Zimmerman Verdict Reveals Southern Racism

Zimmerman Verdict Reveals Southern Racism

In a gross miscarriage of justice, a jury of six women found George Zimmerman not guilty in the killing of Trayvon Martin. They had earlier asked for a clarification on the definition of manslaughter, leading many to believe they would settle on that verdict instead of homicide. When that didn’t happen, our country changed. No justice for Trayvon means no justice for anyone, and Southern racism is to blame.

The verdict means that no one is safe, and that people are allowed to racially profile children, pick fights, defy the orders of authorities, stalk and kill. It sets a precedent and speaks volumes about how we view race in this country. It also highlights the fact that Southern attitudes toward race greatly impacted the jury’s decision.

Those who defend Zimmerman never address the initial why of his actions. He began following Travyon because Trayvon “looked suspicious.” But what does that really mean? It really means that Trayvon was walking while black. He was wearing a hoodie. Perhaps he walked with confidence; perhaps he walked with his head down. None of those things are suspicious, so that leaves race as the only answer to the “why.”

No one who defends Zimmerman debates or argues the fact that Zimmerman racially profiled Trayvon, but they don’t discuss that fact either, because that fact is icky, and unpleasant. They quickly skip past the racial profiling to what happened afterward.

Everything that happened after Zimmerman racially profiled Trayvon was caused solely and completely by Zimmerman’s initial actions. Therefore, for the jury to find that what happened is not manslaughter means that justice is dead, at least in the South, and it’s a Southern problem.

Numerous studies show that the South is far more racist than the North. That doesn’t mean “everyone” in the South is racist, but social scientists recognize the reality of the deeply embedded and much more easily recognizable racism that is characteristic of the land below the Mason-Dixon Line. It’s time the general public started recognizing it, too.

This culture of southern racism is what led to the Zimmerman verdict. It’s not insignificant that the jury was nearly all white. It is impossible for most Southerners to separate their internalized, or in some cases, externalized racism from their decisions, even if those decisions can impact the entire country and deny justice to a grieving family.

Just a few weeks ago, Southern celebrity chef Paula Deen was asked if she had ever used the “N” word. She answered “of course.”

Let that sink in for a moment.

She answered that way because it is inherent in most Southerners’ psyches to view black people as inferior. However, nearly all Southerners become deeply enraged and offended when this point is brought to light by anyone other than their own kind. Very few Southerners got upset when Paula Deen revealed the inner psyche of many southern people, but Southern people will be upset at this discussion.

Paula Deen’s answer to the “N” word question is significant in talking about the Trayvon Martin case. For if racism is the default mechanism in many Southerners’ brains, how could a jury of Zimmerman’s peers have issued a fair verdict?

They couldn’t have, and they didn’t. The toxicity of racism is so pervasive that it impacts every decision a person makes when dealing with situations that involve race. It’s a cancer that always stays hidden inside the body, poisoning the blood and brain, never detectable to the naked eye but destroying the fabric of reason and logic.

Studies prove it, Paula Deen has revealed it, and now we need to start talking about it. Zimmerman racially profiled Trayvon because Trayvon was black. The jury acquitted Zimmerman because Trayvon was black. The South’s racism is to blame for the Zimmerman verdict, and now Trayvon’s family has been robbed of any hope they had for justice for their son.

By: Rebecca Savastio

(Op-Ed)