For Immediate Release
Statement from Executive Director of ColorOfChange.org on George Zimmerman Verdict
NEW YORK - Rashad Robinson, Executive Director of ColorOfChange.org, the nation’s largest online civil rights organization, issued the following statement:
“A court in Florida today found George Zimmerman not guilty of second degree murder for shooting and killing unarmed 17 year old Trayvon Martin in February 2012. This is another tragedy for Black families everywhere, and another instance of how law enforcement and our criminal justice system routinely fail Black people and communities. Were it not for Trayvon’s family and countless supporters taking action, Zimmerman would have never faced a single question about his actions at all. Tonight, as George Zimmerman walks away without penalty, the verdict sends a clear message about the minimal value placed on the lives of young Black men and boys everywhere. And it is also a clear lesson about the power of culture and media to shape negative perceptions and attitudes, with grave consequences. Since Trayvon’s death, widespread media coverage has perpetuated inaccurate and dehumanizing stereotypes of Black youth -- the very kind of depictions that have served to excuse unprovoked violence against young Black men by and boys for years.
“Throughout this trial, we’ve endured a steady stream of media attacks on Trayvon Martin -- an innocent, unarmed teenager who was profiled, stalked, and murdered on his way home from buying candy. By amplifying unfounded claims about Trayvon, news media magnified the very same racial stereotypes and false perceptions that put Trayvon’s life in danger in the first place, while ignoring his family’s rightful pleas for justice. Numerous outlets have been passing along unfounded, baseless conjecture as evidence, and reviving deep-seated stereotypes to validate Zimmerman’s defense. This type of newscasting portrays Black teenagers as inherently threatening and violence-prone, but it’s actually the unfair and dehumanizing portrayals in the mass news media that are proven to be life threatening to Black men and boys. We already know that inaccurate media portrayals lead to warped biases against Black people, which lead to negative attitudes and aggressive, harmful treatment by judges, juries, police and others vigilantes wielding dangerous preconceptions like George Zimmerman.
“In a media environment that continues to cast Black men and boys as thugs, it's not surprising that the tragic death of an innocent young man has become a character trial for Black people everywhere. The media’s portrayals cannot be taken lightly when there words and images contribute to lives being put at risk. We must change news media practices and the media landscape to present evenhanded, accurate and multi-dimensional portrayals of Black people, and all people.
"After more than a year waged in battle for justice for Trayvon -- the trial is finally over -- but ColorOfChange remains deeply committed to creating a more honest and humane media landscape. We send our love and support to Trayvon’s family and we will continue to demand an end to media, culture, and a criminal justice system that dehumanizes young Black men like Trayvon and enables a culture in which Black lives are seen as less valuable.”
With more than 850,000 members, ColorOfChange.org is the nation’s largest online civil rights organization.