Is the racial empathy gap in America growing? It seems so. At least judging by the chatter of comments surrounding the trial.
I heard repeatedly the statement from some Zimmerman supporters -- including a radio show host -- that "94% of black murder victims were killed by other blacks."
So instead of being empathetic to the Martin family -- whose son Trayvon was killed by Zimmerman -- the words discounted the killing by essentially saying that black people kill each other so much, why should we care about this one black kid?
On the other side, some people of color despicably threatened to harm or even kill Zimmerman after he was acquitted.
No matter what race you belong to, you have to admit this lack of concern for other races needs to be addressed.
Racial empathy means opening yourself to understanding why the other side believes what it does can help you find common ground.
Of course, this is not easy. It requires you to, at least temporarily, stop dismissing competing arguments. You don't have to agree with the opposing views, but you should listen and try to understand them.
Let's look at issues from the vantage point of another race: Why are they angry? Why are they afraid? What would you feel like if you lived in a community where the crime you see is committed almost exclusively by one race? Conversely, how would you feel if you were repeatedly profiled by the police and society simply because of your skin color?
If we don't get past the knee jerking defensiveness when discussing race, we will likely be burying more Trayvon Martins.
-- Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is a political comedian and frequent commentator on various TV networks including CNN.
Austin-Hillery: Echoes of "To Kill a Mockingbird"
In the iconic film, "To Kill a Mockingbird," Atticus Finch, a white lawyer defending a black man accused of attempting to rape a white woman in the deep South, is delivering his closing argument to an all-white-male jury: "In this country, our courts are the great levelers ... in our courts, all men are created equal," he says.
Like the fictional defendant in the film, black America knows all too well that in this country, the promise of equal justice for all is often a hollow one. When black boys and men are killed by non-blacks, more often than not, justice will not be served.
Many black parents will try to explain to their children, especially their sons, what to make of the verdict, and they may be at a loss for words. How is it possible that a black child, walking where he had a right to walk, doing absolutely nothing wrong, could be pursued, confronted and ultimately shot dead by a neighborhood watch volunteer -- and the killer escape punishment?
White America cannot conceive of such a thing happening to its children, nor can it imagine that, were such a travesty to occur, the killer would escape punishment. But for black America, Trayvon Martin is the latest name on a long list of African-American men and boys whose non-black killers escaped justice in America's courts -- a list that runs from Emmett Till to Amadou Diallo to Oscar Grant to Sean Bell.
Often, the killers are never even charged and brought to trial, which is precisely the course that the Zimmerman case would have taken were it not for the protests of African-Americans and others across the country.
Black America's belief in the possibility of receiving justice from our legal system is eroded by every verdict that fails to hold a killer who is not black accountable for the death of a black man or boy.
My heart is heavy, not merely because Zimmerman was acquitted, but also because we as a nation have yet to make Atticus Finch's words ring true. Until we do -- until our courts are really "the great levelers" in which "all men are created equal," African-Americans killed by non-blacks will not find justice.
-- Nicole Austin-Hillery is the director and counsel of the Washington Office of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law.
Gabriel: White or black, we see what we've experienced
In the courts and in society, we tend to think of racial bias as overt bigotry and imagine that the George Zimmermans and the Paula Deens of the world hold negative stereotypes of other races and intentionally think less of them as people.
Actual bias, however, operates in the brain in a much different way.
Despite our noble desire to love our fellow man, we are all suspicious of "The Other" -- in this case, the young man in a hoodie in the rain.
George Zimmerman has denied he holds any racial animosity. And that may be true. But with his statements, "F***ing punks. These a**holes, they always get away," he may have been unconsciously referring to a combination of race, youth, behavior, and clothing.
Trayvon Martin, in saying he was being followed by a "creepy-ass cracker," no doubt also racially labeled Zimmerman out of fear.