In the final analysis, it came down to this: A black teenage male returning from the store with a box of candy and iced tea was profiled by a white Hispanic adult male who defied police orders, followed and confronted the teenager who, in fear for his life, defended himself and was shot through the heart by the white adult who was set free on grounds of self-defense.
Florida’s abhorrent “stand your ground” defense protection and a subliminal hammer of racism became the dual predicate for six women jurors, five of them white and one reportedly Hispanic, to send the killer home a free man. But they did not bring Trayvon Martin back from the dead.
What they did was remind all of us that racism is never far from the surface of American life and that even in the 21st century young black males remain an endangered species.
The arguments come fast and furious from all sides: the court’s instructions to the jury left little wiggle room for a conviction; the special prosecutor “over-charged” the killer; the prosecution botched the case; the defense resorted to the worst racist tactics. This is, of course, all a post-mortem on the trial.
We demanded charges, and a trial and a verdict have been rendered. Better to have also demanded the selection of a jury of the defendant’s peers, which certainly include more than white women.
What now, America?
You have allowed another of our sons to be taken from us and let the killer walk free. And there is absolutely no guarantee that it won’t happen again. This verdict would not have happened if the young black male had been the killer.
So we need to change some things to ensure that there is real equality under law. We have suffered mightily for too long under a legal and criminal justice system designed to perpetuate the subjugation of Africans in America.
That will not change until there is a change of heart among white Americans, not through dialogue – we have had that ad nauseam – but through a conscious effort to recognize that racism is indeed an underpinning of American society. Genuine leadership from the pulpits of America, both white and black, will serve us well on this journey for our soul is the bedrock for our motivations every moment we are alive.
Let Trayvon Martin’s death and the travesty of the trial for his killer serve as a call to all good Americans to pledge and work toward removing this shame from among us. Change our spiritual grounding and we will change America.