The Martin and Zimmerman case underscored the biases present in American societyJuly 21, 2013 at 6:42 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American Racism, blacks, Disrespect, equality, ethnic stereotypes, European American, fairness, George Zimmerman, Hispanic whites, identity, justice, Prejudice, socioeconomics, Trayvon Martin, U. S. Census, whites | 3 Comments
Tags: african american males, African Americans, american youths, black, criminal justice system, current-events, ethnic bias, ethnic group, ethnic separation, ethnicity, European Americans, forgone conclusion, George Zimmerman, great pretenders, Hispanics, martin case, Martin v. Zimmerman jury, politics, race, socioeconomics, Trayvon Martin, white
Following the decision of the jury during the Trayvon Martin trial the primary question asked about the trial was—was race involved? That question, unfortunately, was the wrong question to ask. Many Americans are great pretenders when the subjects are race and justice. They pretend that both race and justice exists for all Americans when they know for a fact that it does not. First, the term race is inaccurate, misleading, and incorrect because it supports the divide that is inherent it the term’s usage. Human beings belong to one race, so the appropriate terms should be ethnic groups or ethnicity when speaking of personal identity. Injustice in America we know is a fact. All one has to do is look at the number of women imprisoned in Oklahoma, or look at the gap in the jobs between African American and other American youths, or the arrest and imprisonment of African American males across America. So the question following the Trayvon Martin case should be how much did ethnic bias influence the decision in the case?
Not having an ethnic bias in America is impossible for anyone who has been here for a week, because we recognize that different ethnic groups are stereotyped by society in general in everyday life. What that stereotyping meant for the Trayvon Martin case was that the decision against Martin was a forgone conclusion once the jury was selected. Americans like to think that our criminal justice system is fair and impartial when we know that the outcome of any trial commonly depends on the level and degree of representation one can acquire. We know that a person who can afford a top tier lawyer stands a better chance of receiving a favorable verdict than a person with a Public Defender. Yet, we simply place our hope in our belief that the system works. What we do not consider is the fact that ethnic bias is a fact of life for all Americans. In addition to the ethnic difference, we must recognize that social and economic differences also take a toll on the justice system.
When we look at the ethnic differences involved in the case, we must consider that everyone involved came to this experience with some long-standing ethnic assumptions. Zimmerman, for example, assumed that Trayvon was a suspicious-looking person. We do not know why Trayvon was assumed to be suspicious to Zimmerman, but common sense dictates that if it is raining and one has a hood, then one will use that hood to protect one’s self from the rain. According to Zimmerman, the identity of past perpetrators was African American, so it stands to reason that he assumed Trayvon to be African American. Although Zimmerman ethnicity is Hispanic, the jury considered him to be “white,” like most of them. So, the division of ethnic bias was present in the perception of the jury regarding Martin, Zimmerman, and themselves. Since they identified with Zimmerman, and not Martin, they would offer a decision that was more in line with their perception. We must remember that Martin and Zimmerman are not viewed equally by the jury even thought they might say they are; ethnic stereotypes held by the jury were involved in the jury’s decision.
Our justice system says that we are to be judged by a jury of our peers, but we know that happening is next to impossible. The decision against Martin was made by a jury that had no idea of what his life and social environment was like. Without the ethnic associated with Zimmerman, the jury had no knowledge of his life as well. The lives of the individuals on the jury has no resembles to that of Martin—they would never meet in the same church, neighborhood store, park or school except by accident. Their social lives are completely different from that of Martin, so they form assumptions about his life as a young African American accompanied with all the negative stereotypes associated with those assumptions. They do the same with Zimmerman also, but from a totally perspective—he is considered “white.”
For many years in America, certain ethnic groups were not permitted citizenship because they were not considered European American. Included in that group were Polish, Irish, Italians, Jewish, Hispanics, Asians, and numerous others. After World War II, the government began to consider many of them as “white,” and because of this change, many were able to benefit economically, socially, politically as opposed to the opportunities of African Americans. Many of these new “whites” became staunch defenders of their new group, actually fighting against some other ethnic groups attempting to acquire social fairness and justice; they became more “white” than the European Americans in wanting to preserve the rights, privileges and power of their new group. Today, the U.S. Government and the Census Bureau allow any number of ethnic Americans to identify themselves as “white;”even Zimmerman could identify himself as a “white Hispanic.” The term “white” is inaccurate and incorrect as well as misleading. A person either has an ethnic identity or is considered European American, not white. So, what does this have to do with the trail? Simply stated, the members of the jury could not relate to Martin from an economical perspective because they do not live in the same or similar environment based on their economic status. They have no occasion to interact or get to know Martin, his family or the millions of families like his. And, yes, ethnicity biases did play a major role in this equation.
As a society, we need to recognize the fact that America is separated on many levels because of economics, education, religion, politics, and other elements, and that all citizens are not and for now, cannot receive fair and equal treatment through our justice system. The Martin case provides us with an opportunity to not only open a discussion about this problem, but also to create actions for addressing them. We are merely begging the question when we ask if race had anything to do with the Martin v Zimmerman case because we know that ethnic bias is a part of the American social fabric. What we must do as a society now is to create and implement plans that will bring us together as one society with diversity rather than a society separated because of our ethnic diversity. Too many Americans do not realize or recognize their bigotry because of their level of separation from parts of society, in many instances; their “level of separation” not only keeps others out, but imprisons them.