Many Americans were engrossed with the prosecution, defense, deliberation and subsequent verdict in the George Zimmerman trial.
The jury came out with a “not guilty” verdict after two days of deliberations, which included seeking clarification of the manslaughter charge. The initial reaction to the verdict was overwhelming.
Nearly a week later, there is still an feeling of injustice among many citizens. President Barack Obama took some time to address the issues at hand and give his thoughts on the matter.
Afterward, Sacramento Mayor and former NBA star Kevin Johnson praised the President for his speech.
President Obama made one of the most important speeches of his presidency. Proud to be an American. Thoughts & prayers w/ the Martin family.
— Kevin Johnson (@KJ_MayorJohnson) July 19, 2013
The case has gotten plenty of exposure.
“Well I agree with the verdict. I feel sorry that young kid got killed, but they didn’t have enough evidence to charge him.” —Charles Barkley
The President’s words Friday afternoon were measured and organized.
He did not neglect the tragedy of what happened, but did not lose sight of the gravity of it on a larger social scale either.
Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago. … In the African-American community at least, there’s a lot of pain around what happened here. I think it’s important to recognize that the African-American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that doesn’t go away.”
The President painted a picture of the context that goes into the racial element of the Zimmerman case—illustrating how often African-American males are profiled in everyday life.
There are very few African-American men in this country who haven’t had the experience of being followed when they were shopping in a department store. That includes me.
“There are very few African-American men who haven’t had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars. That happens to me, at least before I was a senator. There are very few African-Americans who haven’t had the experience of getting on an elevator and a woman clutching her purse nervously and holding her breath until she had a chance to get off. That happens often.”
He continues, going into the history of violence that breeds misconceptions among many regarding African-American men.
We understand that some of the violence that takes place in poor black neighborhoods around the country is born out of a very violent past in this country, and that the poverty and dysfunction that we see in those communities can be traced to a very difficult history. So folks understand the challenges that exist for African-American boys, but they get frustrated, I think, if they feel that there’s no context for it and that context is being denied.”
The President goes on to turn the circumstances of the Zimmerman case on its head.
For those who resist that idea that we should think about something like these ‘stand your ground’ laws, I just ask people to consider if Trayvon Martin was of age and armed, could he have stood his ground on that sidewalk? And do we actually think that he would have been justified in shooting Mr. Zimmerman, who had followed him in a car, because he felt threatened?
“If the answer to that question is at least ambiguous, it seems to me that we might want to examine those kinds of laws.”
In this case, both Barkley and the President are right.
Considering the laws of the state, the evidence against George Zimmerman was circumstantial at best—not remotely sufficient for a conviction.
However, as the President alludes to, the gravity of this case calls into question Florida’s “Stand your ground” law. Would it have been upheld if the situation had been different?
Is there a way to revise such laws to prevent tragic situations like this from becoming a recurrence?
Hopefully, the state governments will take these matters under serious consideration.
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