Digital Access

Digital Access
Access from all your digital devices and receive breaking news and updates from around the area.

Home Delivery

Home Delivery
Local news, prep sports, Chicago sports, local and regional entertainment, business, home and lifestyle, food, classified and more! News you use every day! Daily, Daily including the e-Edition or e-Edition only.

Text Alerts

Text Alerts
Choose your news! Select the text alerts you want to receive: breaking news, prep sports scores, school closings, weather, and more. Text alerts are a free service from, but text rates may apply.

Email Newsletters

Email Newsletters
We'll deliver news & updates to your inbox. Sign up for free e-newsletters today.
National Editorial & Columnists

Zimmerman verdict reaffirms the special burden of black men

Nobody else was there.

Confusion and ignorance about what exactly happened in the final seconds before George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin on Feb. 26, 2012, are so great that nobody can even agree on who screamed. Witnesses at Zimmerman’s trial in Florida testified to both sides of that thinking, leading any fair-minded observer to marvel only at how one scream of terror can so much resemble another.

Nobody else was there – the basis of Zimmerman’s attorneys’ defense that there was “reasonable doubt” about their client’s actions and intentions – and a jury on Saturday night agreed, finding Zimmerman not guilty.

So be it.

This was not some racist railroading of justice revisited from the Jim Crow South of 1954.

This was a televised trial by an aggressive prosecutor that left most viewers, and likely the jurors, thinking, “What a mess.” Legal experts generally predicted Zimmerman’s acquittal.

This case was about race, but the jury’s verdict could not be. It became a national news story because any American with open eyes – not just African-Americans – knows the extent to which young black men in this country are casually assumed to be dangerous troublemakers just for nothing.

Just for walking down the street. Just for wearing a hoodie.

Had Zimmerman not profiled Trayvon Martin, as blacks are profiled across America every day, almost certainly there would have been no confrontation.

If any good came of this trial, it is a greater awareness of this sad truth: Black men carry a special burden in America from the day they are born. The fact that crime rates among African-American males is high doesn’t justify or lessen that burden for all black men. Judge the man, not a crushing stereotype.

At the moment Zimmerman shot Martin, we were not there. Nobody else was there. We cannot say, strictly in a dispassionate legal sense, exactly what went down.

A jury passed judgment on George Zimmerman: not guilty.

He smiled slightly and shook his lawyers’ hands. May he go in peace.

The jury did not – could not – pass judgment on the state of race relations in America.

Loading more