I know this is not likely to be that popular a diary, but still I think it’s important to voice a contrary view here every once in a while.
First off, no one rational is in anyway denying the very real racism that still exists in the United States and the tragic consequences that result from it, particularly in our criminal “justice” system. It’s maddening, despicable, and beyond unfair.
Like many of you, when I first heard George Zimmerman’s explanation of what happened that night I thought “Of course that’s what a racist is going to claim, knowing very well that a substantial amount of Americans will believe him simply because Trayvon Martin is young and black.” But I’ve been doing some googling, and reading some contrary opinions and have come to form a different opinion recently. One that I hope you’ll take the time to at least consider.
And no, I am not in any way defending Zimmerman’s reckless actions. Following a “suspicious” youth armed with a deadly weapon is paranoid, destructive and asking for trouble. But that doesn’t necessarily mean I believe he should spend years in prison for precipitating an event that spiraled out of control either. I absolutely agree with this excellent column by Eugene Robinson about Martin and other black youths of tragically being “denied the right to be young”. I may have come to believe Martin may have made an error in judgment in possibly confronting Zimmerman, but it’s incredibly sad that it cost him his life.
Important Point #1: Just because Martin was unarmed does not mean he posed no physical threat to Zimmerman
This point is extremely obvious, yet seems unfathomable to many. Skittles and Tea. We hear it over and over again to suggest that Martin could not possibly have harmed Zimmerman in a physical confrontation. Like you, I really don’t know what happened that night, but it’s absolutely absurd to assume Martin couldn’t harm Zimmerman simply because he was unarmed, young and weighed less. When Zimmerman shot Martin it was with a nearly broken nose, head banged on the sidewalk at least once, and most likely was straddled by Martin…not exactly harmless despite being unarmed. One can argue the degree and significance of Zimmerman’s injuries, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to think he feared for his life and/or greater physical harm.
Important Point #2: Is Zimmerman a racist?
Like most of you, I first assumed he must be. How could he not be after following and killing an innocent unarmed black youth? Again, when I first heard Zimmerman’s story, I dismissed it as text-book “blame the black man and you’ll get off”. But is that really fair? Stereotype or not, there are black men who behave as Zimmerman claims Martin did, just as there are unfortunately men of every race who do. Am I really willing to convict a man to spend years in prison simply because it piques my racial sensibilities, even though there really isn’t any reliable evidence that contradicts it?
There’s a widely cited Washington Post article that claims Zimmerman made no less than 46 non-emergency calls to Sanford Police “reporting suspicious activity involving black males.” It’s true that Zimmerman made 46 calls, but it is completely erroneous that they all involved reporting young black men. By my count, there are only 6 calls spanning a year period where the race of the “suspicious persons” were identified as black. And as much as we might not like to admit it, Zimmerman’s suspicions may have been justified on at least two of those occasions and resulted in preventing one burglary and lead to the eventual arrest of the perpetrator of another.
If Zimmerman’s neighbor Frank Taaffe is to be believed, and I have no real way of knowing either way, “eight prior burglaries in the 15 months prior to the Trayvon Martin shooting, all of the perpetrators were young black males.” Look, I’m not saying I would do as Zimmerman did and be calling the police to report “suspicious” black youths appearing in the neighborhood, but I think it’d be dishonest to completely condemn what Zimmerman was doing as unjustified when a spate of recent incidents were indeed perpetrated by young black men and at least two of those calls produced semi-positive results. Sanford’s population is 30% black, the idea that Zimmerman was calling the police every time he saw a young black male in a hoodie is absurd and dishonest.
There is also at least one incident that really contradicts the Zimmerman is a racist theme, so it rarely gets mentioned in our liberal circles. Zimmerman was very involved in helping bring attention to the brutal beating of a homeless black man by the son of a white Sanford police officer. Does this one positive incident mean Zimmerman cannot be racist? Of course not. But it certainly paints a more complicated picture of the man some of us were very quick to condemn. It’s extremely prejudice and unfair to simply dismiss any evidence that may contradict our assumptions that Zimmerman is racist. At the end of the day, I cannot say with certainty that Zimmerman is racist and I really question the evidence commonly cited by those that do.
Important Point #3: Who threw the first punch?
I have no idea. And neither do you. There were apparently only two people who knew, and now sadly, there is only one. Could Zimmerman be lying to save himself? Of course he could be. He could also be telling the truth. As we know, Zimmerman had repeatedly reported young black men before, but as far as we know, he never initiated a physical confrontation with them. Obviously that’s not absolute proof that Zimmerman didn’t do so this time, but again you’re asking a jury to convict him beyond a reasonable doubt when there is absolutely no evidence to suggest Zimmerman did anything more than follow Martin. Yes, following Martin was creepy, reckless, and unnecessary but does not prove Zimmerman initiated a physical confrontation with Martin or justify Martin’s reaction if he did indeed attack Zimmerman in response (again, I have no idea what actually happened).
Important Point #4: Putting Zimmerman in a cage for years won’t fix hundreds of years of brutal oppression of blacks in America
Let’s not lie to ourselves. Many of us, and I consider myself in this category, were eager for a Zimmerman conviction on at least a manslaughter charge. But why? Can you deny that feeling didn’t stem from anger at the disparity of how minorities are treated by our criminal “justice” system? Unarmed blacks are killed by police officers with alarming frequency. Zimmerman may be reckless, paranoid, and creepy. He may even be racist, I’m not sure. But does he really deserve to serve years in prison with no real evidence that contradicts that he acted in self-defense, as penance for the disgusting way young black men are treated in our society?
I get that letting Zimmerman off “scott-free” sends a message that the death of a black man may be unimportant. But I’m sorry, I just don’t agree with the notion that just because Zimmerman won’t be spending years in jail, that he will not suffer for the rest of his result as a consequence of his self-inflicted ordeal. Does it compare to the suffering of Martin and his family and friends? Of course not. But if you think being charged and tried for murder, vilified as a racist in the media, and having it broadcast around the world as getting off “scott-free” then I’m sorry, but you lack as much empathy as any racist.
In the end, maybe Zimmerman got exactly what he deserved, and will live the rest of his life in the infamy (and all likelihood poor financial circumstances) created by his needless and reckless actions. If he did indeed initiate the physical confrontation then yeah, I’m completely wrong and he got off easy, but I really just don’t see enough evidence to know either way.