Analysis: The Case of George Zimmerman, and Why Black Lives Matter

The Justice Department has announced it won’t charge Zimmerman for Trayvon Martin’s death. One writer assesses what it means.
George Zimmerman, right, will not face federal charges in the death of Trayvon Martin. (Photo: Joe Burbank/Reuters)
Feb 24, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Michael Arceneaux has written for The Atlantic, Esquire, New York Magazine,Time, Buzzfeed and Complex. He lives in New York City.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Justice Department announced it will not charge George Zimmerman for fatally shooting Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager, three years ago this week. In a statement, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder explained that the evidence against Zimmerman did not meet “the high standard for a federal hate crime prosecution” and said the government is taking steps “to ensure that such incidents do not occur in the future.”

That’s the news.

As a young black man, I’m not surprised by the government’s decision. My community feared this decision back in July 2013, when a Florida jury found Zimmerman not guilty of killing Martin, who was only 17. It was encouraging to know the Justice Department vigorously investigated his death. But the truth is, these cases are extremely difficult to prosecute.

It’s troubling that Zimmerman has tried to profit from Martin’s death. Many of us are exhausted and numb. On Tuesday, Martin’s family met with Justice Department officials. Reportedly—and understandably—the family is too distraught to speak with reporters. They’ve been through enough. So have so many other black parents who’ve found themselves in a similar situation—or fear finding themselves in the same situation.

Once again, black people are reminded of just how difficult it is to get people who do not look like us to value our lives. We’re reminded that it’s difficult to punish those who unmercifully strip us of our lives. You want evidence? See the case of Michael Brown and Darren Wilson. Or the case of Eric Garner and a band of New York City police officers. So we are ultimately left to ask: What is a black man’s life really worth?

That is why the #BlackLivesMatter movement continues. It’s also why those who say they value black lives must continue to push for our humanity. Speaking truth to power—on the streets, at school, and in offices.

Zimmerman may never be held responsible for Martin’s death. But hopefully the next George Zimmerman won’t be so lucky.