[NOTE: Join me and co-host Eric Byler tonight on THE MIDDLE GROUND where we’ll ask you to chime in with your thoughts on the George Zimmerman verdict.]
I admit to being incredibly confused by the Zimmerman verdict and the reactions to it. I just don’t seem to have the clarity that so many millions appear blessed with, that easy absolutism that convinces them of the rightness or wrongness, the fairness or unfairness, of what just happened in Florida. I even waited a couple of days to write about it just because I wanted some of the hyperbole to die down before I jumped on one bandwagon or another.
Well, it hasn’t. And I haven’t. It turns out that there isn’t a bandwagon I want to ride on in this parade.
And parade it is. Over on Facebook there’s a Kill Zimmerman page, a closed group with 95 members, all of whom seem to think that, since GZ wasn’t convicted of a non-capital crime, he should be visited with capital punishment delivered the old-fashioned way: by a mob wielding stones. (Update: There's now a page insisting that the first page be taken down, which it seems as happened; nevertheless, the point stands.)
I’m also uncomfortable with the fact that Zimmerman clearly benefited from a system that seemed more interested in the trial’s entertainment value than in justice. Don’t believe me? Then let me ask you this: Do you know who Deryl Dedmon is? Dedmon is a white teenager who, just a few weeks after Trayvon Martin was killed, was convicted for running over and killing a black man in a Jackson, MS parking lot. Dedmon got life.
But we didn’t hear much about that one. Why? I don’t know. But it would have been an interesting juxtaposition to see just as much media attention paid to the fact that a white man was convicted of killing a black man.
Except that Dedmon’s conviction lacks the outrage needed to fuel the ratings.
Nevertheless, some facts are inescapable: as you can see in the graphic below, there is a dramatic disparity in who gets convicted in these situations. Nor can you deny certain statistics: in Florida, an African-American is 4.4 times more likely than a White to end up in prison, per population rates. (Note: while horrible, the number isn’t anywhere near the highest; New York’s ratio, for example, is 9.4:1.)
Despite what someone would argue (including, apparently, the Supreme Court in some cases), you can’t avoid the fact that race plays a part in how our society decides what it decides.
But the Zimmerman case? There’s a lot to chew on there. This was not a hunter hunting (as I’ve seen portrayed), not a swaggering vigilante out to make a name for himself. This was a guy looking out for his neighbors who promoted a situation that ended in tragedy. I don’t know what the proper outcome should have been.
Apparently that puts me in the minority.
[Photos and graphs from UK Mail Online]