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Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.
Dr. Schwartz's Weblog

The Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman Case

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. Updated: Jul 15th 2013

The Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman CaseA terrible tragedy occurred in Florida when George Zimmerman shot and killed an unarmed young man by the name of Trayvon Martin. People all over the United States are outraged by the "Not Guilty" verdict found by the jury of six women. What is sad is the verdict follows the law as it is written in Florida and 16 other states in United States. The tragedy is threefold:

1. A young man, Trayvon Martin, is dead and nothing can ever change that.
2. George Zimmerman will forever live with the fact that he killed another man, an unforgivable irrational act, regardless of the verdict.
3. Once again the fact of gun violence raised it's ugly head in this case as it has in so many others in recent months and years. Without a gun it is doubtful that anyone in this case would be dead.
4. Race and racism once again becomes an issue through the group dynamic that pits "us against them" mentality. The issue of race in America is further complicated by the Supreme Court striking down the Voting Rights Act that protected the right of minorities to vote in this country without having to deal with discrimination.

In many ways, the bottom line or main theme of this case has to do with "Us versus Them" thinking. How does this concept explain things?

Social psychology points out that part of the self-identity that we have stems from the groups we belong to. In many cases, that group identity begins during childhood when we learn that people come from different races, have different religions and come from different ethnic groups. In other words, the identity of each individual is partly formed from the group they were raised with. Add to that the fact that if a group teaches that they are better than other groups then we become involved with the "us vs. them" concept.

There is also a tendency of people with low self-esteem to join subgroups that foster and enhance the notion that their racial or ethnic group is superior. This happens with religion as well.

How does this explain part of the Trayvon Martin-Zimmerman tragedy? A black young man, Trayvon, was seen in a neighborhood, at night, and that is primarily white. How much was Mr. Zimmerman's actions based on seeing a black man in his neighborhood and feeling threatened? After all, Mr. Zimmerman was in pursuit of that young man until he found Trayvon, wrestled with and shot him. Was it necessary to pursue this young man? Was he really a threat? No one ever doubted the fact that Treyvon was unarmed.

The point is that when there is "us vs. them type of thinking, even on an unconscious level and there is a gun present, tragedy will strike.

Isn't it time that we thought of "us," all of us, everyone, regardless of what part of the world, religion, race and national and cultural background. In the 20th century, when people travel to and instantly communicate with each other all over the earth, it is time to identify with the human race?

Also, isn't it time that we controlled guns in this country?

Your comments are encouraged.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD



Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

Readers who live in the Boulder, Colorado metro area, or in Southwest Florida may contact Dr. Schwartz for face-to-face consultation. He is also available for psychotherapy through Skype video for those who are not in Florida or Colorado. He can be reached via email at for details.

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