THE BLOG

Have We Learned Anything at All? 10 Questions Unanswered by the George Zimmerman Verdict

07/15/2013 04:16 pm ET | Updated Sep 14, 2013

A Florida jury has now rendered its verdict on the question of whether George Zimmerman is legally guilty for killing Trayvon Marin. I cannot answer the question of whether or not theirs was the right decision. I cannot answer the question of what happened on the night of February 26, 2012. I have no reason to question the good faith of the members of the jury who listened to the evidence day in and day out beyond the fact that I am left as deeply disturbed after it as I was before it, maybe more so. What I believe, though, is that these are the wrong questions to ask.
My hope is that now that the trial is over we can turn our attention to asking the right questions. The others are more distractions.

The second right question (I'm going to come back to the first): Why is it that an African American teenage boy in America who goes out to buy Skittles and a drink is more likely not to return home than a white teenage boy? This one ought to cause more than a few sleepless nights of soul searching.

The third right question: Does this whole sordid affair lay bare the reality that our society values white lives more than it values black lives?

The fourth right question: Why is it that reasonable doubt is so much more likely to benefit a white defendant than a black one?

The fifth right question: What possible purpose do "stand your ground" laws, such as the one Florida has and that came into play in this case, serve beyond encouraging avoidable violence, especially by the privileged?

The sixth right question: Why do we tolerate vigilantes, for is that not what neighborhood watch programs are, in affluent neighborhoods well served by the police?

The seventh right question: Given the sixth question, why is it that we have no tolerance for the same thing in poor neighborhoods poorly served by the police?

The eighth right question: Why on earth would we allow anyone the opportunity to act from the most ambiguous places of their hearts and the most reactive parts of their brains with handguns?

The ninth right question: Why is it some of our leaders would use this American tragedy to try and keep us from thinking clearly and dispassionately precisely when we most need to?

The tenth right question: How do we confront the national denial and failure of self-reflection that mythologically relegates racism to being a southern phenomenon by which the rest of the country is somehow untainted?

And now I come to what I think is the first right question. It is this: Have we learned anything at all? And this one has a corollary. What are we going to do about it?

Bishop Stacy Sauls is the Chief Operating Officer of the Episcopal Church. He was formerly the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Lexington (KY).