Racial justice nowhere to be found in light of court verdict


By The Pitt News Staff

Justice for some is not justice for all. Unfortunately, those looking for immediate racial justice in the outcome of the Trayvon Martin case will have to look elsewhere.

Saturday night’s court decision, which found George Zimmerman not guilty of second-degree murder and manslaughter in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, resulted in protests across the country. Though mostly nonviolent, these protests- illustrated clear, ideological divisions in the U.S., especially in regard to political alignment and race.

In February 2012, 17-year-old Martin was returning to his father’s fiancee’s home through a gated community in Sanford, Fla., when Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, saw Martin. Zimmerman called police to make a report of a suspicious person and was instructed by police to stay in his car and avoid approaching Martin. Ignoring the police, he left his car and began following Martin. Moments after Zimmerman made the call to police, Zimmerman and Martin were involved in an altercation, and neighbors reported hearing gunfire.

While police were completing their report, Zimmerman admitted to shooting Martin in self-defense under Florida’s controversial “stand-your-ground” law, which allows individuals to protect themselves if they are confronted with a situation that can result in death or serious injury. Several weeks after the shooting, Zimmerman was charged with second-degree murder.

Zimmerman’s trial began June 24 with a jury of six women chosen to decide the case. After three weeks of testimony and two days of jury deliberations, Zimmerman was found not guilty of second-degree murder and manslaughter.

Because the presented evidence was anything but clear-cut, the accuracy of the ruling remains debatable. Despite the opaque ruling, people generally view this case as a racial issue. 

Both liberals and conservatives have created their own series of events based on their differing ideologies. Several liberal voices in the media appear to hold the opinion that Zimmerman attacked Martin unprovoked, while conservatives seem to believe that Martin attacked Zimmerman, who acted in self-defense.

Protests were staged in light of this court decision, bemoaning the lack of racial justice found in the result. Unfortunately, the public will not find racial justice — nor any type of ideological victory —  through criminal courts. This is simply because social progress is not a zero-sum game. 

One need not look further than instances such as Rodney King’s day in court or, on the other side of the spectrum, the wrongful celebration of O.J. Simpson’s release, to see the absence of true racial justice in our legal system.

It all boils down to one rule: One race can never truly  win over another in the court system. Instead, the imperfect system provides the public with mixed reactions and protests to highlight just how disenfranchised a group of people can feel after a criminal verdict is released.

People must stop searching for racial justice in the criminal court system and, instead, work to address a trial’s issues socially to foster true change and advocate civil rights for all.

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