Editorial voices from the U.S., elsewhere

July 19, 2013

Excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers in the United States and abroad as compiled by the Associated Press:

Times-Picayune, New Orleans

The day after a Sanford, Fla., jury acquitted George Zimmerman in the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin, Americans all over the country took to the streets in protest.

The shooting of the black unarmed teenager by a white and Hispanic neighborhood watch volunteer had the elements of a racially divisive case from the beginning. But the racial diversity of the crowds that marched Sunday indicates that one doesn’t have to be black to be upset by the teenager’s death.

During halftime of the NBA’s 2012 All-Star Game, Martin walked to a convenience store and bought Skittles and a can of iced tea. He never made it back home. On his way back, Zimmerman deemed him suspicious. There was a confrontation. When it was over, Martin lay dead.

One thing is indisputable: We never would have known either’s name if Zimmerman had let Martin be, or, if after Zimmerman had called 911, he took the advice of the dispatcher and kept his distance. But he chose to follow the teenager.

That fact alone made the case bigger than Martin. Those who are honest in their struggle to understand why so many black Americans are in despair need to know that being watched, being followed, being suspected of something and being assumed a danger is a near universal experience for black Americans – black boys and men especially.

The Star-Ledger, New Jersey

Finally, something positive to say on the obesity front: According to new studies, obesity rates are leveling off – dropping, even.

Both New York City and Philadelphia saw their obesity rates decrease last year, since declaring war on the epidemic more than a decade ago. And studies recently compiled by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation showed similar progress elsewhere in the country.

Certainly, there are problem areas: Disparities between obesity trends in black and white students, and worse results for poor students insured through Medicaid. But common sense solutions such as eliminating soda and fried foods in schools and educating kids about exercise seem to be paying off.

The Guardian, London

There are uncanny echoes of the case of Stephen Lawrence, who was murdered in a racist attack in London in 1993, in the acquittal Saturday in Florida of George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer who shot Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teenager, having assumed him to be a criminal.

It took 44 days after Martin’s death and a national campaign in the United States for Zimmerman to be arrested. In that time, evidence was lost as the Florida police insisted that the state’s law on self-defense barred them from bringing charges.

The prosecutors said the case was not about race. Before the trial began, Judge Deborah Nelson forbade the use of the term “racial profiling” in the courtroom, and yet, without the element of race, Martin might still be alive today. Zimmerman’s pursuit of and confrontation with him was premised on the assumption that the very presence of a black teenager in a gated community was sufficient cause for alarm.

Like the Lawrence case, the Martin trial has attracted national scrutiny, not always helpful to the cause of justice. President Barack Obama said before the trial that if he had a son, he would look like Trayvon. On Sunday, the president said the acquittal should be met with calm reflection, and reminded Americans that theirs was a nation of laws. Put those two comments together, and the limits of presidential empathy in the face of acquittal become evident.

Police commissioners claim that tough stop-and-frisk policies clean up the streets, even though no such effect can be definitively established in New York or elsewhere. What matters now is to deal with the damage the verdict has done. As the Lawrence case has shown, the verdict and justice remain miles apart, sending out devastating messages that cannot be ignored.



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