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I followed the Trayvon Martin case from day one. I read countless articles, social commentary, and notes on the trial. When the case finally came to a close I was deeply shocked– but not by the verdict.
After watching the Casey Anthony and OJ Simpson trials, I had already guessed Zimmerman would be found not guilty, because the evidence was not “beyond a reasonable doubt.” I was not surprised by the outcome of the case, but rather the reaction it drew from the public.
This week should be about honoring Trayvon’s memory, consoling his family, and rallying to change the “Stand Your Ground” law. Instead, it has turned into an ideological race war, using Trayvon Martin as a means to confirm our own prejudices against one another. On Twitter I read comments like “Another win for AmeriKKKa,” and “The people who need to be blamed for his murder are his family and friends who let him become a wannabe-gangster. Rap music creates people like Trayvon,” as if the issues surrounding this case are merely black and white.
Towards the end of the trial, I kept putting myself into the shoes of the jurors. I kept thinking “someone’s gotta pay, they just have to.” But I later realized, that’s not my place. My place is outside the courtroom, focusing on what can be done to prevent future Trayvon Martins.
I’m inspired by Stevie Wonder, who promised to boycott Florida until the Stand Your Ground law is abolished. I’m inspired by my friend Chad Smith, who has created a petition to restrict on-duty neighborhood watchmen from carrying guns.
America’s response to this case has only confirmed that we are not a post-racial society. Though it took several long days for the jury to decide Zimmerman’s guilt, in the aftermath, it didn’t take any time to uncover our country’s collective guilt.
The media is guilty of polarizing this case into an issue of “black vs white.” Politicians are guilty of using the story to push their own political agendas. And I’m guilty, because like so many others, I have become desensitized to violence, and I wrote off Martin’s death as “just another fallen black man.” I shook my head and said, “that’s the way it is, and how it’s gonna be.”
Maybe this trial is the wake-up call this country needs to understand that’s not how it has be. That’s not how it should be.