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In Zimmerman case, doing what's right not just about law

Story highlights

  • Donna Brazile: There is no winner here
  • We are not in a post-racial society, Brazile says
  • If you don't know about "black male code," you should, she says
  • Now is a time to focus on improving the system, she says

Like so many others, I am distraught. It will take many days to sort through my feelings and reactions to the verdict of not guilty in the Trayvon Martin case. Still, some thoughts and lessons are obvious, immediate and, in a sense, imperative.

First, those who delight in the verdict are wrong. There is no winner here. Trayvon Martin is still dead and George Zimmerman still must live with the fact that he killed without reason or cause. Here, the "should have" rules: He should have stayed in the truck.

Those who react to the verdict with despair are wrong. We work hard for justice in this world, but we, being human, are flawed. We will make mistakes. The law is only our best approximation of justice, and the law needs constant revision. But doing what's right is not limited to the law. Sometimes, we must go beyond it.

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Those who expect -- perhaps desire -- a riot are wrong. We are better than that. We respect the law. While the law cannot force a person to be moral or tolerant, through the law we can demand respect and expect equality.

If we are to move forward as a country we must recognize that this case highlights three issues. We must confront these without excuse or rancor. We must be honest about our weaknesses.

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First, we are not in a post-racial society. Racial profiling still exists and it is a cancer. Assumptions and fallacies and prejudice feed it. We are suspicious of those who look different; we are uncomfortable with cultural differences. We distrust what we don't understand, but surely we should not act with violence or bigotry.

Father and son react to verdict

    Just Watched

    Father and son react to verdict

Father and son react to verdict 01:37
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Martin lawyer: 'We must all be peaceful'

    Just Watched

    Martin lawyer: 'We must all be peaceful'

Martin lawyer: 'We must all be peaceful' 02:15
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Defense: Zimmerman did nothing wrong

    Just Watched

    Defense: Zimmerman did nothing wrong

Defense: Zimmerman did nothing wrong 01:18
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If you don't know about the "black male code," you should. It's something black boys learn early, even before adolescence. It goes, in part, like this: Even though you're not a criminal, some people assume you are, especially if you're wearing certain clothes. Never argue with the police, but protect your dignity and take pride in humility. As a black male, you must go above and beyond to show strangers what type of person you really are.

There's more, but you get the point: If you're black and male, know that many Americans -- not all, not even most, but many -- assume you are guilty of something, just because you're you.

Opinion: Trayvon could have been my son

Now try to live with that every day. We need to see ourselves through the eyes of others.

Finally, there's the cliché -- think before you act. Thou shalt not murder is a universal commandment, one necessary for a civilized nation, a civilized world.

Let us focus on ways to improve the system -- the criminal system, the justice system, the moral system, the general welfare system. Let us focus on acts of goodness and kindness that bring us together, as a people and as creations of God.

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