and tragic story (see comments made by Zimmerman, Robert.) Fortunately, much of it has. Here are the five pieces we found most helpful in our contemplation of the Zimmerman verdict.
In an eloquent piece written for The New Yorker, Jelani Cobb puts the shooting in a historical context, tying the case to “a real-time ticker, a Dow Jones average measuring the quality of [Black] citizenship,” and concluding that, “The most damning element here is not that George Zimmerman was found not guilty: it’s the bitter knowledge that Trayvon Martin was found guilty.”
Paul M. Barret’s at times painfully honest appraisal of the case and its aftermath, written for Bloomberg Business Weekly, makes four points worth hearing no matter how you wanted the case to turn out. His observation that a civil rights case against Zimmerman has little chance of obtaining a conviction is just as salient as the (to some) seemingly obvious first point, that “George Zimmerman was at fault for killing Trayvon Martin.”
For those who would have you believe that race played no role in Trayvon Martin’s death, or those who would choose to believe that that racism is a problem unique to Florida, or the states of the old Confederacy, we have this searing call to action from Roxane Gay, writing for Salon. Gay, happy to call a spade a spade, systematically demolishes the idea that racism is no longer an issue in the United States. We were particularly struck by her blunt interpretation of the attitude of the supposedly color-blind. “When people say, ‘I don’t see race,’ they are actually saying, ‘I don’t want to see race and thereby face the world as it really is.’ It is the most sincere expression of privilege there is.”
Anyone still trying to understand the logic behind what many consider a shocking outcome would do well to consider this piece, by Atlantic writer Andrew Cohen. Cohen not only cogently explains how Florida’s unusual laws lead to Zimmerman’s acquittal, he suggests how that result reflects on flaws in the Sunshine State’s legal system.
The Daily Beast’s Jamelle Bouie rebuts a common theme in the rhetoric of the pro-Zimmerman crowd – that Zimmerman was prosecuted only because he was White (or Hispanic, depending on which media outlet you frequent) and that so-called “Black-on-Black” violence gets a pass from organizations like the NAACP. Bouie puts the lie to that argument, pointing out that, “‘Black-on-black crime’ has been part of the American lexicon for decades, but as a specific phenomenon, it’s no more real than ‘white-on-white crime.’ Unlike the latter, however, the idea of ‘black-on-black crime’ taps into specific fears around black masculinity and black criminality…”
As a final recommendation, if you want to read a wonderfully written, and wonderfully heartbroken meditation on the tragedy, check out “The Wire”-creator David Simon’s blog post, entitled simply “Trayvon.”
If you’ve read anything in the last forty-eight hours about the Zimmerman trial that’s touched you or made you rethink the case, please, share it with us here, on our Facebook page, or on Twitter.
Photo from Business Insider.