The Broader Lesson of the Zimmerman Verdict

The Broader Lesson of the Zimmerman Verdict July 16, 2013

As I predicted, George Zimmerman was found not guilty for killing Trayvon Martin. Since I am always reluctant to make bold assertions about such things if I wasn’t on the jury and didn’t see all the evidence, I’m not really going to comment much on the verdict itself. But what Michelle Alexander wrote on her Facebook page needs to be repeated far and wide:

If Trayvon Martin had been born white he would be alive today. That has been established beyond all reasonable doubt. If he had been white, he never would have been stalked by Zimmerman, there would have been no fight, no funeral, no trial, no verdict. It is the Zimmerman mindset that must be found guilty – far more than the man himself. It is a mindset that views black men and boys as nothing but a threat, good for nothing, up to no good no matter who they are or what they are doing. It is the Zimmerman mindset that has birthed a penal system unprecedented in world history, and relegated millions to a permanent undercaste.

If you haven’t read Alexander’s book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, I strongly suggest you do so. As I said when I reviewed it the first time and interviewed her on my old radio show, I think it may be the most important book written in many years. She documents in incredible detail the pervasively racist nature of America’s criminal justice system, created and enforced without much in the way of overt racism. It’s so pervasive that even black and Latino police officers tend to share the same stereotypes about their own racial groups that have driven the system to its present state.

It is the entire criminal justice system that should be the target of our anger and activism, not George Zimmerman himself.

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