Sanford, Fla.—Emotions have been running high since a jury found neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman not guilty of killing African-American teenager Trayvon Martin. Protesters took to social media and the streets to show their disappointment in Saturday’s verdict.
“America has given a free pass to murder Black Youth,” wrote a Twitter user named Scotty. Professor Maurice Jackson said the verdict represented “a sad day for democracy and for justice.” He added, “There is much to love about our country, but there are also things that happen to black people every day that make you want to put your head down and cry.”
Meanwhile, other people said the case shouldn’t have been prosecuted and contained reasonable doubt. Some said Zimmerman shouldn’t have had to pay for generations of racial inequalities.
Martin, 17, was unarmed last February, when Zimmerman claimed he shot him in self-defense. Zimmerman faced charges of second-degree murder and manslaughter but was acquitted by a jury of six women.
Martin’s parents and President Obama asked Americans to calmly reflect on the verdict. “We should ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to widen the circle of compassion and understanding in our own communities,” Obama said.
NAACP President Benjamin Jealous was encouraged by the mostly peaceful protests, as “a generation of young people respond by using our system, raising their voices, but not using their fists.”
Milton Felton, one of Martin’s cousins, said, “My heart is heavy, [but] I’m very proud of the Trayvon Martin movement. All tragedies are converted to a good and positive nature.”
Zimmerman, who may face civil charges and Department of Justice inquiries, has been living in fear of revenge, his lawyer and family said. “He’s going to be looking over his shoulder the rest of his life,” said Robert Zimmerman Jr., his brother.
Sources: cnn.com, nbcnews.com
- What verdict did you expect in this case, and why? What, if anything, do you think the outcome says about our country or our judicial system as a whole?
- If you’ve expressed an opinion about the verdict, what tone did you use, and why? Why is it difficult for some people to accept decisions as final?
- Why do you think the protests have stayed mostly peaceful? What message would violent protests send, and why?
- What type of life do you expect Zimmerman to have from now on? Do you think he’s been—and will be—punished enough for his actions? Why or why not?
- In what ways do you think today’s generation of young people feels heard and respected? In what ways do you think they feel ignored or disrespected?
- What are you and your peers doing to spread compassion and understanding in your neighborhood, school, or town? How willing are you to engage in conversation and debate about tough issues?
- How concerned are you about social-justice issues—and what factor does your own race play in that? What, in your opinion, is the best way to advocate for social change?
- What issues involving race and inequality bother you the most, and why? How might America be able to someday move beyond racial biases and inequalities?
- Do you agree that all tragedies have a purpose and can lead to good? If so, explain. What positive results have you witnessed from struggles you’ve faced?
Scripture links: Numbers 12:1-15; Matthew 7:12; John 7:24; Ephesians 2:14-22; Colossians 3:10-11; and James 2:1-13.