1. Inhalt
  2. Navigation
  3. Weitere Inhalte
  4. Metanavigation
  5. Suche
  6. Choose from 30 Languages

United States

Americans question role of race in Zimmerman acquittal

The acquittal of George Zimmerman in the fatal shooting of 17-year-old African American Trayvon Martin has outraged many people in the US. Many believe that race played a role in the case.

The acquittal of George Zimmerman has stirred up strong emotions in the US and sparked heated discussion not only on the major television broadcasters, but also among people attending Sunday mass at St. Augustine, the main church for Catholic African Americans in Washington, D.C.

"A Caucasian male shot an African male," Raymond Umunna told DW. "It's easy to assume race; it is so easy to blame race. But that's where we need to be careful and have a critical mind to see beyond the veil of race and see what actually triggered this event, so that it could be prevented."

People attend a rally in reaction to a not guilty verdict for George Zimmerman in New York July 14, 2013. Cleared by a Florida jury, Zimmerman walked free from criminal charges in the shooting death of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin but still faces public outrage, a possible civil suit and demands for a federal investigation. REUTERS/Eric Thayer (UNITED STATES - Tags: CIVIL UNREST CRIME LAW POLITICS)

Across the US, Americans have protested Zimmerman's aqcuittal

Although Zimmerman's father is white, his mother is originally from Peru. On a voter registration document from 2002, Zimmerman identified himself as Hispanic and a Democrat.

Others at St. Augustine see the case very differently from Umunna. One female churchgoer, who didn't want to be named, railed against what she considered a biased court proceeding.

An elderly newspaper salesman in front of the church door sighed, saying that the case wasn't just, because deadly force should never be used against someone who's unarmed. He said that the acquittal was connected not only to race, but also social status, because Zimmerman's father is a retired judge.

The priest in the church also addressed Zimmerman's acquittal. In his sermon, he talked about his many personal experiences with discrimination and exclusion. At the end, he reminded his congregation of the story of the "Good Samaritan," calling on his audience to set a good example despite the outcome of the Zimmerman trial.

'Stand Your Ground'

Michael Werz, with the center-left think tank Center for American Progress in Washington D.C., told DW that conservative lawmakers in Florida helped create the conditions that led to Trayvon Martin's death.

In Florida, the "Stand Your Ground" law allows citizens to use deadly force with a weapon when confronted with an unlawful threat, even if there's the possibility to retreat.

According to Werz, the law has created a "legal grey area." Zimmerman felt empowered to conduct armed patrols in his neighborhood and try to keep out people who he thought didn't belong there, Werz said.

George Zimmerman talks to court security investigator Robert Hemmert for a recess after a jury question during his trial in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin at the Seminole County Criminal Justice Center, in Sanford, Florida, July 13, 2013. Zimmerman has been charged with second-degree murder for the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin. REUTERS/Joe Burbank/Pool (UNITED STATES - Tags: CRIME LAW) - eingestellt von gri

Zimmerman claims he was acting in self-defense when he shot Martin

For Werz, Martin's identity as a young African American male made him easy both to be profiled and later seen as a victim of profiling. "In this respect, the case has generated a high level of political volatility."

Obama pushes gun control

On Sunday, President Barack Obama called on Americans to respect the court's judgment. In 2012, the president provoked conservative ire when he weighed in on the case, saying that if he "had a son, he'd look like Trayvon."

"I know this case has elicited strong passions," Obama said on Sunday in a press release. "And in the wake of the verdict, I know those passions may be running even higher. But we are a nation of laws, and a jury has spoken."

The president used the Zimmerman case to make a renewed push for his initiative to tighten gun control laws.

"We should ask ourselves if we're doing all we can to stem the tide of gun violence that claims too many lives across this country on a daily basis," Obama said.

Activists call for federal charges

After the ruling, civil rights activist Jesse Jackson called for restraint. But Jackson pointed out that none of the jurors in the trial were African American. He has called on the Justice Department to pursue federal civil rights charges against Zimmerman.

Trayvon Martin's parents have accused the authorities of failing to conduct a robust investigation, because their son was black.

According Werz, ethnic heritage, skin color and social status can all play a role in determining how a person is treated by the police and the courts.

FILE - This undated file family photo shows Trayvon Martin. Martin was slain in the town of Sanford, Fla., on Feb. 26 in a shooting that has set off a nationwide furor over race and justice. Neighborhood crime-watch captain George Zimmerman claimed self-defense and has not been arrested, though state and federal authorities are still investigating. Since the slaying, a portrait has emerged of Martin as a laid-back young man who loved sports, was extremely close to his father, liked to crack jokes with friends and, according to a lawyer for his family, had never been in trouble with the law. (Foto:Martin Family, File/AP/dapd).

Martin's family says their son did not receive justice because he was black

Systematic discrimination?

Does systematic discrimination still exist in the US, some 50 years after Martin Luther King Jr.'s famed "I have a dream" speech? There seems to be a widespread awareness that skin color still plays a daily role in the US, even if the overwhelming majority of Americans believe that shouldn't be the case.

In the American media and on the Internet, the race question stands in the foreground of a highly emotional discussion.

"It's the case that prejudice plays a role, and that there's daily racism in the United States," said Werz.

"But the central tenet and the huge success of the civil rights movement was to anchor so strongly the individual claim to equality before the law - in public transit, universities and government institutions - that systematic discrimination is very difficult, if not impossible."

DW recommends

Audios and videos on the topic