Monday, July 15, 2013

We Should Be Angry About Zimmerman

This week, it is shameful to be a Floridian.

The danger in the Zimmerman verdict is not merely that a man was allowed to walk free after shooting and killing a young boy. That in itself is horrific. But his acquittal reinforces a dangerous and life-threatening narrative: that a young, black, hoodie-wearing teenager is a legitimate threat. 

This narrative is what led to Trayvon's death in the first place. In Zimmerman's eyes, Trayvon fit the profile of a criminal, thus leading to an encounter between the two in which Trayvon was shot and killed.

Had Zimmerman been convicted of the crime he actually committed, this narrative would have been broken. Blacks and whites alike could mourn the untimely death of a young boy and begin to undo an ancient fear paradigm that casts hoodie-wearing black youth as criminals.

But the jury ruled differently. It affirmed and reinforced the existing narrative. Merely by labeling Zimmerman "innocent" and Trayvon Martin as a "threat," the jury eliminated the potential for a paradigm shift.

It doesn't end there, though. We need to be angry. We must accept the ruling of the jury, but we cannot accept what it implies. Start conversations. Change minds. If Trayvon's death sparks a national shift in attitudes against black youth, then he did not die in vain. But it starts with us.