Dissecting the Zimmerman Verdict's Impact on Race, Justice and Families

Monday, July 15, 2013

Photo from the Million Hoodies Union Square protest against Trayvon Martin's shooting death in Sanford, Florida (March 2012). (David Shankbone/Wikipedia Commons)

The United States is experiencing a remarkable moment—a moment that seems unique to this nation's curious combination of values.

The world was watching the trial of George Zimmerman, the self-appointed neighborhood watchman that shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. Over the weekend, the verdict came down, and a six-woman jury found Zimmerman not guilty of second degree murder and acquitted him of manslaughter.

With the verdict, the nation has taken a magnifying glass to the values of citizen justice, citizen policing and the right to bear arms. The ruling has also brought up questions of our expectations of security, the right to a trial and the judgement of a jury.

With this unique collision, values, rights and laws are all set amidst the equally unique tension and unresolved conflict of race in America.

Joining The Takeaway to discuss the legal aspects of the verdict and its impact on the justice system is Sherrilyn Ifill, University of Maryland law professor and President of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

Verdict's Impact on Families

Though the verdict has shed a spotlight on the legal system, it has also raised important issues for families of color.

For many black families with sons who may look like Tryavon Martin, there have been important conversations at the dinner table over the past year since the shooting and death of Martin—but now that dialogue has changed since Zimmerman was acquitted.

Two guests tell us about the conversations they've been having frequently with their children. Joining The Takeaway to discuss the impacts of the verdict for black families is Lamar Tyler, founder of Black And Married With Kids.com, and Christy Oglesby, quality assurance manager for CNN and mother of a 13-year-old-son.

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Sherrilyn Iffil, Christy Oglesby and Lamar Tyler

Hosted by:

John Hockenberry

Produced by:

Jen Poyant and Mythili Rao


T.J. Raphael

Comments [12]

Angel from Miami FL

"If they want to stop profiling they should go talk to the black neighborhood that has been plaguing that neighborhood with crime..."

Jacob's statement (below) MAY just be the predominant view of a large segment of non-black America. That African-Americans are and have always been some kind of plague on this society. That regardless of nearly 100 years of near-apartheid tactics by OUR society, black folk simply are not capable of becoming good citizens. Jacob's view might also conclude that only a few blacks do "make it out" but deep inside are still, as Jacob says, just "animals".

It might just be that after 250+ years of this minority group, who have fought and died for this country and added a very much needed infusion of culture that's made America even greater, is still considered by most of us as simply animals.

We either pick black people up like prize winning thoroughbreds or we hide them out back like mill turning mules. In the end, Americans always find a way to put them down and turn them to glue. God bless America.

Jul. 16 2013 09:49 AM
Daryl from Yuma, AZ

Toward the end of this program the host, John Hockenberry, asked his guests if they now look to their neighbors and those in their neighborhoods and wonder if one or the other of their neighbors is "a George Zimmerman". This was absolutely disgraceful and, although I admit this was the first time I recall having heard his broadcast, I will never again listen to his show and it once again displays the blatant bias of NPR in general. George Zimmerman has been under the microscope relentlessly regarding this matter and the possible influence of racism in the shooting and the FBI has concluded there is no evidence of such bias in his actions, yet this host has chosen to turn the name George ZImmerman into an adjective, the equivalent of the term racist. Mr. Hockenberry is a prime example of the travesty that has become of American journalism.

Jul. 15 2013 07:19 PM

@Martha - Zimmerman does not just "have black relatives" - he himself is part black!!! Note Obama's grandmother was 100% white. Zimmerman is half hispanic, a quarter black and self identified as hispanic.

You can find Zimmerman's behavior inappropriate without assigning racism to it. Of course the irony is that Zimmerman claims to have protested on behalf of a black man (Sherman Ware)against an alleged racist white. Wonder if his own treatment has caused him to reflect over his assumed conclusions in that case.

Jul. 15 2013 02:04 PM
JOHN237 from USA

AMERICA FAILED? Yes, under the black President, America failed to deliver any meaningful civil rights improvements to the black community. If the T. Martin's case was an isolated one, no one would have wasted their single tear, but America's jails are filled with millions of Martins, and thousand of Martins have been mercilessly killed with minor fault or no fault. If Obama and so called other white and non-white Organizations, who are shedding their crocodile tears for the last 2 days on this event, really would like to correct the failure of our Court system; they should force the Congress and Senate to form a high level civil rights Commission to inquire the defects of the Court system including unlawful and racial arrest, killings and punishing of black and Latino youths, and stop filling our jails with these unfortunate human beings.

Jul. 15 2013 01:52 PM

"Beyond a reasonable doubt" is the legal standard. The jury, who were there, made the call and found reasonable doubt. That is our legal system. No street mobs, media mob, or even the highly inappropriate influence from the Washington, D.C. mob should change what the jury found. Please respect American justice, and the courts. History and the headlines hold many examples of "popular" justice.

Jul. 15 2013 01:11 PM

If Zimmerman was a woman we wouldn't be hearing all of this. OR, If Zimmerman was black and killed 12 kids you wouldn't have heard a thing because black on black crime doesn't allow animals to push for an agenda that doesn't exist any longer. If they want to stop profiling they should go talk to the black neighborhood that has been plaguing that neighborhood with crime and then maybe people wouldn't have jumped to a justifiable conclusion.

Jul. 15 2013 12:22 PM
Marsha from Concord, MA

dmc - Zimmerman was out "looking for trouble" - correct? You may be right - anyone not familiar to him is a suspect - but, the truth is, our society, general, sees young black males as more potentially dangerous than any other group of people.

Having black relatives does not exclude you from racism - President Obama has written and spoken bluntly about the racism his white grandmother and family expressed through his childhood

Jul. 15 2013 11:44 AM
Marsha from Concord, MA

I'm a middle aged, middle class, white lady - I teach in the inner city of Boston. My students are mostly black, from low-income houses. It saddens and angers me that they are in danger every time they walk out of their houses - and that my neighborhood, in which I feel so safe, is, in truth no safer for THEM than the "mean streets" of Roxbury.
To Jim from Florida: What they (or Trayvon Martin) "look" like to some white guy on the streets IS the issue here.

Jul. 15 2013 11:37 AM

Wow, heavy prejudice exhibited by Ifil. The gated community in which Martin was killed is very racially diverse. Zimmerman was active in the community and seems to have at least been visually familiar with most of the residents. From what I have heard of Zimmerman he probably would have been suspicious of Zuckerberg too. Is Ifil aware that one of Zimmerman's grandfathers was black?Perhaps Ifil should examine her own assumptions and not assume the world views everyone through such biased lenses as she wears.

Jul. 15 2013 11:34 AM
Robert Loblaw from New York City

I rather see a photo of Jim from Florida. That should be a sight to be prejudiced about.

Jul. 15 2013 10:45 AM
Jim from Florida

Instead of carrying around photos of a 12 year old Martin why don't they carry around photos of the real Trayvon Martin at age 17? Why won't the main stream media and even this website show recent photos of Martin? Search for it yourself and you'll see why.

Jul. 15 2013 10:06 AM
Angel from Miami FL

Most of Florida is still the "Old South". The state's constitution until recently prohibited Asians from owning property. There was the Florida Terror period of the 1950s. The Klan was largest in this state during the last century and continues to be active here. The stand-your-ground law was specifically created to defend the "southern gentleman" from prosecution if he shot a black man. There are still many cities with 60+ year old ordinances that make it difficult or costly for the [traditionally poor] blacks to move into or live in those cities. The state is so racially charged that even immigrants like Cubans and other Latins who come from a racially mixed nations have been treating African Americans with derision and scorn. THIS is FLORIDA. Bienvenidos, as long as you're not dark-skinned.

Jul. 15 2013 09:51 AM

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