15 Jul 2013
By: Dallas S. Jones
By now I’ve had some time to digest my thoughts and feelings regarding yesterday’s verdict in the George Zimmerman trial for the heinous murder of Trayvon Martin. My prayers are with both the Martin and Zimmerman families as they seek to piece back the remnants of their lives that existed before they were flung into the national spotlight. For the Zimmerman family, that means learning to exist in a world where your name is synonymous with hate and bigotry, and invokes passion from millions about what justice means in our country. For the Martins, it’s learning to live without the child that was so beloved, and never feeling vindicated that justice prevailed through his death.
For the rest of us, I believe it’s time that we look to tomorrow. I’ve seen by now through my various social networks the anger and rage that was felt by so many around our country. This anger and rage crossed all color and socio economic lines. I watched friends from all walks of life come together and call for justice to be served in the Zimmerman trial.
I also watched many turn this into an issue of race in our country, and spew divisive language albeit the action of one man. Do I believe race played a factor in the murder of Trayvon Martin? Absolutely. Do I believe the justice failed us by exonerating George Zimmerman? Unfortunately I do not.
For me, I think the litmus for both questions remain the same. Proponents and opponents must still look deep into their souls to ask the question if the other party was of a different race, how would we want this to play out? In Texas, where I live, we send so many men, particularly African American and Hispanics, to prison for crimes they didn’t commit. In all of these cases the men are sentenced based on faulty eyewitness testimony, evidence missing, or mistaken identity. In addition to imprisonment there have been many that have been executed in our state based on these same flaws in our criminal justice system. The juries in this case were asked to convict these men unless there was reasonable doubt that they were indeed innocent. If George Zimmerman were African American I believe the community would want and demand that this same standard applied, and in this case the jurors clearly had doubt about Mr. Zimmerman’s guilt.
In the same tone, we all know and understand that if Mr. Zimmerman was walking down the street with a hoodie on, and Mr. Martin were the one that was told not to get out of the car, the outcome of this trial may have been different. George Zimmerman did indeed pursue Mr. Martin because he was young, male, and African American. All of these attributes convinced him that Trayvon Martin was suspicious and should therefore be watched. His actions after that led to one of the most unnecessary losses of life that our country has ever known.
I suppose what bothers me the most, is that I can’t help but wonder what all of these folks that have shown all of this outrage are going to do differently tomorrow? As someone that moves populations around issues of public policy for a living, I know the difficulty in mobilizing communities of color. It’s sad that participation increases only when issues like the Trayvon Martin murder or the Jena Six incident is the only time African Americans are moved to action.
While the world watched the Zimmerman Trial, the United States House of Representatives voted to remove provisions in a key agricultural bill that would cut the Food Stamp program. In Texas, the legislature made final passage of one of the most important pieces of legislation that would have an effect on all women for generations to come, and limit their access to quality healthcare in their reproductive choices. I didn’t see my friends commenting in volume to any of these types of issues that happen everyday. There is a Trayvon Martin issue happening nationally, in your state, and on your corner every day.
Certainly I would have loved to see Mr. Zimmerman be held responsible for taking the life of another being, as a human, not as an African American. But I also know that I can’ be hypocritical in my cry for justice. Tomorrow is another day, and tomorrow there will be another attack on our civil liberties, our freedoms, and yes even our race. What will you do differently to prevent the next issue from spiraling into a Trayvon Martin injustice? Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said it best when he stated, “An injustice anywhere, is a threat to justice everywhere”. I think it’s time to get a head of tomorrow’s injustice.