Editorial: Obama’s Surprise Appearance Underscores Racial Issues in Zimmerman Trial

obama at press conferenceThe trial is over, George Zimmerman was exonerated, and the jury has gone home. But the controversy is far from over, and the President has just given a long statement to the press and the American people, all about race and Trayvon Martin’s death.

GerardDirect made a decision prior to the trial not to get caught up in the media frenzy over it, opting to wait it out, listening to the testimony, and letting the jury decide the outcome. With one exception: a brief article reporting Internet threats of violence and rioting if the jury would find Zimmerman ‘not guilty’.

In the end, the verdict was ‘not guilty’ on all counts, and only marginal violence actually occurred. Still, the heated discussion continues in all the media and the issue refuses to go away. For whatever it is worth, GerardDirect has a few opinions, which we share with you here.

“We are a nation of laws,” as the President correctly said immediately after the verdict was read, “and a jury has spoken.”  But on  July 19, he went much further, giving a speech about the special sensitivities of black Americans and “a history that doesn’t go away.”

America, like most nations, has much in its history that is difficult to view with pride. A long history of slavery, segregation, and injustice is high on the list.

But if the eye witness accounts of the struggle between Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman are to be believed, as the jury apparently did believe them, then this was not about race. It was about a young black man who had a confrontation with an older Latino man, and had the upper hand until Zimmerman pulled out his gun. According to witnesses, Martin was apparently the attacker, and was certainly the man on top when the fight ended up on the ground.

Could Zimmerman have averted the attack by acting differently? Of course. But hindsight is 20/20.  Who hasn’t awakened on the morning after, regretting what he may have done the night before and thinking of all the things he might have done differently?

As the President continued to make this about race, he seemed to forget that Martin’s adversary was Hispanic, also a minority and not white, as the press mistakenly labeled him. Federal law now makes this distinction very clear in its documentation of race. The definition of Hispanic or Latino Origin, used in the 2010 Census, was “a person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin regardless of race.”

In his statement, Obama said, “There are very few African-American men in this country who haven’t had the experience of being followed when they were shopping in a department store. . . . And there are very few African-American men who haven’t had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars.” He might have substituted the word ‘Hispanic’ or ‘Latino’ for ‘African-American” and would also have been correct, as many Latino men can no doubt testify. Yet in his speech, he made it about black men, and made the encounter between Martin and Zimmerman about race.

The jury thought otherwise, and the President should have kept his counsel, because he is President of all Americans, not just black Americans. Whether or not they voted for him, Obama is President of Jewish Americans and American Indians, both of whom have “a history that doesn’t go away”. And he is President of white Americans and Hispanic Americans, as well as Americans from Europe, Asia, South America, and Africa.

And one more thing. In Chicago, the President’s adopted hometown, crime is at astronomical levels. In 2012, there were 244 murders, most of them black-on-black and a large proportion of them gang-related. In the first half of  2013, the murder rate was up an astonishing 35%. Yet these crimes are largely unreported. The President chose to zero in on the death of a single black teenager in Florida and ignore the hundreds of  senseless murders that happen in his own city every year. Why, Mr. President, are you not at least as concerned about the black children who die needlessly in Chicago every day as you are about one black teenager in Florida?

There is something very wrong with this picture. The President was elected in 2008 because he convinced the American people that race did not matter. But since then, he has been running the country as if race is all that matters. If one should criticize his policies, or take a position in opposition to his, then the accusation of ‘racism’ invariably raises its ugly head.

The Zimmerman-Martin confrontation became a hot topic for the press before it became a matter for a jury. Now the jury has spoken and Zimmerman was exonerated. The President should not have injected himself into this discussion. By doing so, he has challenged the verdict of the jury, he has taken sides in the case, however subtly, and, by requesting that the Department of Justice look into the infringement of Martin’s civil rights, he has placed Zimmerman at risk of facing double jeopardy through a legal technicality. All of these are wrong and fly in the face of our American traditions of law, justice, and fairness.

Mr. President, show your concern for ALL the children in America – black, white, Latino, Asian – the little ones who cannot protect themselves, even in the city that YOU call home. Be the President that you were elected to be – the President of ALL Americans, not just the selected few.




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One comment on “Editorial: Obama’s Surprise Appearance Underscores Racial Issues in Zimmerman Trial
  1. Judy says:

    Yes – thank you – just what I have thought- written well. What Obama said again does not start a dialog,again! From reading various posts in the time after his appearance, it again does the opposite, and fans the flames. Your article just told us why. That we could really have a dialog to work on solving the problems in the black community, but I guess that would take too much effort and require adult action, not just posting stinging words on comments and blogs.

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