The jury in the trial of George Zimmerman has spoken. Evidently, their verdict is not satisfactory to the racial hucksters and demagogues. Leading the pack, as usual, is Reverend Al Sharpton, whose own role in the Tawana Brawley debacle has not worked to discredit anything he says for the media.
“An atrocity,” Sharpton called it, “one of the worst situations that I’ve seen. … We had to march to even get a trial, and then at trial when he’s exposed over and over again as a liar, he is acquitted. This is a sad day in the country. A slap in the face to those that believe in justice in this country.” Later, he added: “We intend to ask the Department of Justice to move forward as they did in the Rodney King case and we will closely monitor the civil case against Mr. Zimmerman. I will convene an emergency call with preachers tonight to discuss next steps and I intend to head to Florida in the next few days.”
The Reverend Al, as he is called by his supporters, was joined in a call for a Department of Justice indictment of George Zimmerman for violating Trayvon Martin’s civil rights by Ben Jealous, head of the NAACP. “We are outraged and heartbroken over today’s verdict,” Jealous said in a statement. “We will pursue civil rights charges with the Department of Justice, we will continue to fight for the removal of Stand Your Ground laws in every state and we will not rest until racial profiling in all its forms is outlawed. … The most fundamental of civil rights — the right to life — was violated the night George Zimmerman stalked and then took the life of Trayvon Martin.”
The problem that Sharpton and Jealous have is that the FBI already had investigated the case, and could not come up with any proof that racial hatred was what motivated Zimmerman to follow Martin. Indeed, George Zimmerman was shown to have mentored black children, and to have publicly complained about police actions that he thought were unfair to the African-American community. His best friend is a black man. The tragedy that developed was hardly the same as when white cops were found to have beaten Rodney King and used unnecessary and brutal force out of racial animus.
Joining the attempt to fan the flames of discontent among the African-American community were a slew of liberal writers, led by Michael Tomasky at The Daily Beast. Like many others of his ilk, Tomasky seems to think America is back in the early ’60s, when racial segregation existed and the Southern states were in command of a racist Democratic Party whose leaders sought to preserve the system of segregation at all costs. Indeed, he argues that under President Obama, America’s racial divide has gotten worse.
Zimmerman, Tomasky writes, would have thought twice about shooting a white kid, evidently even if he feared for his life and the white kid was on top of him pummeling his head into the cement. “He’d know in his bones,” he writes, “that white lives are accorded more value in this society than black ones, and you don’t go around shooting white people and expect not to pay a price.”
Zimmerman, of course, did not say anything about race when he was speaking to the 911 dispatcher until he was asked about it –he thought Martin might be black, but was not sure. After all, it’s not so easy to identify the race of a person wearing a hoodie at night viewed from a car. Does Tomasky think that at the moment when the weaker Zimmerman feared for his life, even if he knew at that point that the boy on top of him was white, he would not have reached for his gun if he thought his life was in danger?
As for the Stand Your Ground laws, The New York Times editorial board wrote: “The jury reached its verdict after having been asked to consider Mr. Zimmerman’s actions in light of the now-notorious Stand Your Ground provision in Florida’s self-defense law.” As most followers of the case know, except for the supposedly learned editors of the paper, the defense did not once invoke that law in waging their defense of George Zimmerman.
Instead, they argued that Zimmerman reached for his gun when he was pinned down and his head was being slammed into the ground, fearful as he was for his life. That is a standard that would have applied to all the states of the union.
Nevertheless, the Martin family counsel, Ben Crump, stated that Trayvon Martin would go down “in the annals of history next to Medgar Evers and Emmett Till as symbols of the fight for equal justice for all.” Evers was a brave fighter against segregation in an era in which the KKK and White Citizens’ Councils were active in segregated Southern states and most often were protected by the law, if indeed the lawmakers and police themselves were not members of either organization. Till was a young black boy killed by racists for the offense of supposedly whistling at a white woman.
If you want to read first-rate commentary taking up the arguments of the racial demagogues, read Abigail Thernstrom’s fine piece that appears on CNN’s website. While the station was most notoriously stacking the decks in favor of those who argued racial injustice was committed by the jury in finding Zimmerman innocent, perhaps their website editor decided it was time for some of its viewership to at least have the option to read a different perspective. “People such as Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson,” she writes, “see white racism as endemic and elevate what’s wrong with America over all that is remarkably right.” She continues to argue that if President Obama’s Justice Department “brings civil rights charges against Zimmerman, as the NAACP has urged and which it is reportedly still considering, the ugly racial politics of this prosecution will be undeniable.”
President Obama’s statement was hardly memorable. But if the DOJ decides to suddenly indict Zimmerman for racial hate crimes and to come up with new “evidence” it somehow failed to find earlier, it will only be because it is once again surrendering to public outcries from the civil rights establishment. At that moment, Barack Obama could come up with his own Sister Souljah moment, and inform the public that the jury verdict must be respected, and that no reason exists to mount another trial on spurious grounds. Or, he could tell his attorney general to stop wasting taxpayer money by fielding yet another investigation to try to prove a racial motive for Zimmerman’s pursuit of Trayvon Martin.
Let me end by saying that because George Zimmerman was found not guilty and the jury believed the prosecution had not proved the charge of second degree murder beyond reasonable doubt does not mean that Zimmerman is a hero or a role model. He should have listened to the advice of the dispatcher, gone back to his car, and not followed Martin as he was walking back home. He acted precipitously and foolishly, and the entire tragic episode could have been avoided. But once Trayvon Martin accosted him and the struggle ensued, Zimmerman reached for his gun when he believed his life was in danger. One might also have wished that young Martin had simply told Zimmerman he was going back to his father who was in a unit in the development, and not decided to engage in a fight with a man he thought was harassing him.
The outcome is what makes this a tragedy. I sympathize with the Martin family at the loss of their son, and I understand their anger at the verdict and their feeling that, in their eyes, justice was not served. But I have none for those who are seeking to use this tragedy to bolster their own worn-out credentials as civil rights leaders, and who use their so-called authority to create anger and a mob sentiment among the African-American community.