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In Zimmerman case, doing what’s right not just about law

  • Written by Donna Brazile/Special to CNN

Donna Brazile-160Like so many others, I am distraught. It will take many days to sort through my feelings and reactions to the verdict of not guilty in the Trayvon Martin case. Still, some thoughts and lessons are obvious, immediate and, in a sense, imperative.

First, those who delight in the verdict are wrong. There is no winner here. Trayvon Martin is still dead and George Zimmerman still must live with the fact that he killed without reason or cause. Here, the "should have" rules: He should have stayed in the truck.

Those who react to the verdict with despair are wrong. We work hard for justice in this world, but we, being human, are flawed. We will make mistakes. The law is only our best approximation of justice, and the law needs constant revision. But doing what's right is not limited to the law. Sometimes, we must go beyond it.

Those who expect – perhaps desire – a riot are wrong. We are better than that. We respect the law. While the law cannot force a person to be moral or tolerant, through the law we can demand respect and expect equality.

If we are to move forward as a country we must recognize that this case highlights three issues. We must confront these without excuse or rancor. We must be honest about our weaknesses.

First, we are not in a post-racial society. Racial profiling still exists and it is a cancer. Assumptions and fallacies and prejudice feed it. We are suspicious of those who look different; we are uncomfortable with cultural differences. We distrust what we don't understand, but surely we should not act with violence or bigotry.

If you don't know about the "black male code," you should. It's something black boys learn early, even before adolescence. It goes, in part, like this: Even though you're not a criminal, some people assume you are, especially if you're wearing certain clothes. Never argue with the police, but protect your dignity and take pride in humility. As a black male, you must go above and beyond to show strangers what type of person you really are.

There's more, but you get the point: If you're black and male, know that many Americans – not all, not even most, but many – assume you are guilty of something, just because you're you.

Now try to live with that every day. We need to see ourselves through the eyes of others.

Finally, there's the cliché – think before you act. Thou shalt not murder is a universal commandment, one necessary for a civilized nation, a civilized world.

Let us focus on ways to improve the system – the criminal system, the justice system, the moral system, the general welfare system. Let us focus on acts of goodness and kindness that bring us together, as a people and as creations of God.

(Donna Brazile, a CNN contributor and a Democratic strategist, is vice chairwoman for voter registration and participation at the Democratic National Committee. She is a nationally syndicated columnist, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University and author of "Cooking With Grease: Stirring the Pot in America." She was manager for the Gore-Lieberman presidential campaign in 2000.)


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0 #1 Katie Wilson 2013-07-15 12:05
I too agree that we have laws that must be followed. Only if, Zimmerman had stayed in his truck until the law enforcement showed up, rather than being a want-a-be policeman and follow Trayvon. We as a people must follow the law and do it through the Justice Department because this young man was profiled and lost his life in "standing his ground."

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