One of the most painful aspects of the George Zimmerman verdict is not that he was found not guilty, but that the verdict was so unsurprising. The message this verdict sent, that killing an unarmed African-American man for no particular or rational reason, is not a crime, is not new. On the contrary, it is a message that the criminal justice system has sent over and over again through the years, and only occasionally in the context of high-profile trials like that of George Zimmerman. Zimmerman's acquittal is a reminder that regardless of what our constitution or laws say, or of the ethnic background of the occupant of the White House, our criminal justice still does not treat all people as equal.
It is axiomatic that the racism-is-over trope makes it easier to ignore racism, even when it is plain as day, but in the context of today's extremely partisan political environment, the extent to which people will go to avoid making the obvious conclusion that racism, as evidenced by the killing of Trayvon Martin, is alive and still too powerful in America is extraordinary. President Obama's cautious, but powerful, words regarding this killing indicate the delicate nature of any discussion of racism in even in its most obvious incarnation. Gingrich's and Rivera's comments, however, demonstrate their discomfort with the role of racism in this killing and demonstrate what some will do to avoid confronting the enduring role of racism in America.