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Mon Jul 15, 2013, 03:32 PM

Searching for Blame [View all]

I've observed an impulse to find explanations for Zimmerman's acquittal by placing blame on the jurors, judge, prosecutors, the omission of a single jury instruction, or another single factor. While it's natural to seek answers for something that seems so unjust, I believe the explanation is not nearly so simple as the jurors being scumbags or that the judge set Zimmerman free through the omission of a jury instruction. A series of factors led to Trayvon's murder and Zimmerman's acquittal, foremost among them the racism that pervades American society. The problem is not simply that Zimmerman was motivated by irrational fear of African American males, but that American culture teaches all of us that black men are dangerous. We are imbued with such cultural messages through the media from an early age, and we must work to overcome them. There is no question Zimmerman singled out Trayvon for suspicion because he was African American, but the influence of racism did not stop there. The police didn't arrest Zimmerman because they too share the image of the dangerous black male. Race likely played a role in the jurors's perceptions that Zimmerman had reason to fear Trayvon, and race has certainly framed the public reaction to this event. Other factors, however, also played a role. Gun culture encouraged Zimmerman to carry a gun with him as he did his neighborhood watch. The spread of shall issue concealed carry and Stand Your Ground laws influence the actions of gun owners who are empowered by laws that allow them to "defend" themselves even when they are the first aggressor. While Zimmerman's lawyers didn't invoke SYG in his defense, the law is a central part of contemporary gun culture and emboldens concealed carry holders in acting aggressively.

The blame for Zimmerman's acquittal can't be placed on the judge, the jury, or any other single factor. Trayvon's murder and Zimmerman's acquittal is a product of an American society characterized by racism and gun proliferation. Ours is a society where gun culture emboldens gun carriers to act out on racial fears, even and especially when they are not aware of how ideas of race influence their actions. Race prompts police to place blame on African Americans and excuse whites or non-blacks who act with lethal force in response to imagined threats posed by the image of the black criminal that looms in their minds more than in reality. To allocate blame for the death of Trayvon and the acquittal of Zimmerman, we must examine our own role in perpetuating racial stereotypes and how we contribute to a predatory gun culture. Blame does not lie with one individual or a group of people. It resides in all of us--in the fabric of American society.

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BainsBane Jul 2013 OP
Tx4obama Jul 2013 #1
BainsBane Jul 2013 #2