A jury in Sanford, Florida has found George Zimmerman not guilty of murdering Trayvon Martin.
I know I am not alone in my outrage, anger, and heartbreak over this decision. When a teenager’s life is taken in cold blood, and there is no accountability for the man who killed him, nothing seems right in the world, but we cannot let these emotions alone rule.
In these most challenging of times, we are called to act. There is work left to be done to achieve justice for Trayvon. The Department of Justice can still address the violation of Trayvon’s most fundamental civil right — the right to life, and we are urging them to do so.
Sign our petition to the Department of Justice. Tell them to file civil rights charges against George Zimmerman.
We continue to grieve the loss of Trayvon with his parents, his family, and all who loved him. Do not forget what brought us to this day.
George Zimmerman was arrested and charged because we would not back down when he was initially released. The Sanford Police Chief was removed from his post because we voiced our disbelief that he would overrule his detectives and block George Zimmerman’s arrest.
And, perhaps most importantly, not a single state has passed a “stand your ground” law in 2013 — the first time in eight years — because we refuse to let the memory of Trayvon fade from the hearts and minds of America.
So, now we have a choice: We can be felled by our sorrows over the jury’s decision, or we can turn our frustration into action. We can demand the Department of Justice address the travesties of this tragedy. We can take a step forward in our efforts to finally end racial profiling in America once and for all. What will you do, Ann Simonton?
For Trayvon Martin, for his family, and for all parents who suffer the horror of burying a child, sign our petition to the Department of Justice:
Benjamin Todd Jealous
President and CEO
“They always get away.” These were the words George Zimmerman uttered as he followed and later shot Trayvon Martin — words that reflected his belief that Trayvon was one of “them,” the kind of person about to get away with something. How ironic these words sound now in light of the jury verdict acquitting Zimmerman.
Trayvon is dead, and Zimmerman is free. Who was the one who got away?
Can we respect the jury verdict and still conclude that Zimmerman got away with killing Trayvon? I think so, even if we buy Zimmerman’s story that Trayvon attacked him at some point. After all, who was responsible for initiating the tragic chain of events? Who was following whom? Who was carrying a gun? Who ignored the police urging that he stay in his car? Who thought that the other was one of “them,” someone about to get a away with something?
The jury has spoken, and we can respect its conclusion that the state did not prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. But we cannot fail to speak out about the tragedy that occurred in Sanford, Florida, on the night of February 26, 2012.
Was race at the heart of it? Ask yourself this question: If Zimmerman had seen a white youth walking in the rain that evening, would he have seen him as one of “them,” someone about to get away with something?
We’ll never really know, of course. But we can seriously doubt it without assuming that Zimmerman is a racist in the conventional sense of the word.
Racial bias reverberates in our society like the primordial Big Bang. Jesse Jackson made the point in a dramatic way when he acknowledged that he feels a sense of relief when the footsteps he hears behind him in the dead of night turn out to belong to white feet. Social scientists who study our hidden biases make the same point in a more sober way with statistics that demonstrate that we are more likely to associate black people with negative words and imagery than we are white people. It’s an association that devalues the humanity of black people, particularly black youth like Trayvon Martin.
George Zimmerman probably saw race the night of February 26, 2012, just like so many of us probably would have. Had he not, Trayvon probably would be alive today.
The jury has spoken. Now, we must speak out against the racial bias that still infects our society and distorts our perception of the world. And we must do something about it.
President, Southern Poverty Law Center
Comment from Katharine:
Every woman knows the fear Trayvon felt because every one of us has had the experience of being followed or possibly followed by a man (very “creepy”).
We don’t have to have had the actual experience of growing up a black male or being a black mother to understand. Empathy is emotional or intellectual identification with another person. To me it is feeling with the other person. I identify with the fear Trayvon felt and empathize with his mother in her bottomless grief. I empathize with all African-Americans in their struggles for social, economic, and legal justice.
In her moving autobiography—a literary classic, I know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou writes about one Saturday when her brother was late coming home from the matinee at the movie theater:
“Uncle Willie said, ‘Sister, better light the light.’ . . . Momma hadn’t told me to turn them on because she didn’t want to believe that night had fallen hard and Bailey was still out in the ungodly dark.
“Her apprehension was evident in the hurried movements around the kitchen and in her lonely fearing eyes. The Black woman in the South who raises sons, grandsons and nephews had her heartstrings tied to a hanging noose. Any break from routine may herald for them unbearable news.”
These times are still with us, in the South and the North, as evidenced by what happened to Trayvon Martin and Oscar Grant—just two of many.
I am heartsick for these boys and their mothers and our racist nation.