On February 26, 2012, Trayvon Martin was walking home from the store to his dad's house. Self-appointed block "captain" George Zimmerman decided in his mind that this boy was a criminal and pursued him, despite direct directions from the non-emergency 911 operator NOT to do that. Supposedly, a scuffle occurred and Zimmerman shot Martin, claiming self-defense. Had Zimmerman been an actual police officeer, this may have been just another
white-cop-shoots-black-youth story, and gotten little press.
But Zimmerman was a private citizen, and Trayvon's parents were not about to let Zimmerman get away with murder (literally). And so - in the interim, the case has turned into a national discussion about racism (both casual and institutionalized), assumed guilt, and what constitutes self-defense and justifiable homocide. So let's take a closer look at these things...
George Zimmerman was a self-appointed block captain sitting in his car, watching the streets of "his" neighborhood. Zimmerman was a failed wannabe cop, who had called 911 nearly 50 times previously. There don't seem to be any public records of what those calls were about, nor the outcomes. Zimmerman, however has been recorded as saying the the boy was "wearing a hoodie" and was "black". He also referred to Martin as a "fucking coon". Then, as the operator instructed him NOT to pursue the boy, Zimmerman did just that, muttering that "these assholes always get away".
It seems apparent that Zimmerman was the pursuer and the aggressor. Let's look at this from Trayvon Martin's viewpoint:
You are 17 year-old black kid, walking back from the store to your father's house. You are carrying a bag of candy and a can of ice tea. You notice that a large white male is stalking you. You try to walk faster to get away, but he's coming after you, he's not the police, and he's got a gun. What are you supposed to think? What are you supposed to do? It seems obvious you'd be scared for your life and would do what you needed to do to escape.
Zimmerman claimed he felt his life was in danger, and shot the 17 year old boy dead, despite being 11 years older and 100 lbs heavier, and despite actually chasing after the boy with the obvious goal of detaining him until police arrived.
In the aftermath of this, there have been attempts to paint Trayvon Martin in a bad light, as if anything he had done previous to that night was somehow relevant:
- He was supposedly suspended from school for having trace amounts of marijuana (despite having no drugs in his system, per autopsy tests) - that is not relevant.
- He said some things on Twitter that a normal teen would say - that is not relevant
- He was wearing a "hoodie" - that is not relevant
These are attempts to smear Trayvon Martin post-mortem in an effort to bolster Zimmerman's empty case of self-defense. Zimmerman knew nothing of Martin, which not only points out the emptiness of these smears, but makes one wonder how a supposed "block captain" would not know who the kids were on his block. In the same breath, the relevant
exposes of Zimmerman's past (including an actual arrest) are somehow being labeled as smears on Zimmerman.
Zimmerman would not be getting away with murder, though, were it not for the bungling, institutionalized racism, and casual indifference of the police, district attorney, et al. The investigating officer wanted to press charges, but everyone assumed Zimmerman was telling the truth, and that Martin was just another statistic. They seemed to have little interest in determing who this boy was, despite having a cell phone in his possession. They assumed that Zimmerman was within his rights to "defend" himself, despite chasing after the boy.
After a month of no action by the police or district attorney, the family went public, and here we are today. A family has lost their son due to the fear, racism, and hubris of another, and they want understandably justice. Most of the rest of the nation sees the injustice as well. Here's hoping that justice is done, and we no longer have instances of self-appointed vigilantes acting as judge, juror, and executioner. That is about the only nugget of worth that can be extricated from this sad affair.