Jackie Gingrich Cushman

The approval/disapproval of the Zimmerman verdict varies greatly based on race, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll conducted by Langer Associates, released this past Monday (a random sample of 1,002 adults, July 18-21, 2013, by telephone in English and Spanish, with sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points).

When asked whether the shooting was justified, 5 percent of blacks said yes, compared with 33 percent of whites and 16 percent of Hispanics.

Why?

Why did the jury believe it was self-defense, but only 5 percent of blacks concur?

African-Americans overwhelmingly disapprove of the verdict -- 86 percent to 9 percent in favor; whites strongly approve -- 51 percent to 31 percent opposed. This might lead one to believe that Americans' views are based primarily on the color of their skin.

Why?

When asked if the federal government should pursue civil-rights charges against Zimmerman, African-Americans responded yes/no by 81-13 percent; with whites responding yes/no by 27-59 percent.

Why?

Why are the views so different? Is it the opinion-makers and news media that the various groups turn to in order to understand the facts involved? Is it personal history? If everyone were exposed to the same facts, understanding, and media coverage, would their conclusions still vary so widely?

If Zimmerman -- whose mother is Peruvian and father is white -- was labeled a white-Hispanic by the media, why isn't Obama -- whose mother was white and father African-American -- labeled a white African-American?

These are hard questions that lead not to answers, but to more questions. But that is what a real conversation is, a place to dig deeper to uncover and bring understandings, misunderstandings and points of view into the light for others to listen to and reflect upon.

A real national conversation about race would delve deep into the why, without laying blame; to foster understanding, rather than simply asking the what.


Jackie Gingrich Cushman

Jackie Gingrich Cushman is a speaker, syndicated columnist, socialpreneur, and author of "The Essential American: 25 Documents and Speeches Every American Should Own," and co-author of “The 5 Principles for a Successful Life: From Our Family to Yours”.