Does Trayvon Martin verdict reveal that America is racist? How does Britain compare?

By Melissa Thompson    16 Jul 2013

Does the verdict prove the US is still mired in racial prejudice? And how does UK compare when it comes to health, education and crime?

George Zimmerman’s acquittal for murdering unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin has put American race relations back under the spotlight.
There may be an African-American in the White House but racial tensions are never far from the surface.
Martin, 17, was shot by Zimmerman, 28, last February while walking to a relative’s house in Florida holding a drink and some sweets.
On Saturday the jury found Zimmerman – himself Hispanic – not guilty of second-degree murder.
But does the verdict prove America is still mired in racial prejudice? And how does Britain compare when it comes to health, education and crime?


Black people are overwhelmingly more likely to be jailed or executed than white people in America.
Black people account for 13.1% of the US’s 319 million people, yet make up 37.1% of the prison population.
And when it comes to death row, the statistics are even more startling.
Research found black defendants facing trial in Houston – dubbed the US death penalty capital – were more than three times as likely to be handed a possible death sentence than white ones. But white inmates on death row just outnumber black inmates – 43.2% compared to 41.9%.
The race of the victim also appears to play a part in a defendants’ likelihood to be sentenced to death. Since 1976, 20 white defendants have been executed for killing a black victim.
But 261 black defendants have been executed for killing a white victim.
Protests: Many Americans were outraged at the verdict
Protests: Many Americans were outraged at the verdict
In Britain, ethnic minority inmates are also over-represented. In 2009, 10% of the prison population was black compared to 2% of the general population, according to the Prison Reform Trust.
And between 1999 and 2002, the prison population grew by more than 12%, but the number of black prisoners increased by 51%.


White people live longer than black people, according to the American ­Department of Health.
Their 2011 study said whites had an expected lifespan of 78.8 years compared to 74.5 for blacks. And the American College of Physicians said in 2010: “Overwhelming evidence shows that racial and ethnic ­minorities are prone to poorer quality healthcare than white Americans.”
Disparities are seen in other ailments too. For instance, 16.4% of black children aged under 18 have asthma compared to 8.4% of white children. But only 7% of black children are prescribed asthma medication compared to 21% of whites.
However, last year it emerged the group suffering the worst decline in life expectancy was the white working-class, in some cases reverting back to levels not seen in 50 years.
White working-class women saw their life expectancy fall from more than 78 in 1990 to 74 in 2008.
In Britain, estimates from think-tank the Runnymede Trust reveal white men live on average a year longer on than Afro-Caribbean men.
The gap for women, meanwhile, was just five months. And Bangladeshi men have the lowest estimated life expectancy of all males – just 74.6 years.


Black people are more likely to live in poverty than whites, who in turn have a higher chance of earning the top salaries.
According to 2010 figures, 39.1% of black children live in poverty compared to just 12.4% of white children.
In 2010, black Americans earned an average of £401 per week.
White workers took home 25% more and were on £500, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
And more than 50% of black people aged 15 and above earned less than £23,200 in 2008 compared with 35% of whites, the Census Bureau found.
High earners were also much more likely to be white. While 10.8% of white workers made more than £66,200, just 3.3% of black workers did.
It is estimated there are fewer than 800 black executives in the top levels of Fortune 500 firms – equating to 2%.
Britain does not fare much better, with the first black chief executive not promoted until 2009.
Only 4.1% of FTSE 100 company directors come from ethnic minority backgrounds. And in terms of poverty, around two-fifths of ethnic minorities live in low-income households – double the rate for white people.


There are gaps in educational ­achievement between black and white students, but experts put this down to poverty rather than race.
In some areas, African-American and Latino pupils aged 17 and 18 performed maths and reading at the level of 13-year-old white students, a study by the Education Trust found.
It argued the disparity was down to poverty, an issue faced disproportionately by black youngsters.
And while 34% of white people had degrees compared with 20% of black people, it was claimed that class had a bigger impact.
This was backed by figures showing 79% of the richest quarter of US people get a degree compared to just 11% of the poorest quarter.
Meanwhile, here it was said last month that poor white pupils were least likely to succeed at school.
The ­inspectorate of schools found that since 2007, their attainment was up just 13%, against a 22% leap from poor Bangladeshi pupils.

Fight for equality: Timeline

1870s Segregation laws, known as Jim Crow laws, begin to be introduced, mainly in the South.
1881 Segregation is introduced in railway carriages in Tennessee. Other states follow.
1909 The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is established to lobby for equality.
1954 Segregation in schools is declared illegal.
1955 The Montgomery Bus Boycott begins on December 5 after Rosa Parks is arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white man on a bus. This boycott results in the end in the segregation system in Montgomery, Alabama, in December 1956.
1963 James Meredith becomes the first African-American student admitted to the segregated University of Mississippi.
1965 Voting Rights Act is passed that prohibits any discrimination in the voting system.
2008 On November 4, Barack Obama is elected the first black president of the US.
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