On July 13th, George Zimmerman was declared not guilty for the shooting of Trayvon Martin. According to a member of the six-person jury, race was not a factor in the verdict.
“If there was another person, Spanish, white, Asian, if they came in the same situation Trayvon was in, I think, George would have reacted the exact same way,” the juror told CNN’s Anderson Cooper. “We never had this discussion. I think he just profiled him because he was the neighbourhood watch, he profiled anyone who came in and did something strange.”
The tragic and unnecessary death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin had been heavily covered by national and international media. A petition created by Martin’s mother calling for Zimmerman’s arrest collected over 2.2 million signatures – it was the website’s largest petition ever. Initial allegations of racial profiling drew a number of public figures, including President Barack Obama, to call for further investigation of the case.
As Zimmerman’s verdict was announced, its effects rippled across America. Cities from Florida to Wisconsin held demonstrations on Sunday, some gathering more than a thousand people, expressing their frustration at the outcome.
“There was a couple of them [in the jury] that wanted to find him guilty of something,” the juror told CNN. “And after hours and hours and hours of deliberating… reading it over and over and over again, we just decided there’s no other way to go.”
If Zimmerman’s not guilty, what’s to blame? How do we explain and make sense of the tragedy of Martin’s death? Attorney General Eric Holder hopes that the case will provide an opportunity to address the many complex issues it’s raised over the course of the last year, such as the nation’s laws for gun control and self-defense.
And despite the efforts to keep race out of the case – the term “racial profiling” wasn’t allowed in the courtroom throughout the trial – it’s clear that America is still far from a “post-racial” society. Jelani Cobb probably explains it best: “the problem is not that this case marks a low point in this country’s racial history – it’s that, after two centuries of common history, we’re still obligated to chart high points and low ones… Trayvon Martin’s death is an American tragedy, but it will mainly be understood as an African-American one.”
The Justice Department will be reviewing the Zimmerman case to determine whether criminal civil rights charges need to be filed by federal prosecutors.