The George Zimmerman verdict is not going away. Nor should it. Not that it was right or fair or even just.
The problem is, it was reasonable; painfully so – at least that is what a couple of the jurors are saying. Even though “reasonable” may not result in a peaceful night’s sleep, the verdict reflects the way our less-than-perfect system works. George Zimmerman may have “gotten away with murder,” but it was the law, not the jurors, that aided and abetted him.
Unfortunately, the verdict has done nothing to diminish racism in our culture. At the moment all it seems to have done is identify and stir up the magma of the rage flowing beneath the very thin crust of our country’s history of dealing with racial differences and stereotypes. Not merely the rage of African Americans but of the many others who recognize the bigotry and prejudice that diminish the meaning of democracy and particularly of this country.
But the same could be said of Rosa Parks and her decision not to move to the back of the bus – at least at the time she did so.
Still, her resolve ignited a firestorm of outrage that still burns through the nation’s collective consciousness, if not a collective conscience.
Ms. Parks named a shame in every American who understands the heart of our Constitution. Trayvon Martin’s death should do the same.
The President’s remarks last week attempted to help America understand the rage stirred by the Zimmerman verdict. His own experience gave a credibility to what other African Americans encounter far more blatantly in their every day lives.
His recognition of the differences in the lives of his daughters and their friends compared to those of earlier generations – “They are better than us” – points to the changes, slow though they be, in our country’s interracial history and struggles. His is a voice that needs to be heard in these matters and replayed, like a platinum disc.
Acting on prejudice is playing “ugly ball” when it comes to being human, as is injustice in any form.
Trayvon Martin will be forever a symbol of both, just as Rosa Parks remains a symbol of the sickness of white supremacy.
The Zimmerman verdict may be teaching us important lessons about the shortcomings of our systems of law but what happened to Trayvon Martin should forever challenge us about the shortcomings of ourselves.