By Brenda Howard
A year and a half ago, a news story exploded out of Sanford, Fla. George Zimmerman, an armed, 28-year-old man of mixed white and Hispanic ancestry, followed and killed Trayvon Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old African American. The tragic episode was touched off because Zimmerman, out on neighborhood watch patrol, found Martin to be suspicious as he walked home from a store wearing a sweat shirt with a hood.
As the days and months unfolded and more details emerged, the national media ran with the story, and along the way something became quite apparent to me. As captivating as this story was, with controversial elements touching on a range of issues from vigilantism to gun control, the component of race kept the conversation largely private. It was a story that you could only fully expound upon in rooms where everyone looked like you.
Last month, when a jury found Zimmerman not guilty in Martin’s death, it wasn’t the end of the story. People young and old, black and white, took to the streets from coast to coast. For Zimmerman, too, much was not resolved; whatever you may think of him, he can’t be happy that he killed a young man on the cusp of adulthood, with dreams and goals and loving parents who presented the most graceful bearing of grief I’ve ever seen.