WARNING: Contains some strong language.
I’ve waited to post anything related this because the shooting of Trayvon Martin is so polarizing, and frankly, I’ve been angry. Let me get this out of the way now: I think Zimmerman should have been found guilty, and I believe the shooting of Trayvon Martin was a crime. I think courts are often contests of legal prowess rather than arenas for the discovery of truth. Regardless of how I feel, however, the jury has spoken, and there is nothing I can do about it. Instead of explaining my thoughts and feelings it is more important to me that I provide information necessary for people to reach their own conclusions. Am I biased? Sure. But that shouldn’t keep you from applying your own reason to the facts, which I will present as honestly as possible.
Trayvon Martin Shooting Fast Facts (cnn.com)- Link provides overview and timeline of events without commentary. Check out hyperlinks for more specific information.
The complete Zimmerman Trial is broken up into 197 videos (varying in length from five minutes to over an hour) and may be viewed in the form of YouTube playlist available here.
I was unable o find a transcript, but will update this post as soon as one becomes available.
Transcript of George Zimmerman’s 911 call (originally retrieved from motherjones.com)
Diagnostic of the police call Zimmerman made the night he shot Trayvon Martin. The title of this diagnostic is clearly biased, but to my knowledge the audio has not been tampered with. The debate surrounding this part of the call is about whether Zimmerman said the words “fucking punks,” or “fucking coons.” The word ‘coon‘ is a racial slur for black people.
The Trayvon Martin Killing, Explained (motherjones.com)- This particular article is chalk full of primary source, case related material.
Here are some commentaries I personally agree with. I encourage everyone to check out the hyperlinks within these posts, as they go to other, well written articles.
The Atlantic- Trayvon Martin and the Irony of American Justice
President Obama Comments On George Zimmerman Verdict (huffingtonpost.com)
Zimmerman and White Privilege– James W. McCarty III explains the difference between race and ethnicity and why the Zimmerman trial is an example of White privilege.
I’ve heard many people say that Zimmerman’s actions couldn’t have have been racially motivated because he was Hispanic. Firstly, I find it interesting that in the twenty-first century we still adhere to a version of the one-drop rule for minorities. Zimmerman was indeed of mixed race, with white and Hispanic parentage. Who are we to say that he did not self-identify, primarily, as a white man?
Even if he viewed himself as Hispanic, however, that would not immunize him against racism. It is entirely possible for a Hispanic individual to be prejudiced against black people, or indeed for anyone of any race or ethnicity to have ignorant attitudes towards others, including those within their own ‘racial group.’ (Fun fact: There are many factions among American blacks along color and geographic lines. The same may be said for almost any other ‘racial group.’) To act as though being a racial minority automatically places your sympathies with other minorities ignores the complexity of race as a social construct, and indeed is a sort of prejudice in itself, as it assumes “all brown people are on the same side.” Look at American history. Look at world history; nothing could be further from the truth.
Saying Zimmerman couldn’t have been racially motivated looks to me like an ignorant attempt to remove race as an important factor in the outcome of this case. Even if we could remove all doubt about Zimmerman’s internal prejudices, I think race played a role in this case from beginning to end, from the time it took for it to be pursued by the DoJ, to the way it was treated in the media. We can’t escape it.
For me, the following facts cemented the formation of my opinion:
- Zimmerman ignored police instructions and pursued Martin.
- Zimmerman was twelve years older than Martin and probably more physically developed.
- Zimmerman was nearly thirty pounds heavier than Martin.
- At the time of the shooting Martin was not involved in any illegal activity.
- Zimmerman had a firearm.
- Martin was unarmed.
Nothing can justify the pursuit and killing of an unarmed kid.
Finally, I don’t fault the jury; they did their jobs as best they could. I don’t even hold ill will towards Zimmerman’s lawyer, who was tasked with defending him and did so successfully. The problems that led to the death of Trayvon Martin and the acquittal of George Zimmerman are systemic. They are the result of a cultural climate in the United States that, in my opinion, views black men as an inherent threat and undervalues their lives (gun laws play into this as well, of course). America, that’s on us, and that’s what we need to examine as we move forward.