Justice for Trayvon
In my opinion, there has been a disturbing trend in the discussion surrounding the killing of Trayvon Martin. What began as a call for the arrest of the assailant, George Zimmerman, has now become what I fear to be a modern day lynch mob. The first rumblings of the case outside Florida painted the picture of a murdered teen and a shooter who was at best an overzealous neighborhood watchmen. Now things are different. Trayvon has become a modern-day martyr, albeit unfortunately and unintentionally. Zimmerman: a modern day Bond villain; a man whose vigilantism is decried, perhaps rightly, but in a way that demonizes him in the eyes of the Nation. I wanted to write this post to discuss this disturbing divergence of the narrative.
First, Trayvon was no saint. Plain and simple. And he doesn’t need to be for this to still be a Tragedy. He was as human as the rest of us. He was a teenaged Black male in the south. He had some disciplinary issues in high school. He got caught with a baggie with marijuana residue inside it. The picture of him in a Hollister shirt that was attached to all the early stories tugged at our collective heartstrings. “This boy, who looked so innocent and defenseless was shot down in cold blood for simply walking at night?” Black mothers saw their own sons in Trayvon. Young Black men saw their own reflection.
The other half of this coin is George Zimmerman. The man with what appeared to be a completely implausible story. A story that involved him being jumped from behind which then escalated to being caught off-guard, surprised, and then overcome with his head being bashed into the ground. Zimmerman has now been transformed from someone who wrongly shot an unarmed teen, and who deserved to be at the very least arrested for the killing, into an evil racist who targeted any unfamiliar Black face in his gated community. He is the villain we’ve all been waiting for. In an age where there are no longer Bull Connors to hose Blacks on the evening news, many in the media [I’m looking at you Touré (è; ê; ë; ę) or however he spells it ] look to George Zimmerman as the new face of racism. However, we have to ask ourselves whether this the best way to portray him? Are we making a misstep in portraying this man this way?
What I mean when I ask those questions about Zimmerman is that I see a danger in the way we as a nation talk about this case. If George Zimmerman is a racist, then his profiling of Trayvon is wrong. But even if he is not a racist, then what he did to Trayvon is still wrong. It is high time we moved past the overt racist paradigm. We all have our subconscious biases. This blog is all about that. It’s the way we view the world. Our race and the race of others affect this view. Zimmerman doesn’t have to be burn-a-cross-on-your-front-lawn kind of guy in order to deserve our disapproval of his actions. But that seems to be what the national media needs to feel comforted. Maybe that’s what Black America needs. We need to see a man with what some have called an odd predisposition to calling the police on young Black males as abhorrent and atypical because if we admit to ourselves that just about anyone can be like George Zimmerman and see criminality where there is none, then just about anyone can cause the same kind of travesty he did. So we demonize him. We paint him with the same broad strokes that we did Trayvon. Because Trayvon has to be an angel because Zimmerman has to be a devil. Reality is so much more complicated.
Will there be any net positive outcome from this case? Perhaps. Rodney King needed to be beat nearly to death for the Country to be aware of the brutality in some police departments. Thing is, there is no one culprit in all this. Not Zimmerman, not the police for still not arresting him, not the “Stand Your Ground” laws of Florida, not hoodies as Geraldo Rivera thinks. The true culprit is a society that doesn’t value all killing as a tragedy, regardless of the race of the victim or assailant. The true culprit is a media that portrays Black men as the paragon of criminality. The true culprit are the biases we all carry within us. But naturally, no one wants to look inward for solutions to the Great problems of our culture. We want to look outward and lynch the man who shot Trayvon. Is that Justice?
Justice is not about revenge. They eye-for-an-eye mentality was already losing steam by the time the New Testament was written. At the very least, an arrest was probably to be expected. It didn’t happen, and that’s a shame. Well, at this point, an indictment is imminent and Zimmerman will soon be out of hiding and in police custody. But what happens next? What happens if Zimmerman is convicted but gets less that ten years in prison? Worse still, what if he doesn’t get convicted? Will the wound that this case has caused in the Nation continue to fester? Will some crazy person take it upon themselves to find Zimmerman and do what he feels the courts couldn’t do? These are the troubling questions.
I’m not too fond of public hangings. Our people have had way too much experience on the other side of the scaffold. I don’t want to see a trial where the conviction is a foregone conclusion. I want to see a trial that gets at the objective truth of what happened that night. I want to see a world where Black boys aren’t profiled by anyone, ever. I want to see a world where our subconscious biases are countered by our rationality. I want to see a world where one boy’s death leads to a sea change in the way the Justice system works so that it’s impossible to have a dead body, a man with a smoking gun, and no arrest. This world is achievable, but the first step on the road to Justice begins inside each of us.
Continue to Question the World Around You.