Blacks and whites across the country view the Trayvon Martin case and its potential racial implications in largely different ways, according to a new USA TODAY/Gallup Poll.
In one of the starkest differences, 73% of Black people said they think George Zimmerman would have been arrested if Trayvon was White; only 33% of white people agreed. The majority of White people polled — 52% — said race made no difference in the way the case was handled.
Trayvon, 17, was shot and killed Feb. 26 in Sanford, Fla., as he returned to a gated community after buying candy at a store. Trayvon’s family said he was followed and killed because Zimmerman deemed him “suspicious” because the teen was Black and was wearing a hoodie.
“There are really profound differences in the world views of Blacks and Whites,” said Vincent Hutchings, a political science professor at the University of Michigan.
It is no surprise that Black people in the U.S., a group that has been historically and arguably continuously discriminated against, will look at Trayvon’s killing as part of a long narrative of injustice, Hutchings said.
He also said that White people, a group that often enjoys racial privileges, do not want to think of the world as a place where unarmed teenagers would get profiled and killed because it would call into question their unearned positions of power.
Zimmerman, a self-appointed neighborhood watch captain whose family said he is Hispanic, has not been charged. He said he shot the unarmed youth in self-defense.
Nationwide, race seems to be a major factor in whether people think Zimmerman should be charged. Black people were more likely to think Zimmerman is guilty of a crime: 51% said he was definitely guilty; 21% said he was probably guilty. White people were more inclined to reserve judgment: 58% said his guilt was unclear based on available information.
The poll also showed that 72% of Black people think racial bias was a major factor in Trayvon’s shooting. White Americans were split on the question of racial bias — 30% said it was a major factor, 26% said it was a minor factor and 27% said it was not a factor.
The poll of 3,006 adults was taken Monday to Wednesday and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.