This weekend, the US media has been flooded with news and opinions about the Trayvon Martin v. George Zimmerman trial. Let's recap the story.
February 2012, Zimmerman was monitoring his gated neighborhood as part of the neighborhood watch. One evening, Zimmerman saw Martin near the gate of the neighborhood and believed his actions were suspicious. After calling police, Zimmerman approached Martin, who became nervous about Zimmerman's approach. In some way, the two clashed, and Treyvon was killed by a gunshot wound from Zimmerman's gun.
Unfortunately, there is no solid record of how the two clashed. Zimmerman claims Treyvon led with an assault, but Treyvon's advocates indicate that Zimmerman's choice to pursue Treyvon in the dark was enough to justify defensive actions against Zimmerman. Each side would have you believe that they were acting in self defense, and neither had solid evidence to support their claims.
At the conclusion of the trial, Zimmerman was found Not Guilty for the murder of Treyvon Martin.
Here's where the opinions started. Everyone, from national news networks to Facebook users, started to weigh in. Some were glad that Zimmerman got his day in court, his chance to put his facts to record. Others believed that Zimmerman got out on a technicality, that he should have been found guilty and punished to the fullest extent of the law. Still many others believe that this is an affront to civil rights, that the jury made it OK for blacks to be stereotyped, and those stereotypes to be pursued to the point of murder.
Of course, this all leads to my opinions.
First, I am glad Zimmerman had the chance to defend himself. Without this right, our country's justice system would be chaos. But that doesn't mean that I fully agree with the verdict.
Second, I do wish Trayvon could have seen justice done as a result of his death. I don't mean that he deserved revenge or that Zimmerman should be severely punished, but Trayvon deserves for the world to know that he was wronged. Luckily, that ship hasn't sailed, and it bring me to my main point.
Third, this doesn't have to be an affront to civil rights, primarily because this trial wasn't about whether or not Trayvon was stereotyped. The trial was only about whether Zimmerman beyond a reasonable doubt had no right to defend himself. Because there are no hard facts about how the altercation played out, there was way too much doubt in the courtroom, so Zimmerman was not truly proven guilty of murder. Does this mean that Zimmerman is 100% innocent? To that, I give a big, hairy, resounding NO!
Last week's trial was a criminal one. The trial was the law enforcement system making the case that Zimmerman's actions arose to the point of cold blooded murder. But Zimmerman has not stood trial for civil rights violations against Trayvon.
What does this mean to the American community? It means that racism has not been upheld by the court. It means that Civil Liberties are still defensible by law. It means that we have not taken a step backward in the fight for racial equality, and it means that we have the opportunity to turn this into a giant step forward.
After all of these opinions being aired, and with all of this potential conflict like static hanging in the air waiting to ignite, we are left with one question: How will we respond?
We can choose arguments and violence, fighting fire with fire, hoping that one of them will be extinguished by the blaze. We can point fingers to decide who deserves the worst punishment, hoping that revenge will make our point meaningful. Or we can choose to love, showing the world that we can unite in our differences instead of exploiting each other because of them. By choosing love, we can leave behind the perspectives of judgment and blame to show others that they are people who deserve the same dignity and respect as the rest of us.
How will you respond?
Always moving forward,
PS: I hate to make one person the butt of the issue. Zimmerman has the same rights we do, including his innate right to dignity and respect. I hope the best for him as he works to move past what has happened. I hope he can eventually find forgiveness, both for the people who approach him with torches and pitchforks in the name of revenge, and for himself because of whatever happened that night.