The idea has surfaced among the public and legal experts of moving the case out of Sanford, Florida or importing a pool of potential jurors. Further, since there is news that Zimmerman’s father was a judge, questions have been posed as to how much favoritism Zimmerman may have received from local police and court officials when the case erupted.
As the seventh week of the drama surrounding the Trayvon Martin shooting unfolds, academics such as Dr. Wornie Reed have been getting a lot of calls from the media seeking to pick their brains on various issues related to the case, especially how much, if any, did racial profiling of Trayvon Martin by Zimmerman lead to the tragedy.
Reed is a professor at Virginia Tech and is the Director for the Center for Race and Social Policy since 2009.
Dr. Reed has written extensively about racial profiling, race and the disparities Black families and individuals face relative to the criminal justice system and job market.
Dr. Reed pointed out that there are historic parallels to the Martin Case which indicate that, although there has been some progress in America, institutional racism still exists.
“This reminds me of the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham when four little girls were killed,” said Dr. Reed. “The perpetrators of the crime were not arrested and prosecuted until there was a public outcry about this act. The same can be said in the
Trayvon Martin Case. If it were not for his parents, media and activists, the idea of the injustice and cruelty of Zimmerman shooting this young man to death under mysterious circumstances would have been swept under the rug.
So the criminal justice system, again, would have failed the Black desires for justice; as we almost did in 1963.”
Dr. Reed said many conservative members of the media and some politicians have sought to “minimize” the issue of race in the Martin Case. Reed said he has watched as the media “has given Zimmerman the benefit of the doubt on the defense issue. They keep using words like ‘murky’ to describe what happened that night. They keep referring to him as a Hispanic watch captain to bolster his credentials. When in fact, he may have been a vigilante with a gun.
“African Americans wanted to talk about profiling and its root cause – racism,” said Dr. Reed. “The White Media wanted to talk about hoodies and how it criminalizes young Black men, but it is safe for everyone else to wear them.”
Comedian Bill Cosby during a TV interview early last week, questioned whether it helped by calling Zimmerman’s actions racist. He said that instead of talking about racism, people should be talking about a watch captain with a gun who was not properly trained to use it.
“Cosby has been known for making stupid statements like that in the past decade,” said Reed. ”Again…. Americans want to deny race … to ignore race and its destructiveness. During the Civil Rights Movement, there were Blacks, especially, who did not want to get involved or questioned the motives of those who led the movement for freedom because they said ’things would work themselves out’. There was no progress until, as we see today, there was some agitation by the activists ... the people and the media.”
Dr. Reed co-authored a book “Racial Profiling: Causes and Consequences” (Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt Publishing Co.) He said that often violent confrontations between law enforcement and minorities are blamed on the “rogue” cop who got out of control and broke police department policy which resulted in the abuse of African American males, especially, being shot multiple times for “acting strange” or “threatening.”
“But racial profiling is based on a systematic and prolonged policy set up by the leaders, not only in the police department, but the politicians who are in control of them,” said Reed. “We conducted a study in Cleveland Ohio and in New Jersey where there were serious and deadly outcomes from racial profiling. We had respected law enforcement officers tell us that they are taught to do it as part of their training and culture.”
In studies in Cleveland and along the New Jersey Turnpike, Reed said that police officers are programmed to stop young Black men, driving new, late model cars. He said officers are trained that at least these two factors indicate that drugs may be aboard the automobiles.
“But our findings indicate that most of the drugs, guns and other illicit materials police were seeking during the stops, are in the cars of white drivers not African Americans,” said Reed. ”But the irony is that most of the African Americans who are profiled and stopped are then arrested. Further, while African Americans use drugs at 13 percent of rate that whites do and sell it at 14 percent compared to whites, Blacks are sixty percent more likely to be arrested, tried and jailed.”
The nation’s prison industrial complex has a population that is mostly Hispanic and African American, said Dr. Reed.
Dr. Reed said that his center is about to release an extensive study showing that since 1967, African Americans with equivalent educational backgrounds historically have been hired for lesser jobs with less pay compared with whites of similar education and experience.
“Why are all these issues related to the Trayvon Martin Case? The Martin Case has made people like me, who study the hard data and history related to race, wonder, ‘just how much progress have we made in race relations?’ Are we truly in a post racial America?
“It is absurd to think that we are. We have not progressed much on race and its impact on the image of image and treatment of African Americans, and the disparities they face in the criminal justice system and the workplace in this country.”