Why the George Zimmerman trial wasn’t really about race or even George Zimmerman!

As we all know by now, George Zimmerman was quitted on all counts against him for the murder of Trayvon Martin. A jury of six of his peers (in theory), found that Zimmerman acted in self-defense under the conditions of Florida’s “Stand your ground” law.

Now if you’ve been watching television or read the major newspapers, you’d get the impression this case was all about race. While the anchors or columnists weren’t so blatant in their coverage, the pundits they paraded out made up for it. “George Zimmerman was racist and it was his disdain for black people who motivated him to gun down Tayvon. Plus the police didn’t handle the case right from the beginning because there was a black youth involved, and of course he was probably up to no good.”


But then again we have to give the media a break. No matter if it was the Washington Post, CNN, ABC or MSNBC, we know they aren’t in the business of objective journalism, but rather have an agenda of “stirring the pot” for the sake of readership and ratings.

I disagree with the majority our vaunted Fourth Estate however. I think what we saw was the unfortunate aftermath of a “Perfect Storm.”

What we had in George Zimmerman was a wannabe cop. And I’m not saying that with negative connotations. It’s obvious he had a police mentality. Otherwise why would he been out there in the first place as the head of a neighborhood watch. It takes a certain personality, someone who’s probably looking at everything suspiciously, looking for something out-of-place. And in turn, wanting to engage (obviously).

And also we have the phenomena of the prejudice of “preconceived ideas.” We all have them. We look at a situation or a person through the filters of our own experiences. These experiences can come from real life, or they can just be result of the media’s depictions. It’s how we learn, it’s built into our DNA. After a first encounter with a Saber Toothed Tiger, cavemen learned not to mess with them … or least not without a spear in hand.

These “preconceptions” aren’t necessarily racist, or at least overtly. They’re more under the surface, most of the time due to lack of exposure to people who are different from them. It’s very difficult to look at someone totally objective, no matter how hard we try. Our experiences always sneak in, just like the caveman. Even Jesse Jackson once said if he was walking down the street coming up on three black youth, he would probably cross to the other side.

And this bias doesn’t have to be racial either. I remember driving through Wyoming with my daughter Alex. We were stopped at 7:00am by a highway patrol entirely because I had California licence plates. After asking for my ID and registration, his next question was: “Do you have any drugs or weapons in your car?” This elicited a “WHAT!” from Alex. Obviously his preconception was that all drivers from California were likely to have drugs or weapons on them, regardless if there was a five-year girl in the front seat. The only way I got out of completely emptying my car was to call my best friend Jerry who we’d spent the last three days with. Jerry also happened to be the airport manager in Cheyenne, the capitol of Wyoming.

The media said that Zimmerman probably didn’t even have any black friends. Again, probably not because he was racist, as much as he just hadn’t had enough personal encounters to feel comfortable around them.

Adding to the “Perfect Storm” is where is the incident took place. Florida is a relatively conservative state with a conservative legislature. Gun ownership is a valued right, as much as it is in the western states. In fact Florida has issued over a million concealed weapons permits, more than any other state. Guns, and especially ones hidden from sight, are a fact of life in Florida.

And then finally topping off the “Perfect Storm,” we have the Castle Law, or better known as “Stand-your-ground.” If you feel threatened and you have a gun … then go ahead and use it, no matter where the hell you are!

I suppose the Castle Law in itself isn’t so bad if you didn’t look at where it came from. The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and its extreme right-wing agenda funded by the NRA and other less than desirable entities (with self-interests well in tow) have literally drafted the template bills for states to use verbatim. It’s in the NRA’s best interest to have more guns and Wal-Mart (a big backer of ALEC) to sell more guns. This self-defense paranoia also fuels anti-immigrant causes. Because as we all know, immigrants vote for Democrats, the arch-enemy of the NRA and ALEC.

So again what we have is the “Perfect Storm” of events and backdrop. And as a result, Trayvon Martin is dead for no real reason except being a victim of circumstances. And what the trial comes down to is whether George Zimmerman feared for his life.

If you look past the media sound bites … you’ll see he probably did. Should have he? Looking in hindsight, of course not! Trayvon was a 150 lb kid with a pack of Skittles and George Zimmerman outweighed him by almost hundred pounds. But you can’t ignore Zimmerman’s preconceptions, bias, and that he hadn’t the luxury of objective hindsight. You add this to his psychological state; knowing he should (in his mind) engage this young man, as well as if things went bad he had his weapon he could legally defend himself with … you have the “Perfect Storm.”

And all the jury had to do was empathize with him and agree he “feared for his life.”

So what can can be done to make sure this doesn’t happen again?

You’re always going to have wannabe cops, looking at everything suspiciously and being the first to volunteer for their local neighborhood watch.

Can you change how people perceive others who are different from them? Probably not. Or as Bill Clinton said: “You can’t legislate morality.” Are you going to put the nation in a big room sequestered from all outside influences? Of course not. Ideally we can maybe try to get people out of their cocoons and venture out and experience other cultures and “people not like them.” Maybe.

It’s obvious that we’re not going to get rid of guns. If the Sandy Hook massacre can’t move the gun control meter, I don’t what can.

That brings us to the “Stand-your-ground” law. I’m afraid to say that any attempts to repeal it will involve a fight of biblical proportions against the NRA, its membership, and ALEC and it’s supporters especially the Koch Brothers. This would not be a fight for the faint of heart.

So what it comes down to is as long as you have the conditions that make up this “Perfect Storm,” it’s unlikely it’ll stop anytime soon, no matter what color the person being shot is … or the person doing the shooting. There will be another Trayvon, and another George Zimmerman … and another case, probably decided the same way.

It’s kind of  … “is what it is.”


You can find me on Twitter at @clayforsberg and on Google+


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3 thoughts on “Why the George Zimmerman trial wasn’t really about race or even George Zimmerman!

  1. Interesting – in many respects I agree with you. Environment, experience, commonly held (and taught) beliefs – along with unique individual ‘personality bent’ work to create individual ‘mind-set’, which most certainly does include prejudices that we may not want to recognize in ourselves. From my (experience, environment, learned beliefs, and personality bent), however – we, humanity, do have a ‘way beyond’ these limitations, (which greatly prevent us from achieving ‘thriving community’ from local to global.)

    I wonder how Zimmerman would have viewed himself and the world if he’d been taught to be aware of how easily we hold biased world views? What if we lived in a culture where we both accepted this reality and at the same time worked to ‘rise above it’ as best we could?

    From my point of view we almost don’t have a choice, if we want to survive through the 21stC. We have “run into ourselves”, into a “wall of our own making” on so many issues. I propose what I call “psychological literacy”, and propose it be taught. Not as a heavy academic study, but as an intentional exploration of ‘who we are’. (As might be imagined, I have my own view of what this ‘literacy’ would bring to consciousness. I’d begin with Adler’s insights as they morphed by late 20thC.)

    Martin, too, if he’d been more aware of himself and other, might have handled himself differently. Although to my mind Martin was by far the greater innocent, (younger, less mature), if both, along with learning to read, do basic math, etc., had been exposed to learning what fears and hopes motivate all humans at a root level – maybe the situation would never have arisen, or would have been handled much differently by each?

    What I propose – ‘psychological literacy’ – is a ‘drum beat’ of mine, like I say, it’s my particular bias. I also wrote on the Zimmerman case – my question was value of “restorative justice”. A poor choice once someone has been killed, but those who go through the process – if it’s designed to foster ‘awareness of other’ – learn a great deal about “being human”. If interested, my post is: http://thoughtsfromthewell.wordpress.com/2013/07/19/zimmerman-trial-what-of-the-restorative-justice-process/.

    (Thank you for opportunity to share – I’ve ‘followed’ your blog, and look forward to checking in.)

  2. Yo Clay… I think you need to catch a wake-up call and see things for what they are.

    You live in a society where violence is approved, that why you need a law to say that you are entitled to defend your self.

    Clay Imagine the law said that you were not entitled to defend your self!!!

    How long before the criminal element within your society would sit and behave themselves in that situation, I believe is less time that it would take them to get outside of the legislature before they started misbehaving in ways that you would regret beyond any measure.

    Be thankful that the law says that you are entitled to protect your self.

    In my eyes as an outsider who lives in Sunny South Africa I see a country that has an awful lot more trouble than its community realises. this case is so full of preconceived “BULL SHIT” that the truth has been obscured…

    The media has even decided that the poor dude who protected himself and his community from the criminal elements should be punished for protecting his own life…..

    What signal does this give out to the criminal element within your society?

    Do you wish to “GIVE THE CRIMINAL ELEMENT TH GREEN LIGHT TO RAPE< PLUNDER AND PILLAGE AT WILL" It sure looks that way from here…

    once you yourself have been physically attacked by some irresponsible youth, then come back and talk again… Please wake up and see the truth…. America is in the dwang….because crime is seen as acceptable, and those who say otherwise are victimized…

    1. Thanks for the comment Frank. I see your point, but don’t necessarily agree with it. I don’t not view the “Stand-your-ground” law on the same footings as self defense in the traditional sense. Self defense from my perspective is by definition a reaction to another’s actions. “Stand-your-ground” is offensive based on what a person thinks is a threat. We could disagree a day on the fine points between the two and get nowhere.

      “Stand-your-ground” is a product of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and their far-reaching detrimental community destroying policies. This is where I have a major problem with the law. I suggest you research this group. Their goal is to take over local and state governments for the benefit of the 1%. I suggest you research them, you’ll be astounded at what they’ve down, almost completely under the radar.

      I also very much disagree with your take on the youth. In America, it will be the youth that saves this country from the self-centered, narcissistic actions of their elders. Just take a look at the clown circus they call a Congress.

      Also, I appreciate your comments on my Odd Fellows piece. But my passion for community and local control follows hand in hand with this piece. I abhor organizations such as ALEC taking over control through their sponsorship of laws like “Stand-you-ground.”

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