Dr. Jason Johnson discusses the timing of Obama’s Zimmerman speech as well as the varied reactions in the African American community a day after national protests in 100 cities about the verdict.
Dr. Jason Johnson, Professor of Political Science at Hiram College, discusses the impact of Barack Obama’s speech about the George Zimmerman Verdict a day before 100 cities stage nationwide protests against the verdict.
Hiram College political science professor Jason Johnson was interviewed by Newsmax about President Barack Obama’s comments on the not guilty verdict in the trial of George Zimmerman for the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.
“For the first time in his presidency, he spoke as a bridge in America,” Jason Johnson, a political science and communications professor at Hiram College in Northeast Ohio, told Newsmax in an exclusive interview.
Jason Johnson, a political science and communications professor at Hiram College in Northeast Ohio, also told Newsmax that Obama has taken too long to address issues of race.“He’s avoided that assiduously throughout his presidency, in large part because he is concerned that white independent voters don’t ever want to hear anything about race unless it’s a critique of the African-American community or culture,” Johnson said.
He said Obama’s comments created “a wonderful bridge” that could open dialogue about race.
“But what he essentially said was: ‘Look, there are some real, empirical reasons why black people in particular are disappointed in this ruling. It has to do with history. It has to do with racism. It has to do with very real things that happen in America — and we can’t just ignore those things because it is politically convenient to ignore history,’” Johnson added.
Click here to rad the article: “Obama: Black Americans Feel Pain in Martin Verdict“
There is a huge difference betweenapplication of the law and actual justice. That is the painful reality that many Americans of all ages and all colors face in the aftermath of the George Zimmerman verdict. The State prosecutors did not make their case, according to the law, but the fact that Zimmerman could shoot an unarmed teenager and not do jail time is not justice.
Justice occurs when the machinery of the law meets our collective moral intentions. For example, if I stick the keys in the ignition, the engine starts, the wheels start to turn, but my car doesn’t take me to the store, I can’t still call that “transportation.” The machinery didn’t support my intention, which in the minds of many is what occurred with last Saturday’s ruling.
There are many reasons why this happened. Race is one of them. And unfortunately, while the case may be over, the underlying issues that led to a shooting in February 2012 are not even close to being resolved.
Imagine the following exchange:
Person A: Guess what? 2+2=5
Person B: Actually, that’s not right. 2+2 = 4. I can show you countless examples where that’s the case.
Person A: Why do you always have to bring math into this? You people are just obsessed with math all the time! No one brought up math until you did!
That sounds ridiculous, right? No one would ever just deny the existence of math because they don’t want to accept it. Unfortunately, all too many Americans have an equally ridiculous resistance to any suggestion that race played a role in the outcome of the Zimmerman trial.
Some conservatives argue that race had nothing to do with the case, until Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton led protests calling for Zimmerman’s arrest last summer. On the other hand, many believe that, at bare minimum, Zimmerman racially profiled Martin and, at worst, the mediocre police investigation, the selection of a majority white female jury, and the incredibly uneven prosecution were a reflection of how the death of a young black boy is not taken as seriously as that of a white 17-year-old.
In the wake of Juror B37’s interview on CNN, it’s harder and harder to claim that race didn’t play a role at least in terms of how the jury processed and viewed the Zimmerman trial.
During her interview with Anderson Cooper, Juror B37 description of Rachel Jeantelreeked of racial and class condescension. It seemed like she assumed Jeantel was ashamed and embarrassed to be on the witness stand (as opposed to being in mourning). She discounted her as a credible witness without a specific reason why.
In addition, throughout the entire interview, Juror B37 kept referring to Zimmerman as “George,” not Mr. Zimmerman or the defendant. Yet when talking about the actual shooting, the most empathy she could muster was to say “It’s a shame someonedied.” She didn’t even utter Martin’s name until prompted by Cooper. She clearly identified more with Zimmerman than Martin.
A 2003 study out of Chicago-Kent Law School shows that Americans believe that the more racially diverse the jury is in a trial, the more legitimate and fair the final verdict is, which might explain why thousands of Americans are protesting the jury verdict in the Zimmerman case. Even further, in 2010, researchers at Tufts University found that the sympathy and empathy of white and black jurors does influence the final jury verdict. In other words, as it applies to the Zimmerman case, white jurors are less likely to empathize with black victims or convict those who perpetrate crimes on African-Americans.
Stepping back from the jury a bit to the wider trial, a 2012 study conducted by PBS showed that:
“In ‘Stand your ground’ states, white people who kill black people are 354% more likely to be found justified in their killings. And it doesn’t get much better in non-‘Stand your ground’ states, where that number goes down only to 250%.”
The very idea that race doesn’t play a role in how a jury comes to a final decision is just as preposterous as saying gender doesn’t play a role in the process. Not one analyst or lawyer ever suggested women leave their gender at the deliberation door. In fact, we spent six weeks talking about how having an all-women jury could influence the outcome of the trial — how women communicate or organize differently from men, how having five jurors who are mothers could impact the trial — and no one said that was outrageous. Race could no more be taken out of this deliberation process than gender.
In other words, Juror B37 can say that race played no role in the deliberations or final decision in the Zimmerman trial, but the math doesn’t add up. Unless, of course, you don’t believe in math.
During his closing statements, defense attorney Mark O’Mara stated that if the jury used common sense, Zimmerman would go to jail. But their job was to determine if the State met the burden of proof for second-degree murder or manslaughter, not use common sense.
The jury decided in favor of the defense and Zimmerman goes free. Sort of. For some Americans, this was the right result and confirmed their belief in Zimmerman’s innocence. However, for many Americans of all ages, colors, and beliefs, this ruling was the application of the law without corresponding collective moral intention. The verdict was the law — but not justice.
And, unfortunately, that is the America we live in.
This article originally appeared online at Headline News.
While most Americans were picking up the Zimmerman trial in clips and highlights on the news or the radio after work, I was immersed in the entire trial all day. Working as an analyst for several media outlets, meant that I was watching every bit of eight-plus hours a day of testimony, evidence and cross examination during the trial. The process was exhausting, and a wonderful reminder of why I decided not to pursue law in college.
Essentially when you are forced to watch a process from beginning to end you, have a pretty good idea of where it’s going, so you aren’t surprised or even impressed by the conclusion. I knew after a botched investigation, bitter and reluctant cops, questionable jury selection and an incredibly uneven state prosecution, that George Zimmerman was going to be found not guilty. So it wasn’t the events that actually affected me, because I knew they were coming.
At 10:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 13 when Judge Nelson read the words I was not shocked, or amazed or hurt or upset. I was actually pretty unaffected by the final ruling, it was strangely enough, reminiscent of election night in 2008 when I had a similar non-reaction to the first election of President Barack Obama. There are times when America shows us who and what she truly is, and whether good or bad, as a people we should work to move past being defined by whatever external events this country throws at us.
I was unmoved emotionally. What affected me most though, was how these events influenced those around me. I was watching “Headline News,” when Zimmerman trial verdict was announced across the airwaves. And, like many African Americans, I experienced that dreadful sinking feeling in my stomach in those seconds before the verdict was read into history — especially when I saw a slight grimace on the face of Judge Nelson before reading the jury’s decision — that Zimmerman was going to be found not-guilty.
The verdict of five white women and one racially ambiguous “Hispanic” from that Seminole County courthouse reverberated through the lives of everyone that I know and care for. My mother called me almost in tears, friends and students were texting me with shock and sadness. Everybody wanted to turn in early, nobody felt like staying out and partying that night.
In my entire life I can only think of two events that affected every single person I know on a personal level that literally brought tears to their eyes but for entirely different reasons.
When President Obama was first elected, everyone I knew was excited — my mother, father, friends and even quite a few colleagues. Even on the quiet tip, some of my closest black Republican friends had a slight grin on their faces that history was happening.
Of course, most of us will never be president of the United States. Most of us will never even know anyone who becomes president. In fact, most of us will never actually meet Barack Obama. But all of us know that we could be Trayvon Martin. We’ve met people like Trayvon Martin. And we know that if we live long enough there’s a good chance we could lose someone we love — just like Trayvon Martin was. taken away from his parents. So while there was joy in the hearts of many that night in November of 2008, it was a distant joy. It was joy by proxy. Unfortunately the pain millions of African Americans felt after the Zimmerman verdict wasn’t indirect, it wasn’t born of abstract connections to a faraway individual it was based on real life experience and cold hard realities of being black in America.
Nothing I believe about America was radically changed by the Zimmerman jury verdict, positively or negatively. Just like Obama getting elected and then re-elected didn’t make me believe that America was a radically different place either. However, was does occur to me after these two life changing events, juxtaposed just about five years apart from each other is this: We cannot as African Americans let our value be falsely inflated or vastly underestimated by any external events. Obama’s election didn’t make us free and equal and Zimmerman’s not guilty verdict didn’t mean it was open season on black folks. If we let external events determine our worth and valued we’d have never escaped slavery. Instead we derive our worth from our daily lives, our faith and our ability to preserve no matter what this country throws at us symbolically, politically or financially. Regardless of how you connect with them, that’s what Trayvon Martin and Barack Obama would want us to do.
This article originally appeared in the Chicago Defender.