Trayvon Martin’s killing has served as a morality tale, wrapping in it questions of racial profiling, self-defense, and gun ownership. But the fact that Zimmerman was found not guilty does not mean young black men are not being racially profiled in large numbers – any more than a conviction would have meant that they are. It does not mean we need more guns – or fewer guns. It does not mean self-defense laws need to be changed – or that they do not.
And therein lies the real takeaway of the Zimmerman case: it is telling us as clearly as it can that for all of these months, we have been paying too much attention to it. Like a badly prepared teacher who is overly reliant on in-class movies, we use glitzy trials to raise obliquely things that we should be talking about directly.