Saturday, July 20, 2013

Race and Justice, in Light of George Zimmerman Verdict

While the George Zimmerman not-guilty verdict has been viewed by many as an injustice, we cannot lose site of the underlying issue: discrimination within the criminal justice system.  While Trayvon Martin is one individual life, he has come to be the face and motivation for a movement that has impact far beyond this one case.  The criminal justice system, both historically and currently, is systematically biased against males, the young, and African-Americans.  The group most biased against, though, is the combination of those factors: young African-American males.  This group is more likely to be sentenced harshly, along with being viewed as the most "dangerous" and "blameworthy" of any other group.

What accounts for this view of our Black males?  Is it the disproportionate percentage of arrests by Blacks?  Is it the depiction of Black males in the media (e.g., movies, music videos, news, etc.)?  Is it the fairly large percentage of Blacks who are currently incarcerated in our nation's jails and prisons?  Is it simply racism, which may be passed down generationally among non-Blacks?  Is it the systematic bias against Blacks in our nation's schools, which leads to social ills?  While there are many more questions to be asked, the answer most likely falls within all of these issues.

George Zimmerman did profile Trayvon Martin, but we should not forget that Zimmerman does not hold a view that is significantly different from other people or entities: criminal laws, the criminal justice system, employment opportunities, educational system, some non-Blacks, and even some Blacks themselves.  It is in this venue that the movement in the aftermath of the verdict should be focused.  Trayvon "fit" the description of those viewed most dangerously in the United States.  There are many more Trayvon Martins in the United States, which transcends social class and neighborhoods.  How will Black life continue to be viewed and portrayed?  As long as there continues to be negative values attributed to African-Americans (especially the young males) and systematic discriminatory laws and practices, the current movement that has the face of Trayvon will be done in vain.

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