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Role Of Race In George Zimmerman Trial

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(Photo by Joe Burbank-Pool/Getty Images)

(Photo by Joe Burbank-Pool/Getty Images)

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Trayvon Martin

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The role of race in society was key factor in the trial and acquittal of George Zimmerman in the death of 17-year old Trayvon Martin.

In a society that elects and re-elects an African American as president, it still stigmatizes young black men as something to fear, a society where black men are presumed to be guilty of something.

During the trial, prosecutors claimed Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, racially profiled Martin as he walked through a gated townhome community in Sanford in February, 2012.  Zimmerman’s defense said it was Martin who brought up the racial issue by telling his friend on the phone that he was being followed by a “creepy ass cracker.”

Zimmerman would call 911 to report Martin and operators advised him not to get out of his vehicle. Zimmerman didn’t follow those instructions and confronted Martin on a street in the neighborhood.

What happened next is only known by Zimmerman and the late Martin. Neighbors heard the scuffle and dialed 911 and then a shot rang out. When authorities arrived, Zimmerman was still on the scene and Martin lay on the ground dead from a gunshot wound.

Dr. Larry Capp, with the Miami-Dade Community Relations Board, said he didn’t agree with the jury’s verdict.

“I was surprised and disappointed, like most people. I thought that the manslaughter charge was sufficient to stick but unfortunately that didn’t happen,” said Jones.

University of Miami law school professor Donald Jones agrees.

“I had a sense that this was a miscarriage of justice. A tragedy, a tragedy, not just for Trayvon’s family but for America itself,” said Jones. “One of the things that was very prominent in the case was what I call a ‘racial narrative’. It’s a story that if a person looks a certain way, dresses a certain way,that makes them a criminal. It seems to me it is a very dangerous cultural divide because as a result of this case, there are going to be mothers who ask ‘Do I have to burn my hoodies’. Do I have to send my child out with a sweater around their neck and Izod because if they don’t dress a certain way they will be shot, they will be profiled.”

Capp said the verdict sends a very disheartening message to many African-American youth.

“I think it sends a message that we are certainly not a post-racial society. That race still matters. I think from the very beginning the big issue in the case was does black life matter. The Sanford police dropped the ball at the beginning in not charging Mr. Zimmerman. There was a strong reaction all over the country for him to be charged and I count that as a victory. The fact that he was finally brought to trial I think is a victory. We still need to do more. There is some congressional activity that we need to look at. There is the “End of Racial Profiling” act that the senator of Maryland has proposed.”

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