Friday, June 28, 2013

Racial aspects of the Zimmerman trial

Because America is a country of immigrants, and a country which once had the system of slavery, racial and ethnic issues are often very important and controversial here. 

(What is the difference between race and ethnicity?  Let's say a person is from China.  Her race is Asian and her ethnicity is Chinese. I am white and German-American - I was born in America but my ancestors came from Germany.  A controversial issue is an issue that causes people to argue about it.)

Indeed, there are social issues (due to race and ethnicity) present in America that are not present in other countries.

Although differing races and ethnicities often live peacefully together here, there are definitely racial problems.  For instance, most prisoners in US jails are African American men.  It is sometimes said, by those who want to change this problem, that there are more black men in prison than in college in America:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-21791038

Furthermore, African Americans and Latinos do much worse in American schools than White and Asian students and their income is lower.

http://www.nea.org/home/13054.htm

So for various reasons it seems safe to say that African American and Latino folks in the USA are not treated "equally" or do not have equal opportunities to share in the wealth of American culture.

Therefore, the Zimmerman case is especially interesting to Americans.  Zimmerman is part white and part Latino and, as you can read in the previous posting, as a volunteer police officer, he killed an African American young person.  Many African Americans have claimed that he was "profiling" Trayvon Martin (the black young man).  If a police officer 'profiles' someone, that means he judges the person based on how he/she looks and assumes the person might be a criminal just because of his/her skin color.

I'm posting an article from a NY newspaper about this case.  In this article, a lawyer who is representing the Martin family suddenly said that this court case is 'not' about racial issues.  This is, of course, ridiculous - the trial is absolutely about racial issues. 

The article:

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/trayvon-martin-trial-prosecution-star-witness-grilled-article-1.1384074

A video:



Vocabulary to help you understand the article:

prosecution - the lawyers who work for the state.  So a prosecution witness is a person who is supposed to answer questions that will help the prosecution to win the case and show that Zimmerman attacked and killed Martin.

to be grilled - if you are asked very difficult questions, or questions you don't want to answer, you are grilled about or over something.

a cracker - this is a slang term that (uneducated) African Americans use to refer to white people.  This is a slang term that means 'white person.'  A cracker is a type of hard bread that can be eaten.  It seems that the color of a cracker and the color of a white person seem similar to some African American folks.  The fact that Trayvon Martin used this term to refer to George Zimmerman would suggest that Martin disliked or was prejudiced against white people and was uneducated (in fact, Martin had, apparently, been kicked out of school for drug possession).  But nobody knows for sure whether Martin used the term 'cracker,' because this witness (this person answering questions in court), seems to tell different stories to different people.

prosecutors claimed Zimmerman targeted Martin - prosecutors stated that Zimmerman only stopped Martin because Martin was black.  The lawyers who represent Martin's parents are now saying, for some reason, that Martin's race (his skin color) did not matter.  Why does Martin's family have a lawyer if they are not involved in this case?  If Zimmerman is found guilty, the Martin family will 'sue' Zimmerman - they will take him to another court and try to force him to pay them money.  The Martin family has already sued the city in Florida where this happened and were awarded a large sum of money.

a cop wanna-be - Zimmerman wanted to be a real police officer and not a volunteer police officer.

turmoil - chaos, disorder

“It’s not about racial profiling,” Daryl Parks declared. “He was profiled (criminally). George Zimmerman profiled him.” - this statement didn't make a lot of sense to anyone because the Martin lawyer first said the case is not about profiling, but then said Zimmerman profiled Martin.  So he contradicted himself.

the defense attorney - the lawyer trying to help George Zimmerman

"That's retarded, Sir." - A 'retarded' person is a person who was born with mental disabilities.  These are people who - because of genetics or environmental problems - are not able to learn as quickly as others.  To say that something is 'retarded' is to say that something is 'stupid.'  To be honest with you, anyone who uses the term 'retarded' is a very low-class, ignorant and uneducated person.  It shows insensitivity to people who are suffering through no fault of their own.  The first witness in this case - brought to court by the prosecution - seems to be a very uneducated, low-class person.

a bombshell - a shocking or surprising event.

changing his tune - changing his story.

a head-scratching statement - a statement hard to understand.  If you scratch your head over something, you show you are having a hard time understanding something.

to spar with someone - to argue with someone.  Boxers spar with each other in order to train themselves to be better boxers.

front and center - the primary focus.

a gated community - there are some neighborhoods in America that are surrounded by gates so that strangers cannot enter.

to charge someone with a crime - to formally state, through the court system, that a person has been accused of committing a crime.

gal-pal - girlfriend

raked over the coals - basically the journalist is saying she was asked questions which caused her to embarrass herself.  Zimmerman's lawyer humiliated her.

was ripped - was verbally attacked. This person seems to be a total liar who tells different stories to different people.

cringe-worthy - to cringe means to show something makes you uncomfortable.  This person's statement made everyone uncomfortable when she did not want to read a letter because she stated that she couldn't read the handwriting on the page.

tough turn on the stand - the stand is where a person answers questions in court.  a tough turn - she had a difficult time on the stand.

the parents were shaking their heads - they couldn't believe what was happening.

dismay - disbelief and shock.

to pen a letter - to write a letter
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Discussion/writing:

Do you think this person's testimony helped or harmed the prosecution? Why?

In order for Zimmerman to be found guilty, the prosecution must prove he attacked Martin.  After this testimony, are you more or less convinced that Zimmerman attacked Martin?

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