The Right Wing blogosphere is cracking (pun intended) with comments justifying the Zimmerman verdict as the “White O.J.” meaning the not guilty verdict was some sort of payback for the O.J. acquittal. At first glance there are similarities – both were acquitted, both benefitted by sloppy police work, less than stellar prosecutors, and obviously biased jurors. Yet, to equate the two is to fail to understand the meaning of the trials.
O.J. was a case of an accomplished athlete and media star who “thought” he was invulnerable and was motivated by pathological jealousy. Zimmerman was a Barney Fife wannabe who was overcompensating for his lack of physical prowess and courage. He was motivated by his bigotry, and ultimately his fear. I think all bigotry is rooted in fear. The O.J. verdict became a socially important event when jurors, long victimized by the Los Angeles Police and “justice” system decided to send a message verdict.
The jury in Zimmerman’s trial were not sending a message verdict – at least not consciously. They allowed their own bias to create assumptions not much different than the one’s Zimmerman made when he saw Trayvon Martin walking in his community. Some of the jurors apparently believed that Trayvon attacked Zimmerman and had the responsibility to avoid the confrontation, although they had to ignore the evidence that Zimmerman was the one who got out of his truck to confront Trayvon with a loaded gun. So those jurors allowed their biases to shape their understanding of the evidence and the instructions to justify something they wanted to do from the onset: let Zimmerman go free.
Zimmerman has become the poster boy for the NRA and other gun nuts, and I suppose there is some justification for that. Many of these gun nuts are cowards themselves, motivated by an overwhelming fear translated into the need to have a gun. But I have to hope that most of these gun-toting cowards are not out to prove something through creating a situation to justify killing. A lot of these gun nuts are the first to say that if the victims of gun violence only had a gun then they wouldn’t have died. Maybe the NRA will start a program to provide every adolescent African American Male in Florida with a gun for protection. After all, if Trayvon had only carried a gun he would have had a chance with Zimmerman.
Zimmerman is no O.J. in any sense other than the fact that he got away with it. Unlike O.J., Zimmerman will unfortunately be celebrated as a hero by many.