Trayvon Martin, Race and Anthropology

Trayvon Martin, Race and Anthropology

Anthropology News
American Anthropological Association

Leith Mullings, Distinguished Professor of Anthropology
City University of New York
(and President of the American Anthropological Association)

On February 26, 2012, 28-year-old George Zimmerman shot and killed an unarmed 17-year-old African American teenager who, after buying Skittles and iced tea at the local 7-Eleven, was on his way home. Zimmerman claimed he was acting in self-defense, and the Sanford, Florida police force, after a brief investigation, refused to press charges. Following several months of demonstrations, Florida Governor Rick Scott (no fan of anthropology, as you may recall) assigned the case to State Attorney Angela Corey, who charged Zimmerman with 2nd degree murder. A year and a half after the killing, on July 13, 2013, a virtually all-white (and all-female) jury found George Zimmerman not guilty of murdering Trayvon Martin (see journalist Charles Blow for an excellent discussion of the systemic racism that brought us to this moment). Though prosecutors, many journalists and large segments of the public saw the case as a quintessential example of race profiling—there is ample evidence, many believed, that Zimmerman profiled the teenager because he was a young Black man—during and after the trial both teams of lawyers and the jurors tripped over themselves proclaiming that neither the murder nor the subsequent not guilty verdict had anything to do with race. How do we explain these startlingly different responses as to the role of race?…

Read the entire opinion piece here.

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