UCLA Discourse: Trayvon Martin & Implicit Bias

Vol. 61, Discourse

The killing of Trayvon Martin in 2012 and recent verdict in the trial of George Zimmerman has generated intense national debate.  Mr. Zimmerman’s verdict has not ended the discussion, but instead caused of a firestorm of conversation in the national media.

In light of this debate, we offer a 2012 essay published by two UCLA Law alums discussing the concept of implicit bias and its relationship with gun violence.  The essay remains timely event a year after its publication, and can be found here.

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3 Responses

  1. Kevin says:

    It is interesting that the paper noted that, supposedly due to implicit bias, both blacks and whites are are more likely to shoot an unarmed black man. While this purported bias might explain the white shooters’ actions, why are blacks similarly inclined to shoot the unarmed black man?

    As a former Florida state court prosecutor, based on what I had heard and read,and understanding the obligations of a prosecuting attorney, I felt that Zimmerman should not have been charged. My feelings were confirmed when I heard a local Orlando reporter say during an interview that the verdict came as no surprise to anyone who was familiar with the evidence and had followed the trial closely. The case oozed reasonable doubt.

    It is remarkable that the governor “fired” the local prosecutor and replaced him with Ms. Koury. I never heard anyone say that the local prosecutor was inept or incapable of making a proper charging decision. This certainly smelled of politics. And the media barely mentioned the fact that Zimmerman was charged by an information (requiring only the prosecutor’s signature), not an indictment. This made it look like the prosecutor was afraid that a grand jury would likely not indict. It is common to present politically charged cases to grand juries; at least it was when I worked in Florida.

  2. Horspool says:

    Doesn’t it bother you that the “facts” recited early in that essay are significantly wrong, so the conclusions may be wrong as well? Last year Feingold and Lorang (F&L) were forced to rely on disinformation promulgated by the media, much of which has since been revealed to be inaccurate by the evidence adduced in Zimmerman’s trial for 2nd Degree Murder.

    Worse, Zimmerman’s trial revealed that Feingold and Lorang’s speculation that “implicit bias” drove Zimmerman to shoot Martin was inaccurate: Zimmerman shot Martin because Martin put Zimmerman in fear for his life by beating Zimmerman’s head. If Zimmerman had shot Martin before Martin physically attacked him, one might properly suspect implicit bias had affected Zimmerman’s (hypothetical) assessment of the threat posed by Martin at a distance. Once Martin began striking Zimmerman, however, implicit bias had little role to play. In reality, Zimmerman did not shoot Martin until after Martin had struck him repeatedly and was continuing to strike him (and threaten him verbally with death, if you believe Zimmerman– but even if you discount Zimmerman’s testimony the physical evidence and the evidence of independent witnesses showed that Martin was beating Zimmerman and preventing his escape at the time Zimmerman shot Martin).

    Consider what Feingold and Lorang wrote, with the FALSE information set off using brackets [[like these]]:

    F&L: “Seventeen-year-old Trayvon Martin was fatally shot [[while out walking]] on February 26, 2012. On the day he was killed, [[Trayvon and his father were visiting a friend in a gated community in Sanford, Florida.]] Trayvon walked to the local 7-Eleven, where he bought Skittles and [[an iced tea.]] George Zimmerman, a local neighborhood watch captain, was driving in his SUV when he noticed Trayvon walking back from the store. Unlike Zimmerman, Trayvon was Black. Trayvon was wearing a hooded sweatshirt. Zimmerman called the police because he felt Trayvon looked “real suspicious.” [[The police explicitly instructed Zimmerman not to follow Trayvon.]]”

    Now the facts revealed at Zimmerman’s trial: Martin was shot while beating up Zimmerman. Martin was living with his father’s friend (because he had been suspended from his high school 240 miles away and his own mother had thrown him out of her home). Martin purchased a watermelon juice drink, not an iced tea. Zimmerman was NOT ordered by police to refrain from following Martin. In fact, police didn’t order Zimmerman to do or refrain from doing anything.

    F&L’s next paragraph contains a tendentious and misleading passage I have marked with ** which suggests wrongly that Zimmerman knew Martin was unarmed (he knew no such thing– Martin could have had a concealed weapon just as Zimmerman did!) and implies that Zimmerman acted because of such knowledge, which is impossible.

    F&L: “Exactly what happened next is the subject of much debate, and we make no attempt to resolve any factual disputes here. What is clear is **that although Trayvon was unarmed,** Zimmerman eventually left his car and shot and killed Trayvon with a 9mm handgun. After police arrived at the scene, “Zimmerman was taken into custody, questioned and released.””

  3. HDL says:

    @ Kevin —White supremacy has a negative effect upon whites as well as blacks. It leads to,the devaluing of black lives. I am sure you have seen the studies in which black children too typically say that a doll, or a picture of another black child, is the “bad” person. That is the message that society sends.