Implicit Racial Bias, the Zimmerman Trial, the Verdict

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Discussion of the George Zimmerman verdict has been rampant in both the public and private spheres since jurors rendered the divisive decision in mid-July.  Zimmerman’s acquittal of all charges in the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin has sparked conversations on a plethora of sensitive topics, including Stand Your Ground laws, the current status of race relations in the United States, and what it means to live at the precarious identity intersection of being Black and male in a society that asserts itself to be “post-racial” despite ample evidence to the contrary.

Since the ruling, the concept of implicit bias has received newfound attention.  Implicit bias refers to the stereotypes or attitudes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner.  The Kirwan Institute’s State of the Science: Implicit Bias Review highlighted the large body of compelling research on how these unconscious, automatically activated, and pervasive mental processes can be manifested across a variety of contexts yielding significant impacts.[1]  The increased dialogue around implicit bias and the Zimmerman verdict provides an opportunity to highlight research-based insights into how implicit bias may have played a role throughout the Zimmerman-Martin confrontation and during the subsequent trial.

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