At the NAACP Convention in Orlando, members struggled Monday to respond to the George Zimmerman verdict at a time when they thought they would be celebrating a series of milestone anniversaries in the civil rights movement.
It was fifty years ago that Martin Luther King delivered his renowned “I Have a Dream” speech. It was 50 years ago that Mississippi civil rights icon Medgar Evers was assassinated. It was 150 years ago that President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation.
In spite of the momentous milestones, NAACP President Ben Jealous said he is worried about the state of civil rights in this country after George Zimmerman was exonerated in the death of 17-year- old Trayvon Martin in February 2012. Zimmerman was then a neighborhood watch captain. Martin was walking to his father’s house after a trip to the store.
“In this country, the world’s greatest democracy, it should not be the case that any child has to fear the bad guys and the good guys,” Jealous said.
Now, the NAACP is calling for a new civil rights push to eliminate racial profiling and Stand Your Ground laws.
In the meantime, Jealous is urging the Justice Department to charge Zimmerman under one of the nation’s newest hate crime laws in what he says would be a significant test case.