Okay, let’s all suck it up and have this discussion. We need to talk about it, based on the number of people who are getting it wrong. You might think the Zimmerman trial was all about a white guy who shot and killed a black kid. As horrible as that would be by itself, it’s so much more than that. The Zimmerman trial – indeed, this whole sordid affair – is just one more perfectly focused illustration that there is something very wrong with how we dispense justice in this country.
A brief digression: before you label me an America-hater because I dare speak ill of our laws and justice system, please note that nothing could be further from the truth. I love this great nation, but I see a cancer growing in her, and it needs to be excised before it chokes the life out of her. The Zimmerman affair may be considered a biopsy.
If you’ve been living under a media blackout for the past 19 months, oh how I envy you. (Also, thank you for making my blog your first stop upon returning to the Internet!) But you’ll need to read a synopsis of the case if you want to understand why the Trayvon Martin shooting was different from the other heinous crimes mentioned above.
Here’s the thing: Martin may have been (read: probably was) racially profiled. When Zimmerman made the 911 call he was told that he did not need to follow Martin. If he had heeded the dispatcher’s advice and waited for authorities to arrive, we might never have heard the names George Zimmerman or Trayvon Martin. Nevertheless, he did pursue Martin, and the only justification he gave for doing so is that Martin seemed to be “up to no good” and walking in the rain.
So let’s pose a hypothetical question: If Trayvon Martin had been a white kid wearing a hoodie and walking in the rain, would Zimmerman still have approached him? I guess we’ll never know. By all accounts Martin was simply walking back to his father’s home from a local 7-Eleven after purchasing a snack. We don’t know what he was doing that struck Zimmerman as suspicious. Walking in the rain may seem odd, but it hardly indicates criminal intentions. The more you look at the facts of the case, the more it seems that the only thing Martin did to make himself look suspicious was to be black.
Under Florida’s incredibly stupid (and inconsistently applied) “Stand Your Ground” law, Zimmerman was excused for what he did, despite the fact that any way you slice it, it was his decision to follow Martin that lead directly to the conflict. It doesn’t matter whether Martin attacked Zimmerman or Zimmerman attacked Martin first, the end result is that an unarmed black teenager died because a person of privilege felt that the teenager was somewhere he shouldn’t be.
That is why the Trayvon Martin case is different from these other terrible murders. In the other two cases, the victim was not racially profiled. The murderers were not excused by white conservatives who secretly felt that they’d have done the same thing themselves. There was no absurd law behind which the murderers could cower. The murderers are being held accountable for what they did. And I can guarantee you this: if any of those murderers does manage to get off the hook (don’t worry, they won’t) because of a poorly-conceived law, the offending law will be changed immediately.
And no, neither of these cases is getting extensive media coverage, because for the justice system it’s just business as usual.