Standing Our Ground

The State of Florida v. George Zimmerman case, which concluded with a not guilty verdict on July 13, is possibly one of the more (ironically) well-known yet unknown cases of this day and age ever since it first hit the public eye in February of this year.

The use of media throughout the entire affair is both good and bad; on one end, the large scale publicity that the case received aided in its prominence across the country — yet, it is this exact same popularity that allowed for the case to be ruthlessly sensationalized. Considering that the media has a very fickle attention span (or at least it thinks we do), the case unfortunately garnered attention at the expense of other stories.

In fact, the publicity of the event is exactly what produced one of the fundamental questions of the case: was it race-based?

Whether or not one believes that race was a big, small, or non-issue, it is impossible to ignore that it, in effect, became a question. In fact, the prosecution said that Zimmerman’s actions had racial motivations, so from the outset the case had to prove that fact — which is difficult to do, for how does one establish that beyond a shadow of a doubt?

And therein lies the unfortunate nature of the case. It lacked evidence enough to convict Zimmerman for second-degree murder. Florida’s Stand Your Ground law is undoubtedly flawed, and its application throughout the state is not very consistent. Had this occurred in another state with different laws, there’s some chance that Zimmerman wouldn’t have been so easily acquitted. However, in Florida with Stand Your Ground in place, the prosecution has to work with existing laws.

Speaking of laws, it is important to realize that some laws are unfairly applied to groups of Americans, which forces everyone to reconsider just how impartial our justice system is. Yes, we all like to believe that the system works, that the system is balanced, but after years of institutional racism, it’s still evident that our judicial system has things to work through.

Still, one does need to examine Zimmerman’s action, whether the lens is a racially conscious one or not is immaterial.

Did he need to follow Trayvon? Couldn’t he have let the police handle the situation, especially considering that he called them prior to the altercation? How trained was Zimmerman as a community watchman? Why was Trayvon considered suspicious? Was Zimmerman afraid? If so, of what and was that before or during the scuffle? Zimmerman’s actions resulted in the death of a teenage boy. That much is undeniable.

The Zimmerman case is in no way ideal. The not guilty verdict disappointed so many people, and in particular the Black community who once again saw another one of their men killed without the murderer facing any consequences.

Yes, some might say that Black people commit violence against one another all the time (according to the United States Bureau of Justice, 93 percent of African Americans murdered in 2005 were murdered by other African Americans), but that can be explained with one simple word: ghettoization. Black people have been forced into compact spaces where most of the inhabitants occupy the lowest rungs on the socioeconomic ladder. In such an environment, crime is going to happen — that is unavoidable. What’s different in this case is that Trayvon’s death was unwarranted and unnecessary.

In the end, the trail was, in almost every way, disappointing, from Don West’s opening statement, to Rachel Jeantel’s treatment on the stand, to the final verdict.

It is important to note that the Department of Justice is weighing in on the matter, and while Zimmerman is cleared of the charges from The State of Florida v. George Zimmerman, there’s a chance that Zimmerman will not leave the entire matter with just a slap on the wrist.