Student Columnists Reflect on Zimmerman Ruling, Trayvon Martin Legacy

Joy. Shock. Anger. Relief. Fear. The verdict in the George Zimmerman case last month provoked a range of emotions and reactions from media outlets, activists, trial-watchers and the general public worldwide.

As University of Florida junior Logan Ladnyk writes in The Independent Florida Alligator, “Activity spiked across social media as everyone weighed in on whether justice was served. Friends turned on each other, relatives engaged in feuds, and others lashed out against complete strangers in fury.”

Even now, weeks after the jury’s decision, the fury surrounding Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin’s fateful night and fight continues almost unabated.

Along with professional press coverage, scattered protests and constant social media debate, many student journalists have weighed in about the case’s repercussions on U.S. race relations, stand your ground laws, journalism and the justice system.

“The trial of George Zimmerman will go down as one of the most controversial cases in the last decade,” University of North Carolina student Matthew Taylor writes in The Daily Tar Heel. “And no matter your view of the outcome, we cannot refute this as a tragic moment.”

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University of Georgia senior Colby Newtown calls the tragedy “a rolling tide of ugliness.” He writes that the not guilty verdict “hit like a punch in the gut.”

As Newton explains in The Red & Black, UGA’s student newspaper, “I don’t know enough about the law to truly judge for myself whether Zimmerman should have been charged, and I don’t want to throw out accusations about who did what right or wrong. But whether the jury was biased, the prosecution failed to make their case or their [sic] simply wasn’t enough evidence to make the case, there’s one thing that’s undeniable — a young man is dead, and the man who ended his life is walking the streets unmolested. And America has just told the world that this is acceptable behavior. I’m sure as hell not proud.”

Northwestern University student Junius Randolph is also not proud of what he feels the ruling signifies — for the country at large and for him personally.

As Randolph writes in The Daily Northwestern, “My mother always told me to never wear a hood at night. Now I know why. The verdict of not guilty in the George Zimmerman trial supports the notion that it is perfectly fine for citizens to racially profile each other without consequences. The ruling also reinforces the idea that African-Americans will always be one of the most feared and misunderstood races in our Divided States of America…Trayvon, rest in peace. But racism, I hope you die.”

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Howard University student Courtney Stith argues similarly, “Enough is enough.”

In a blog post for The Hilltop, Howard’s student newspaper, Stith writes, “We cannot change what has been done, but we CAN change what will occur. How long will we, the people, of these United States of America allow ourselves to get run over, living in fear that we can never win? … We need to take action to protect the dream of Dr. King. Putting an African-American in the White House does nothing for this country if we do not change the mindset of the people.”

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