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Yes, race did play a role in the Trayvon Martin case

It doesn’t matter whether George Zimmerman was racist – the racial implications are being played out in courts, the media and websites all over the nation

Photo: , License: N/A

Photo: Photo BY Barry Kirsch, murdercityphotography.com, License: N/A

Photo BY Barry Kirsch, murdercityphotography.com

If this country’s race relations always charted a linear course, if we were always progressing, if things were always better now than they were in the past, this event wouldn’t be worth mentioning. Martin Luther King Jr.’s claim that the arc of the moral universe bends toward justice notwithstanding, the path toward equality – true equality, not just equality on paper – has been fraught with fits and starts, progress and regress, setbacks and letdowns.

There’s a reason the Zimmerman verdict prompted massive protests all over the country – in New York and Philadelphia and Los Angeles and Chicago and Oakland and Sanford. It’s not because black Americans and civil rights supporters are inherently predisposed to vengeance or agitation. It’s because they see a dead teenage boy and a system that shrugged. After all, had they not protested en masse last year, Zimmerman would have never been arrested, let alone stood trial.

Are things better now than they once were? Sure. Is racism – whether explicit or institutional – no longer relevant? To draw that conclusion requires considerable, and willful, naiveté.

George Zimmerman is not guilty. But he is most certainly not innocent. Had he stayed in his truck that night, Trayvon Martin would still be alive. Had he not appointed himself armed protector of his neighborhood, had he not ignored the police dispatcher’s admonition, had he not presumed that a black kid walking in his neighborhood was up to no good, none of this would have happened. And for that, Zimmerman will spend the rest of his days as a “pariah,” as O’Mara told the Los Angeles Times. There is, at least, some justice in that.

But not enough.

understand the verdict. But I don’t have to like it. As someone once said, “Those assholes, they always get away.”

Follow Jeffrey C. Billman on Twitter: @jeffreybillman

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