Randolph: Our strange fruition: The Zimmerman trial verdict

Junius Randolph, Summer Columnist

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My mother always told me to never wear a hood at night. Now I know why.

The verdict of not guilty in the George Zimmerman trial supports the notion that it is perfectly fine for citizens to racially profile each other without consequences. The ruling also reinforces the idea that African-Americans will always be one of the most feared and misunderstood races in our Divided States of America.

But sadly, Zimmerman was always going to be found not guilty. The prosecutors’ case was terrible. They tried to pin a second-degree murder charge on Zimmerman. For a murder conviction, prosecutors had to prove Zimmerman killed Martin out of hatred. Then, they tried to go for a manslaughter charge, which meant Zimmerman had to have acted intentionally.

It didn’t help the prosecution that the only witness to the murder was Zimmerman, meaning no one could contradict his claim of self-defense. There was also little supporting evidence, highlighted by no definitive answer as to who was screaming during that crucial phone call. And to top it off, the prosecution’s star witness, Martin’s friend Rachel Jeantel, decided it was OK to utter, “That’s retarded,” and “creepy-ass cracker” in court. This trial seemed like the clash between the black and white Floridas, but the girl should have had the common sense not to say such vulgar phrases in the courtroom.

The case would not have been as influential if not for the general public taking their thoughts to social media. Your average tweeter became a social activist for a week, weighing in on every aspect of the case. When the verdict finally came out, #ZimmermanTrial was one of the top worldwide trends. Celebrities and journalists even chimed in. Popular CNN contributor LZ Granderson tweeted, “Initial thoughts from Zimmerman verdict–Trayvon could have been my son.”

My father shared the same feelings.

Martin could have been any black man’s son. And Zimmerman could have been anybody else.

Zimmerman saw Martin as a threat before he even saw the boy’s face, which was evident from what he said during his police call. “F**king punks,” he told the 911 dispatcher. “These assholes always get away. ”

Zimmerman followed Martin. Zimmerman was armed. Even though Zimmerman is the only one who knows what happened during their life-ending confrontation, a child’s life was blown away by Zimmerman’s gun. He killed a kid who had opportunities to be whatever he wanted. Even if Martin had lived and ended up wasting his life away, a life does not deserve to end merely for being perceived as a threat.

But would justice actually have been served if Zimmerman were convicted?

His conviction would not have stopped black kids from killing each other across the nation. His conviction would not ease the rate at which black men are incarcerated. And his conviction would definitely not stop these types of crimes from happening again.

As a young black man, it’s hard for me not to be biased about this case. I wanted a manslaughter conviction at least, but the prosecution could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Zimmerman was guilty of that or second-degree murder.

But I do know that this should not be the end of the Trayvon Martin story. Instead, hopefully it will wake people up with the realization that racism is a staple of this country and will always be, despite a recent Supreme Court ruling saying otherwise. Being black in America still brings connotations of suspicion. This trial showed that the justice system still does not care about black men unless we are taking up space in a 6-by-8 cell. We can study, bring money to sports teams or act as the head of the executive branch of our federal government, and we still are not worth the cost of keeping us imprisoned.

It is scary to live in a country that thinks we have made so much racial progress when we are still taking baby steps. It is scary to realize that I can be shot because of suspicion while my attacker can waltz free from any jail time.

Trayvon Martin is the symbol of what can happen when racial profiling goes wrong. The Florida justice system just deemed that symbol worthless.

Trayvon, rest in peace.

But racism, I hope you die.

Junius Randolph is a rising Medill junior. He can be reached at juniusrandolph2015@u.northwestern.edu. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, leave a comment or send a letter to the editor to opinion@dailynorthwestern.com.

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