AN INSIDE LOOK - Commentary and opinions on local politics and life in general in Southeastern Massachusetts! Featuring the writings of Bill Gouveia, newspaper columnist for the Sun Chronicle and local cable TV talk show host. Feel free to read, comment and enjoy!
Friday, July 19, 2013
Was Zimmerman Trial About Race? Absolutely.
This column originally appeared in The Sun Chronicle on Friday, July 19, 2013
AN INSIDE LOOK
By Bill Gouveia
trial of George Zimmerman ended when a jury of his peers returned a verdict of
not guilty.The case is over, Zimmerman
has been judged an innocent man, and the system has spoken and must be
course that is much easier for all of us than for the friends and family of Trayvon
Martin, the 17-year-old boy killed by Zimmerman on that fateful night in Florida.No verdict was going to bring Martin back,
and his loss is something those who loved him will feel as long as they live.
is impossible to question the jury’s verdict unless you were privy to all the evidence,
information and options supplied to them – so I won’t do that.But there was a lot of talk about whether or
not this trial was about race.That
subject is not going away, and there are a lot of legitimate arguments
supporting the idea it was.
believe Zimmerman would never have been charged except for the fact Martin was
an African-American.Many others believe
Zimmerman would have been easily convicted had he been black and his victim
white.There is no way of knowing if
either point of view is more valid than the other.
unless you are a young African-American male in this country, it is hard to
understand how chilling and frightening this case and this verdict really are.When all is said and done, Trayvon Martin is
dead today for a number of reasons.Chief
among them are he was wearing the wrong kind of clothing in the wrong section
of a community, and despite doing nothing illegal drew the attention of a man
with a gun who followed him against the advice and direction of police.
facts are undisputed.Martin was unarmed.Zimmerman followed him against the expressed
wishes of authorities.A physical
altercation occurred between the two.Zimmerman suffered some injuries.Martin was killed when Zimmerman fired his lawfully-owned gun into
should not be a factor in any of that – but it was.And then it became even more so.
authorities initially did not charge anyone in the case, and the federal
government got involved.Eventually
Zimmerman was charged after the racial aspects of the situation became
nationwide news.Then a jury of
Zimmerman’s peers (not a single one of them African-American) was chosen to
decide his guilt or innocence.
was a “Million Hoodie March” to support Martin.Conservatives and others rallied around Zimmerman and tried to disparage
the reputation of the slain youth.And
after the verdict, Zimmerman’s defense attorney speculated that if Zimmerman
had been black, he never would have been charged in the case.
yeah – this was as much about race as investigating a violent death.
story was that he killed Martin in self-defense.He was armed, followed Martin because he
thought he looked suspicious, and then killed him because Martin was winning a
struggle between the two and he was in fear for his life.We will never know what Trayvon Martin’s
defense of his actions would have been, what version he would have told about
how that fatal struggle began.
in the end, the verdict of the judicial system was Trayvon Martin was
ultimately responsible for his own death.Or at least, the man who shot him bore no legal responsibility.The jury said it was not murder, and did not
even rise to the level of manslaughter.Martin simply “approached the wrong guy” as someone recently told me.
the lesson here that it’s not what you are doing but what you look like that
can seal your fate?Had Martin been
white and wearing a sports jacket, would George Zimmerman have followed him
with a gun and felt threatened?No one
but Zimmerman knows for sure.
verdict is being respected.Sure, there
are protests – but with few exceptions they have been peaceful in nature.Let’s hope they remain that way
it cannot be denied that race factored into this terrible tragedy.If you are young and black, it would be
understandable if your belief that if you obey the law our justice system will
protect you has all but disappeared.
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and
can be emailed at email@example.com and followed on Twitter at