This is the verdict that I expect to be rendered at the conclusion of this compelling case that conflates racism, misguided state laws and an emotionally-charged national audience. The racial breakdown in regard to the guilt or innocence is quite telling. According to a recent Gallup poll, when asked, “Is George Zimmerman guilty of a crime?” 51 percent of black people reported “definitely guilty” while 11 percent of nonblacks said the same. When asked, “How much of a factor did racial bias play in the events that led up to the shooting and the shooting itself?” 72 percent of blacks said “major factor” while 31 percent of nonblacks said the same. The final question asked, “Would Zimmerman have been arrested if the person he shot was white, or do you think Martin’s race did not make a difference?” Seventy-three percent of blacks said, “Would have been arrested,” while 35 percent of nonblacks said the same.
The polarization of opinions between the races is not baffling at all. In fact, it is to be expected. Despite the many claims of America being a post-racial society, we have polls that reveal that race (for the most part) seems to be the driving force behind the visceral condemning or “support” of Zimmerman. I say support very loosely, because I do not believe that people support him, but rather believe that based off of the evidence it is difficult to convict him of second-degree murder.
In my opinion, the stark differences between the racial disparities are a result of white privilege and the historical underpinning of racial profiling.
White privilege, as described by sociologist Peggy McIntosh, is “like an invisible knapsack of special provisions, maps, passports, codebooks, visas, clothes, tools, and blank checks.” For those of you who are interested, I suggest researching the article written by McIntosh titled, “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” to gain a nuanced understanding of this complex set of a societal advantages that often go unacknowledged.
My uncle has saying that goes something along the lines of “there are times when you know that you know you know” (in other words you are quite certain of something). This is how I feel about the George Zimmerman case. I “know” that he racial profiled Trayvon, which sparked his initial phone calls and later pursuit, which led to Martin’s untimely death. However, I believe Denzel Washington in “Training Day” provides the best counter to my uncle’s saying and my own thoughts. Denzel Washington explains to the rookie officer, Ethan Hawke, that when it comes to law enforcement “it’s not what you know; it’s what you can prove.” Racism has evolved from its blatant form from the early to mid 20th century. It is much more difficult to prove if a person has “racially motivated” thoughts or not.
Ultimately, I am certain that Zimmerman will be found not guilty. From a legal perspective, he should be. The defense provided a much better case than the prosecution. My gut and my mind both are in accordance when it comes to the guilt of George Zimmerman. However, the prosecution had a herculean task in front of them and sadly I think they will fail. I know Zimmerman is guilty, but like Denzel says, “It’s not what you know, it’s what you can prove.”
Tim Abram is a public policy major from Horn Lake. Follow him on Twitter @Tim_Abram.