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Author Discusses Race In America Following Death of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown

"Suspicion Nation" by Lisa Bloom

A few months after the jury announced George Zimmerman was not guilty in the Florida shooting death of Trayvon Martin, NBC News legal analyst Lisa Bloom published a book examining the case, “Suspicion Nation: The Inside Story of the Trayvon Martin Injustice and Why We Continue to Repeat It.”

In “Suspicion Nation,” Bloom looks at what happened behind the scenes and why similar shootings continue to take place, including the August death of Michael Brown in Ferguson.

“In the Trayvon Martin case, I was able to watch the whole trial, beginning to end, and then again on tape and review all of the evidence,” Bloom told “St. Louis on the Air” host Don Marsh on Wednesday. “I came to the conclusions that I did in my book about what an injustice it was and how the prosecution bungled that case. In the Mike Brown case, we’re really still towards the beginning of the case. The grand jury has been meeting in secret, so we don’t know all of the evidence. We only have a piece of the picture right now. But based on what we see right now, I am concerned.

“I don’t want to reach any conclusions in the Mike Brown case until we have all of the evidence,” Bloom said. “Because the prosecutor opted for a secret grand jury, we don’t have all of the evidence. Because the police department has failed to do an incident report, we don’t have all of the evidence. However, we can talk about the evidence that we know. I really am waiting to hear a response to those six eyewitnesses who saw (Brown) with his hands up, because that’s really the crux of the case.”

Bloom, a civil rights lawyer, blames persistent problems with injustice and race on three things: the prevalence of guns in America, training law enforcement officers to use lethal force in situations she believes lethal force is not necessary, and implicit racial bias.

“Most of us think that we are not racist — that one is either racist or one is not,” Bloom said. “But in fact there is a third alternative, which is the presence of implicit racial bias, something that psychologists from Harvard University and elsewhere have tested and really perfected over about 15 years. It turns out, about 75 percent of white Americans test for moderate or severe racial bias against African-Americans, and, surprisingly, so do about half of African-Americans. These are deep-seated biases.”

Bloom said researching her latest book forced her to look at racism in the criminal justice system.

“We all want to eradicate racism — that’s the good news,” Bloom said. “But we have to open our eyes to its continued existence and many people really don’t want to do that. They want to believe that we have already achieved it, and there’s just a mountain of evidence to show that we really have not.”

Related Event

"Suspicion Nation: Race and Diversity Issues in St. Louis" 

  • Panelists: Lisa Bloom, author of "Suspicion Nation"; Paul Reyes, New York attorney and journalist; Karen J. Aroesty, region director of the Anti-Defamation League in Missouri and Southern Illinois; Anthony Gray, senior managing partner at Johnson Gray LLC and attorney for Michael Brown's family; and Steve Runge, chief of police in Charlack.
  • When: 5:30 p.m. Oct. 15, 2014 (Bloom is scheduled to speak at 6:45 p.m.)
  • Where: Lee Auditorium, Missouri History Museum, Lindell and DeBaliviere in Forest Park, St. Louis
  • Tickets: Not necessary; free admission
  • More information

“St. Louis on the Air” discusses issues and concerns facing the St. Louis area. The show is produced by Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer and hosted by veteran journalist Don Marsh. Follow us on Twitter: @STLonAir.

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