Is George Zimmerman the New OJ Simpson? The Politics of Race & Law in America

Exploring the paralleles between two of America's most racially divided cases

High-school junior Trayvon Martin was shot and killed on Feb. 26 (Image: File)

PLEAS OF INNOCENCE FROM THE ACCUSED

“On Sunday, February 26, I was involved in a life-altering event which led me to become the subject of intense media coverage. As a result of the incident and subsequent media coverage, I have been forced to leave my home, my school, my employer, my family and ultimately, my entire life,” —George Zimmerman

“I did not have anything to do with these murders. Ever. I’m absolutely, l00 percent, not guilty. I’ve been very clear. I won. I didn’t commit the crime,” —OJ Simpson

AN ISSUE OF RACE

“It’s easy to label this as an act of White racism, but it’s really an act of stereotyping, which many groups are capable of and it is occurring in the context of extraordinarily permissive laws,” —Manuel Pastor, a professor of American studies and ethnicity at the University of Southern California, in regards to the Zimmerman case.

“The racial polarization that has occurred as a result of the Simpson trial will be short-lived in the minds of fair-minded people who are the majority in America. But the entrenched racism that has been with us for centuries will not disappear without decisive action,” —Coretta Scott King on Simpson case.

REACTION FROM THE VICTIMS’ FAMILY

“The question I would really like to ask him [Zimmerman] is, if he could look into Trayvon’s eyes and see how innocent he was, would he have then pulled the trigger? Or would he have just let him go on home?’’ —Tracy Martin, Trayon’s father.

“I couldn’t scream. I couldn’t cry. I couldn’t do anything. I just sat there. And the way that they botched it up so badly and the way that Johnnie Cochran took it and turned it into a racial issue, as opposed to a man who murdered two people. It turned into something that set our country back a hundred years,” —Denise Brown, Nicole Brown Simpson’s sister on the not guilty verdict.

THE DEFENSIVE LINE

“He is troubled by everything that has happened. I cannot imagine living in George Zimmerman’s shoes for the past number of weeks. Because he has been at the focus of a lot of anger, and maybe confusion and maybe some hatred and that has to be difficult… I’m expecting a lot of work and hopefully justice in the end,’’  —Mark O’Mara, Zimmerman’s new attorney.

“If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit,” —Johnnie Cochran, Simpson’s lead attorney.

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ACROSS THE WEB
  • Floyd Shelby

    How in the world can anyone compare Simpson to Zimmerman? Simpson has proven time and time again what an animal he is. Zimmerman is simply a person that was defending himself once he was attacked. Trayvon was indignant that someone dared to inquire what he was doing. Despite his indignation, he had no right to attack Zimmerman. The “girlfriend” on the phone, one of many, knows the truth and she is witholding it. As far as so many people “honoring” Trayvon, the “honors” would be better bestowed on honorable children that have not dealt drugs, shown a total disregard for authority, been suspended three times, been in possession of stolen jewelry, etc. This situation had a tragic ending and that’s it. Something that should be covered is the young couple (Channon Christian and Christopher Newsome) of Knoxville, TN that were brutally tortured, killed and discarded like garbage by 5 thugs. Where is the outrage about that? Where is the “honor” for them?

    • Roderick

      Zimmerman is an animal.

      He assaulted a police officer, he had domestic charges filed against him by an ex-girlfriend, and he assaulted a woman who was a patron in a club while he worked as a bouncer.

      Also you’re taking Zimmerman’s word that Treyvon attacked him while there is very little physical evidence that Zimmerman had been brutalized as he had claimed.

      Zimmerman was ‘so injured’ that the EMT’s on the scene patched him up and he was allowed to go to the police station for questioning.

      • gaylene hans

        RIGHT ON

    • aruba19

      Roderick says: “Also you’re taking Zimmerman’s word that Treyvon attacked him while there is very little physical evidence that Zimmerman had been brutalized as he had claimed.”

      Very little except Zimmerman’s two black eyes, his broken nose, bruised mouth and a gash on the back of his head. Not to mention the lacerations on Martin’s knuckles commensurate with inflicting such injuries on another. Yup, no evidence there…… Tell me, do you actually READ the news, or just look at the pictures?

      • sliderman

        I don’t hink Roderick even looks at the pictures…

    • gaylene hans

      zimmerman did everything WRONG you doof-said the kid was up to no good,
      which was a lie-disregarded instructions to stand down but no, zimmerman the cop wanna be was out to get a notch on his belt-I sure hhope he is happy with his behavior that night-a 17 year old kid who was walking back to his dad’s is STALKED AND KILLED-too bad it wasn’t one of your family members since Zimmermaan’s behavior is just fine and dandy with you!!!!

  • bartholomew j. worthington III

    As usual, people miss the trees for the forest. The author wasn’t stating that Zimmerman and OJ were similar situations, rather she was pointing out the parallels when it comes to the racial aspect. It just so happens that this time, the roles are reversed.

    Of course, someone who likely has never looked suspicious in their life, can rationalize that a minor shouldn’t be defensive when approached by a stranger in the dark on a rainy night.

    It is simple. If Zimmerman had heeded the instructions of the 911 operator and stopped following Martin, no confrontation would have occurred. Trayvon had a legal right to be where he was that night. In essence, it is very likely he was “standing his ground.”

    And while it is too early to say that racism was the major contributing factor in Trayvon’s shooting, it is fair to say that the (mis)handling of the investigation by the Sanford police speaks to the corruption on many levels within that department.

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  • Red

    Is George Zimmerman Black? He looks so dark, even on TV. What ethnic group is he?

  • Flip M

    OJ Simpson was loved and revered by the white community as well as Blacks all throughout his football career. LOVED HIM!!! It was a shock to everyone when the scene of OJ being chased in his Bronco by the police. It was a jaw dropper to whites and I’m sure blacks as well. The country LIKED this guy. As the evidence unfolded, it was obvious that OJ had something to do with it…actually…A LOT to do with it. He won that case. People were mortified that he was acquitted. It wasn’t that he was black or white..he was a American Icon to so many. Black population felt that it was victory for the black race. White people took a different approach…they looked at evidence..and it was almost like the Casey Anthony trial. How could anyone that seemed so quilty..and probably was..get off with this crime. Keep in mind..he lost the civil trial. The Zimmerman/Martin case is quite different. When I..(A white dude). first read about the case..I thought Zimmerman was guilty. How could a man chase after a suspicious teen…confront him..start getting his butt whooped on..then shoot him. THAT is not what the SYG law is all about. Now that I’ve heard some of the evidence, I have started to change my opinion. I’m sure as more evidence surfaces. that opinion will either strengthen or change. Instead of over-reacting like a majority of the African-American population and threatening blood shed and violence…WAIT and see what the evidence of the case SHOWS! Nope…blacks were not going to wait! Without knowledge…without any clue of the case..they set out to loot stores..protest…threaten violence…place bounties…and worst of all..get the two biggest racists in the nation..the Al & Jesse show…giving speeches preaching injustice. C’mon!! Why don’t you all spend all that effort and energy cleaning up your own neighborhood crimes of killing, raping & thievery? Jeez…a black man shoots into a group of kids (all black), kills three innocent teens..and it gets a tiny mention on page 50 of the local times. Some white guy defends himself against a black guy..and the racist police come surfacing!
    Seriously..do ya’ll know just how ignorant you look? It’s almost comical..if it wasn’t so real!
    Want no racism? Change your OWN attitudes and feelings of entitlement and you’ll start to sense an easing of racial tensions. Then we can actually co-exist without giving each other the “I don’t trust you” look.
    It doesn’t matter what I say..it’s going to be wrong in the eyes of those who can’t think past their racist hearts.

    • gaylene hans

      BECAUSE THE KID kid WASN’T DOING ANYTHING WRONG!!!! HE WAS WALKING-
      ONCE AGAIN, WALKING. BIG CRIME, RIGHT-HE WASN’T CLIMBING INTO SOMEONE’S BEDROOM, WASN’T HOLDING UP THE 7-ELEVEN, WASN’T MOLESTING A CHILD, GET IT-JEW BOY WAS TOLD NOT TO F’ING FOLLOW BUT HE DISREGARDED THE ORDER AND THIS WAS THE RESULT-FOR THAT HE DESERVES TO BE SHOT?? STALKING

      • sliderman

        Most rational people would consider repeatedly bashing someone else’s head into the pavement – as Martin did to Zimmerman – to be “wrong”.

  • Mike B

    FLIP M: Great comment, thank you.
    Why has the media stopped reporting that the number one killer of young black males, is other young black males? This story has election-year politics and anti-white racism all over it. The public needs to hear all of the FACTS before it forms an opinion. The news media provides very few facts anymore, just propaganda and opinions.

    • aruba19

      TRUTH!

    • gaylene hans

      BECAUSE IT ISN’T RELEVENT

      • sliderman

        Of course it’s relevent (sic).

    • sliderman

      Exactly correct, Mike.  The most dangerous person by far to a young black male is another young black male.  But the black community tends to ignore that particular elephant in the room, because it is easier to focus on the comparatively rare instances of real or imagined racist acts from whites or other races.

  • Jamesomar

    The reason blacks think o.j. Was not guilty and Zimmerman is is guilty is really simple.

    Blacks have an I.q. Of 60 and whites have an I.q.of 120.

    • aruba19

      Many people of all races have an I.Q higher than 120. Which doesn’t make us more intelligent or ignorant, merely more eloquent in expressing our shortcomings. :-)

  • Jamesomar

    If Martin was in Miami like he should have been(he was suspened from school again)all this would not have happened.
    It was 100 percent martin’s fault.
    Martin seems to get his rocks off by picking on small people.