A few years ago, I wrote an article arguing that so long as lawyers and judges refused to acknowledge that people are not color blind, our legal system would inevitably treat Blacks unequally. See White Lawyering: Rethinking Race, Lawyer Identity, and Rule of Law. The Zimmerman verdict is yet another tragic illustration of how the pretension of color blindness inevitably results in racial injustice. The examples in the Zimmerman trial are manifold. The Court permitted the defense to introduce evidence that a neighbor had been robbed by a Black man – to what purpose? To suggest that if one Black man was a criminal all were and therefore George Zimmerman was reasonable in profiling Trayvon Martin. The defense lawyers constantly used tropes that assumed racial bias. They argued, for example, that George Zimmerman was physically weak and a bad fighter in contrast to what? Without any evidence regarding Trayvon Martin, they implied that he was a good fighter and to be feared because he was Black. This is a sad day for all of us, not just for Trayvon Martin’s family and for the State of Florida. It’s a powerful reminder that all of us who are part of the legal system, including Whites like myself, have a responsibility to redouble our efforts to promote equal justice under law. For an enlightening take on how the Zimmerman trial forces us to rethink discrimination laws, watch Maya Wiley’s comments on Up with Steve Kornacki.
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There has been a lt of powerful commentary in this regard – e.g. today’s Times Op-Ed by Ekow Yankah. But powerful narratives like that need corroboration to rise above anecdote. Corinne McConnaughey, a political scientist, does that in post on The Monkey Cage blog yesterday. Her review of the evidence strongly supports the suggestion that race must be addressed directly:
“the Zimmerman trial judge’s decision to sharply limit the explicit reference to race—including denying the prosecution the ability to argue that Zimmerman engaged in racial profiling. Studies of the legal system and aversive racism show that the less explicitly race is engaged in the discourse in the courtroom, the more likely aversive racism is to influence the decisionmaking process of the jurors. Thus, the judge’s decision also makes it more likely that race played a role in the outcome of the case.” – GWC see http://themonkeycage.org/2013/07/15/trayvon-martin-and-the-burden-of-being-a-black-male/