(The Root) — Twitter user Bob Smith thinks the judge in the George Zimmerman trial is a "naive idiot."
And @journalproject thinks Zimmerman defense attorney Don West is "clueless what to do when his white maleness fails in face of white woman Judge…"
But then @MeganRomarie is tired of all this racism in the news: "Everything is 'If he was white' 'if she was black' blah blah blah #PaulaDeen #TrayvonMartin #OVERIT."
The trial of George Zimmerman, who killed Florida teen Trayvon Martin, is almost over, but Twitter's court of public opinion will always be in session. To know what Twitter thinks, you do not need a Gallup poll. You don't need Rasmussen or CNN or CBS News or the New York Times. You don't need some poor soul making less than $7 an hour going through the Yellow Pages, dialing up my 71-year-old father only to have him hang up on their efforts to find the national pulse.
Before Zimmerman, Twitter tried the so-called "Tot Mom" Casey Anthony and found her guilty of murder (even if the courts did not). Twitter tried boyfriend killer Jodi Arias, getting the murder verdict it called for. But the case of George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin is different. Instead of an attractive white woman embroiled in a ready-for-Lifetime movie of the week, we have a tragic tale revolving around two of America's most controversial topics — race and gun violence.
It reminds me of a quainter time. A simpler time. A near-mythological time with its high employment and overabundance of sexy-but-not-so-very-fun Clintonesque sex scandals. Yes … the not-so-innocent but exponentially more prosperous mid-1990s.
I wonder what would have happened if the Trial of the Century had happened in the age of social media, with #TeamSimpson, #TeamOJ, #TeamTheRealKillers, #TeamGoldman, #TeamNicoleBrown littering the CNN crawl?
I still remember my high school trigonometry teacher refusing to even have a radio in the classroom, let alone a television. It was Oct. 3, 1995 — a day that would live in pop culture, crime, race and media infamy.
Despite my teacher's best efforts, there was nothing he could do about the multitude of other teachers who had TVs and radios tuned to the O.J. Simpson trial verdict in their classrooms, and he definitely could do nothing about the kid running the halls like a modern-day Paul Revere shouting, "Not guilty!"
It was like instead of the British, we were facing the invasion of the Trial of the Century. But in the case of the State of California v. Orenthal James Simpson, my teacher, myself and anyone looking to avoid the circus had already lost. It was everywhere. But since it was 1995, the Internet was a still a CD-ROM disc you got in the mail from AOL. And back then, I used my old Hewlett Packard PC to make crudely drawn cartoons and write elaborate stage plays about the R&B group Jodeci. It was a much simpler time. High school Paul Revere couldn't save himself the trouble of running down the halls by tweeting the verdict out to the smartphones none of us owned because, again, it was 1995.
But I like this new conversation about race, crime, the law and the courts that is happening in real-time and on Twitter. It's better than getting all your O.J. dirt from Geraldo Rivera's old show on CNBC. It's a better, unfiltered gaze into the abyss of sincere thoughts, confused racists, proto-negro nationalists, trial addicts, casually racist post-racialists, openly racist post-racialists, reverse-racist activists, innocent bystanders and the righteous voices of justice. Geraldo had the conserva-pundit Kellyanne Fitzpatrick Conway giving the dish. Today, I've got a symphony of brilliance and ignorance at my fingertips. One click away.
During the civil rights movement of the 1960s, it was believed that television would show the world America's true face. But now Twitter is where you learn how "they" really feel. "They" being those who are not you. "They" who are "the other." And "they" feel Casey Anthony and Jodi Arias "did it." "They" feel George Zimmerman is innocent. "They" feel George Zimmerman is guilty.
"They" feel George Zimmerman is a trending topic.
And yet, as with the 1990s and even before then, we still have race and death as entertainment, lynchings as picnics. A trial as bread and circuse when real lives and justice, potentially undone, hang in the balance.
Like Romans in the Colosseum deciding who shall live and who shall die, some things never change. Good thing I have Twitter.
Danielle Belton is the editor of the Black Snob.