Racism, the U. S. Justice System, and the Trayvon Martin Verdict

What happens when African Americans don’t get a jury of their peers?

While the unquestionably unfair verdict in the Trayvon Martin case, rendered in Florida by five whites and one Latina, should be deeply troubling to persons of all races who care about racial justice, U. S. history, as well as the current racial reality in this country, teaches that it should not come as a surprise.

The jury, simply put, decided that a white police wannabe could justifiably profile an unarmed African-American 17-year-old as a criminal, hunt him down, and fatally shoot him.

Martin family attorney Benjamin Crump likened the case to that of Emmett Till, the 14-year-old Chicago boy who was kidnapped and brutally murdered in Mississippi in 1955. Others have posited the question: What would the result have been if the accused was African-American and the victim was white? The Scottsboro case—nine black boys wrongfully accused of raping a white woman in Alabama in the 1930s—comes to mind. In both cases all-white juries delivered clearly racist verdicts, acquitting Till’s murderers and convicting the Scottsboro Boys.

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