Common sense. Common sense is something we generally all have, and at some point have all failed to use. Common sense tells us that when a teenager is killed while he is walking home, minding his own business doing nothing illegal, it is wrong.
That common sense was lost very early in the discussions around Trayvon Martin's death, and Zimmerman was subsequently found not guilty. The conversations regarding the event quickly turned from "this incident should have never happened and should not be tolerated in this country" to "maybe there is a way that this teenager's death is justifiable." That conversation change doesn't happen if Trayvon wasn't a black male.
Some people are going to disagree with that last sentence and claim that race and prejudice did not factor into the situation. For those people, I challenge you to think of someone close to you, someone like your son, nephew, boyfriend, father, or cousin. Now imagine your loved one walking home alone on a rainy night. Imagine how your loved one, you, or anyone would feel in that situation, when he realizes a stranger is stalking him. Your loved one would feel scared, vulnerable, intimidated, and threatened.
Ironically, self-defense is one of the main conversation points in this case, but rarely is it Trayvon's right to defend himself. Being stalked by a stranger when you're alone will make anyone fear for his safety. What about your loved one's right to defend himself when he's alone and threatened by a stranger? We don't know if Trayvon threw the first punch, but even if he did, is that not self-defense when a stranger stalks and confronts you at night?
Trayvon had the right to defend himself against a hostile stranger (Zimmerman was hostile, as is evident from the police recording). Somebody should not have the right to stalk a teenager, confront him, instigate and provoke an altercation, then when the altercation that he started by stalking the teenager gets out of control, shoot the unarmed kid dead.
If it was your son/cousin/brother/friend/father, you wouldn't say Zimmerman was justified, even if your loved one had thrown the first punch. I challenge you to say, "Yeah, my loved one was justifiably killed when he was walking home because he got in a fight with a stranger that stalked and confronted him," and actually believe it. You wouldn't believe that about your loved one's death, so why do you believe that about Trayvon? Something has to be causing the discrepancy.
The precedence set by thinking Zimmerman is justified is inherently illogical. It is against the law for me to walk up to Person A and shoot him. However, if I want him dead, I can scare and provoke him enough to start a physical altercation, and then continue to antagonize him so that he continues the altercation. Now I can shoot him dead and be justified. Person A is dead like I wanted, and I just admittedly killed him without even breaking the law.
A society can't prosper with that kind of illogical thinking, but something about this case allowed a lack of common sense to prosper and prevail. Something made the rational person look at this case differently, and disregard common sense, even if subconsciously.
As a black male that something is evident. It is the prejudice against black men in this country. Black men are still viewed as second-class citizens by society. And that is why the Zimmerman case was never a common sense one.
It can be a difficult prejudice to identify. It's subtle, easily quantifiable by looking at societal trends and statistics, but not readily visible or tangible like the blatant, belligerent racism of decades past. It can be inadvertent and subconscious, but still damaging due to the widespread, systemic nature of the prejudice. The Zimmerman case is not an isolated event, it's an extreme manifestation of the reality we black males live through every day.
Most people don't want to come to terms with having a bias, even if it's subconscious. But you have to admit to having the prejudice in order to take steps in correcting it. I hope that one day people can stop denying the existence of racial prejudice and stop conjuring arguments to mask it as a reasonable viewpoint. Then we can start to work together as a society to fix the present inequalities, both on a systemic level and on a personal level.