The following is a statement from Alan Jenkins, Executive Director of The Opportunity Agenda, a national organization that conducts research on media and public opinion in order to understand how to build public support for policies that improve people's lives. Their programs focus on racial equity and African-American men and boys, as well as immigration, economic opportunity, and reproductive health and rights.
"Whatever the jury's verdict, two things are clear: First, George Zimmerman acted on pernicious racial stereotypes when he suspected, followed, and killed an unarmed seventeen-year-old boy, Trayvon Martin. Second, the same stereotypes underlie too many decisions by police, employers, and others in our society, denying African-American young people and others the promise of equal opportunity for all.
"We all carry around stereotypes and we have a shared responsibility to overcome them, by committing to equal opportunity, by acting on evidence instead of bias, and by requiring training, guidelines, and accountability for people in power. If George Zimmerman, as a neighborhood watch member, had had that commitment, training, and guidance, this tragedy might never have happened.
"Our research also makes clear that a pattern of distorted media depictions of African-American men and boys contributes to stereotypes and discrimination. Media outlets have a responsibility to ensure fair, accurate, and varied coverage of all communities that helps us to understand instead of fear each other. This is an important time for media leaders to make a public commitment to fulfilling that responsibility."