There are times when you hope and pray to be proven wrong. For me, this is one of those times.
A week before the beginning of the George Zimmerman trial, in this same newspaper, I predicted that a white jury would not convict Zimmerman. It was not hard to make that prediction. There is no situation in American legal history that contradicts that prediction. Indeed, history supports it.
I cannot think of a single instance where a white jury has convicted a white man for killing a black person, no matter what the “predominance of evidence” indicated.
In general, white America is inflicted with what appears to be an incurable social disease simply known as racism. It is so insidious that the carriers, for the most part, are really innocently unaware of it.
Their psyches have constructed a strong defense against seeing themselves as racists and really believe their behavior is the result of making sound and right choices – with race being neutral.
When it was announced that the six-member Zimmerman jury comprised five white women and one Hispanic woman, there was cautious optimism in the black community. Black people automatically saw these women as mothers and really thought that, as such, they could and would identify with a mother losing her son in the way Sybrina Fulton lost her son Travon.
In a sense, that expectation was on target. However, the black community was naïve enough to assume that the identification would be with the mother of Trayvon. In a racist society, that could not be. These women saw themselves in the shoes of Zimmerman’s mother and Zimmerman became their de facto son. They could not and would not convict “their” son.
In order not to convict, they would have to have a plausible reason. After all, they do not see themselves as racists nor do they see themselves as immoral or unsympathetic to the Martin family. They are convinced that there was enough of a “shadow of double” to grant a full acquittal on all charges.
From the beginning of the deliberation, they combined their efforts to establish doubt. None of the evidence presented by the prosecution was taken seriously.
They relied on the flimsy defense to guide them to the inevitable decision. That was easy to do because there was no one in that jury room to force them to consider the case put forth by the prosecution. Therefore, they were able to avoid a condition called cognitive dissonance.
Simply put, cognitive dissonance occurs when people are forced to examine their beliefs and perspectives against another set of beliefs and perspectives and discover that they might be wrong. Mental confusion results and, in order to deal with it, they must abandon the beliefs and perspectives that are not consistent with their self-image of being “good people.”
In a jury room where the jurors are likely to think and feel the same way, there is little likelihood that these women had to deal with another perspective.
This brings me to my final point: Knowing that this society is fraught with racism, why would the prosecution consent to a jury without any blacks? A single black juror might have made a significant difference in the verdict.
In a roundabout way, the jury got it right: Zimmerman did not kill Trayvon, he merely held the gun. America pulled the trigger.
*Gilbert L. Raiford is a retired social worker who has had a long career in teaching and working for the U.S. Department of State. He may be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org