Martin family attorneys, civil rights and community leaders react to Zimmerman acquittal
Rashad Robinson, Executive Director of ColorOfChange.org:
“A court in Florida today found George Zimmerman not guilty of second degree murder for shooting and killing unarmed 17 year old Trayvon Martin in February 2012. This is another tragedy for Black families everywhere, and another instance of how law enforcement and our criminal justice system routinely fail Black people and communities. Were it not for Trayvon’s family and countless supporters taking action, Zimmerman would have never faced a single question about his actions at all. Tonight, as George Zimmerman walks away without penalty, the verdict sends a clear message about the minimal value placed on the lives of young Black men and boys everywhere. And it is also a clear lesson about the power of culture and media to shape negative perceptions and attitudes, with grave consequences. Since Trayvon’s death, widespread media coverage has perpetuated inaccurate and dehumanizing stereotypes of Black youth — the very kind of depictions that have served to excuse unprovoked violence against young Black men by and boys for years.
“Throughout this trial, we’ve endured a steady stream of media attacks on Trayvon Martin – an innocent, unarmed teenager who was profiled, stalked, and murdered on his way home from buying candy. By amplifying unfounded claims about Trayvon, news media magnified the very same racial stereotypes and false perceptions that put Trayvon’s life in danger in the first place, while ignoring his family’s rightful pleas for justice. Numerous outlets have been passing along unfounded, baseless conjecture as evidence, and reviving deep-seated stereotypes to validate Zimmerman’s defense. This type of newscasting portrays Black teenagers as inherently threatening and violence-prone, but it’s actually the unfair and dehumanizing portrayals in the mass news media that are proven to be life threatening to Black men and boys. We already know that inaccurate media portrayals lead to warped biases against Black people, which lead to negative attitudes and aggressive, harmful treatment by judges, juries, police and others vigilantes wielding dangerous preconceptions like George Zimmerman.
“In a media environment that continues to cast Black men and boys as thugs, it’s not surprising that the tragic death of an innocent young man has become a character trial for Black people everywhere. The media’s portrayals cannot be taken lightly when there words and images contribute to lives being put at risk. We must change news media practices and the media landscape to present evenhanded, accurate and multi-dimensional portrayals of Black people, and all people.
“After more than a year waged in battle for justice for Trayvon — the trial is finally over — but ColorofChange remains deeply committed to creating a more honest and humane media landscape. We send our love and support to Trayvon’s family and we will continue to demand an end to media, culture, and a criminal justice system that dehumanizes young Black men like Trayvon and enables a culture in which Black lives are seen as less valuable.”
Michael Skolnik, board member, Trayvon Martin Foundation:
David Alexander Bullock, Change Agent Consortium national spokesperson:
“Tonight our prayers are with Trayvon Martin’s family and America. This case is about race and self-defense. While we call for peace in the streets, this case has opened deep and systemic wounds in America. Is the death of black youth meaningless? Did he head home that day to die? These are perplexing issues. We must honor Trayvon by addressing the egregious Stand Your Ground law. We must honor Trayvon by holding the NRA accountable. We must honor Trayvon by ending racial profiling. We must honor Trayvon by remembering that he did nothing wrong. We continue to push for respect for all human beings and hope that a true dialogue about racism in America evolves.”
Miami Congresswoman Frederica Wilson:
“My heart and prayers are with the Martin family.
“A simple fact remains: an innocent young boy is dead.
“After Trayvon was shot and killed, I was one of the loudest voices demanding a trial and I am disappointed with the verdict.
“My role in this case has been to help ensure that Mr. Zimmerman faces a court of law. While I am profoundly disappointed with the ruling in this case, the criminal portion of the process has run its course. I encourage Trayvon’s parents to pursue vindication of their rights under civil law. I will support the family in any way possible.
“I extend my deepest sympathies to Trayvon’s family. I will continue to fight for justice for Trayvon.”