I had the privilege of growing up white. I was educated in good schools by caring teachers. My parents offered a loving, nurturing environment. I earned a law degree and have been able to build my practice steadily for over 25 years. It hasn’t been easy by any means but I recognize the fact that I enjoyed a rather sizable “head start” in life as compared to others.
So my take on the Zimmerman trial is heavily influenced by my middle aged white guy perspective. Not much I can do about that. But it is as honest an approach as I can muster and I invite you to offer your thoughts through civil discourse. I recognize the anger and hurt in the black community. It is real and deep. But it is misplaced.
Trials are not really appropriate bellwethers for larger social issues. They are tightly controlled forums that apply the law to a narrow, specific set of circumstances. A belief that the Zimmerman trial is emblematic of a larger race bias is like saying the Casey Anthony trial was a referendum on single moms, or the OJ Simpson trial explored the social acceptability of bi-racial marriage. The connection is simply too tenuous. And let’s not forget that George Zimmerman was of Hispanic descent.
Since I am a trial lawyer I am most disturbed at the vitriol directed at the jury. I have been on the losing and the winning end of a jury’s decision. Often I have held the opinion that they were mistaken. But each and every jury panel I have encountered took their job seriously and tried to do the right thing. In fact, when given the choice, I will always opt for a jury to decide issues in my cases rather than a judge.
Does our justice system treat African American men in a disproportionate manner? The statistics certainly seem to bear that out. But the Zimmerman trial is not the place to begin the search for answers. The problem usually begins long before it reaches the courtroom. In fact, there are a number of issues that bedevil the African American community before the specter of racial profiling or the disparate treatment meted out by our courts.
Last month a 5 year old boy-a Somali immigrant- was killed in Fort Worth. It was later revealed that his killer was a 13 year old boy. A social worker who knew the troubled suspect explained that the boy was filled with anger and rage. His father had been in and out of prison and the boy was “abandoned.”
Of the thousands of people who protested the Zimmerman verdict, how many tried to make a difference in the life of such a child during the year and a half the case was pending? How many ask tough questions about their own moral responsibility to our young? I know there are thousands who work tirelessly with disadvantaged youth and who still see firsthand the vestiges of racism. But how many look the other way? Or refuse to accept a role in creating a better future?
There should indeed be a dialog about the continuing blight of racism. The Zimmerman trial isn’t a very persuasive opening argument.