Zimmerman Jury Tells Black Men What They Already Know

Relating a personal encounter with racial profiling by police as a college student, Cord Jefferson on Gawker says George Zimmerman's acquittal in the death of Trayvon Martin is a vivid reminder of the gaps that plague our criminal-justice system. 

Posted:
 
trayvon20protest201_71413_575lh
Demonstrators protest George Zimmerman's acquittal in New York City. (Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images)

Gawker's Cord Jefferson, who relates a personal encounter with racial profiling by police as a college student, says George Zimmerman's acquittal in the death of Trayvon Martin represents the gaps that plague our criminal-justice system. 

Tonight a Florida man's acquittal for hunting and killing a black teenager who was armed with only a bag of candy serves as a Rorschach test for the American public. For conservatives, it's a triumph of permissive gun laws and a victory over the liberal media, which had been unfairly rooting for the dead kid all along. For liberals, it's a tragic and glaring example of the gaps that plague our criminal justice system. For people of color, it's a vivid reminder that we must always be deferential to white people, or face the very real chance of getting killed.

When I was junior in college in Virginia, my then-girlfriend and I decided one night to meet up for a quick snack while studying for midterms. We bought some sandwiches at a 24-hour deli and, rather than waste time going to either of our homes, which were in opposite directions, we decided to eat in her car in a parking lot near a fancy hotel off-campus. We were listening to music and laughing about something when I saw a security guard's headlights in the rear view mirror, and I stopped laughing as I watched him—a white man in his mid-40s—walk up to my girlfriend's door and ask her to step out of the car. "Uh, OK," she said, clearly as confused as I was about what we'd done to warrant his attention.

He walked her away from her car toward his, but they were close enough that I could hear their conversation. He asked her her name, a slight southern lilt lengthening his vowels. She told him. Then he said, "Are you OK? "

"What do you mean?" she said.

"Are you safe right now?" he asked again.

My girlfriend was white. I am not.

Read Cord Jefferson's entire piece at Gawker.

The Root aims to foster and advance conversations about issues relevant to the black Diaspora by presenting a variety of opinions from all perspectives, whether or not those opinions are shared by our editorial staff. 

Like The Root on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.