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Princeton’s Dr. Eddie Glaude Jr. breaks down George Zimmerman’s acquittal and race in America


Dr. Eddie Glaude Jr. understands how race continues to play a major role in society. As the chair of the Center for African-American Studies at Princeton University, Dr. Glaude examines the impact of race, religion and politics.

Dr. Gaude recently spoke with rolling out to share his thoughts on George Zimmerman’s not guilty verdict and the overall impact it will have on the nation moving forward.

What did George Zimmerman’s verdict tell young black males in America?

That your life does not have the same value as the lives of young white males. You don’t have the same luxury to be a child.  I have a 17-year-old who is a basketball player.  So he’s always in hoodies and always walking around in flip flops. That’s the culture of basketball. And so I immediately began to worry whether or not I’ve taught him what he needs to know in order to navigate this environment. And like every other parent, I think, my wife and I start to worry what’s going to happen to him when he goes out.  The justice system are proportionally punishers of black folk, especially young black boys. But it was made concrete for me, because I have a 17-year-old.

Juror B37 revealed that she actually felt sympathy for George Zimmerman for getting himself into the situation. What does that say when a killer can get more remorse than the person who was murdered?

The jurors reflected a dominant viewpoint for that particular community. There are racial habits that produce racial disadvantages; particularly for black and brown people. Social scientists have talked about the racial empathy gap. There is a part of the brain that is activated when one feels pain and sees pain. It’s activated in the same way when people see black folk in pain. Right, so there’s a sense in which that racial empathy gap generates all sorts of outcomes in relationships and whom you are already able to identify with.  So the jury can feel sorry for George Zimmerman, but a 17-year-old baby is dead. There appears that there is relatively little expression of grief and remorse and empathy for that child. But that has widespread social implications and it has been a part of our social world for a long time. So basically, what I see and what I hear with the jurors around the Zimmerman case is unconscious bias.

How do we move forward? Will the Justice Department bring charges on Zimmerman?

I think the FBI’s probe will address the specific circumstances surrounding Zimmerman’s killing of Trayvon Martin. But, I’m deeply skeptical that the federal government will press charges. Because they have to prove he intended to do harm because of race, and that’s just going to be hard to do given the situation. We find ourselves at a moment where if we are putting our hopes on the pentacles of power in the US, then our hopes will be dashed once again. The thing that I see will come out of this, if anything can come out of this, is that we have finally shattered the illusion that we’ve entered into some kind of post racial utopia. The murder of Trayvon Martin has sort of demonstrated very clearly, the emptiness of colored-blind language. Colored-blind language only hides the way race continues to work in this moment. So, racial disadvantage and inequality continues to be perpetuated and produced.