There is a principle in social psychology called ingroup-outgroup bias, which is the tendency to judge members of your own group more favorably and others more harshly.
So when Juror B37 speaks to Anderson Cooper about not finding Trayvon Martin's friend Rachel Jeantel credible because she was "hard to understand" and "using phrases I had never heard before," it is obvious that it was hard for this juror to relate to this witness.
And it is a combination of skin color, idiom, nonverbal behavior, and personality that causes this cultural outgroup divide. This juror did not know about Rachel Jeantel's underbite, or that she grew up speaking Spanish and Creole.
Juror B37 spoke about Zimmerman's justified actions, his state of mind, her sympathies for him as well as the deceased Martin. In jury selection, she spoke about Sanford protests as "rioting." This juror could more easily relate to Zimmerman as the neighborhood watch volunteer trying to protect his neighborhood.
Nearly 20 years ago, when I was working for the defense on the O.J. Simpson case, much was made about the racial makeup of that jury -- made up of nine blacks, two whites and one Hispanic. But it was not just the skin color of those jurors that determined that verdict. Three-quarters of those jurors had personal experience with the police profiling, planting evidence, and engaging in other mistreatment.
We see what we have experienced. So we see what we want to see, whether we are a white juror in Sanford, Florida, or an African-American juror in Los Angeles.
It's time to stop pretending. It's time to make implicit bias explicit. If we're going to talk about race, let's talk about race without resorting to platitudes, righteousness or defensiveness. It's time to recognize that race is more than skin color. It is a rich tapestry woven with cultural, linguistic, behavioral and moral threads.
-- Richard Gabriel is the president of the American Society of Trial Consultants Foundation and president of Decision Analysis, a national trial consulting company. He has worked on the Casey Anthony and O.J. Simpson cases.
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