I followed the Zimmerman trial half-heartedly (mostly because I do not trust the media to relay legal information to me without holes) and started to engage in the conversation as soon as the verdict was released. My Twitter and Facebook feeds were full of both Martin and Zimmerman supporters. I have my own opinions on the trial and the verdict, but they’re all being voiced more eloquently than I could voice them. Now, though, the trial is over, and what we’re left with is a public outcry to fix an array of uncovered injustices in our country. In my humble opinion, even if you find yourself whole-heartedly convinced that Zimmerman was in the right, you have one very clear-cut responsibility now that the trial is over: to listen.
No matter how you feel about the outcome of the trial, the wisest thing to do now whatever our race, whatever our religion, whatever our political leaning, is to listen to the specific frustrations and complaints that have been stirred up by this trial. Gun laws, yes; Stand Your Ground laws, yes. But especially race. The past generations have had their racial issues right in front of their faces: undeniable. But we’ve gotten pretty good at thinking we’re past racial bias and past discrimination. Certain well-known radio talk show hosts want you to dismiss the protesters and their outrage as false victims wishing to gain undeserved attention, but I am convinced that, trial aside, outrage about protecting racial minorities and identifying our biases can only contribute positively to our society, should they remain peaceful. Some facets will insist that this trial had nothing to do with race, and we all have opinions regarding that, but I’m saying that we need to move beyond the specifics of the trial and to the issues that the trial has brought to our society’s surface. Even if you are under the impression that race has had nothing to do with this trial, it’s in our focus now, and if you care to be in open dialogue with the thinkers of this nation, you’re going to want to be open to some hard questions about racial identity.
The most prudent critical thinkers will listen to protesters, even casual protesters in arenas like social media, when they tell us that they identify with Martin because they have been profiled or discriminated against. The wisest among us will trust the outraged when they tell us their personal experiences—experiences that are valuable and that indicate a necessary change in our thinking and our behavior. There is a reason why this case has stirred up so much emotional depth: race is complicated, it’s deep in our hearts, and it cross-cuts into our very identities and families. It’s not an easy or simple topic. Right now the hardest thing to do, but something the wise will manage, is to put down offensive rhetoric and be someone who is open to receiving the change this trial will surely bring to our nation, our neighborhoods, and our history books. We have an opportunity to learn from people who have passion for good reasons—we have the opportunity to give the benefit of the doubt and listen.