Monday, March 26, 2012
Justice for Trayvon?
I have. And it appears to finally be happening.
The truth to begin flowing out of the Trayvon Martin death in Sanford, Florida.
This past February 26, an armed neighborhood watch volunteer shot the teenaged Martin to death in a gated community, but most of America outside of Florida didn't hear a word about it until last week, when suddenly, news of the tragedy rocketed through our media outlets.
And yes, it was a tragedy. But it sounded eerily suspicious. Zimmerman, himself a non-Caucasian, shooting an innocent, unarmed kid whose only possession at the time was a bag of Skittles candy. His friends insisted Zimmerman isn't a hateful man, but our national media cast the story as a travesty: yet another example of innocent black kids being preyed upon by the cops, and now neighborhood vigilantes.
Jesse Jackson gushed, "blacks are under attack," and that Martin was "murdered and martyred." The New Black Panthers put out a $10,000 bounty of sorts on Zimmerman, who has gone into hiding with his family after director Spike Lee reportedly tweeted Zimmerman's home address. Even President Barak Obama weighed-in on the paranoia, rhapsodizing that "if I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon." National media outlets stumbled over each other rushing to judgments in their pity for Martin and thinly-veiled contempt for Zimmerman. People wore hoodies to church after Heraldo Rivera, of all people, tried to claim a bit of the spotlight by sloppily suggesting oversized clothing might be to blame.
Not to be outdone, Al Sharpton fomented the rancor, claiming that what happened to "Trayvon represents a reckless disregard for our lives that we’ve seen too long."
Turns out, for once in a long while, Sharpton may be right. But even then, he got it wrong. Because Martin may not be the victim, but the attacker.
According to new information being released by the Orlando Sentinel, Zimmerman's initial reports on the event portraying himself as the victim have been corroborated by multiple witness statements. According to these accounts, Zimmerman was attacked - perhaps even from behind - by Martin, pushed down to the ground, and punched in the nose by Martin. Zimmerman suffered a cut to the back of his head, and was in fear of his life.
Whose "reckless disregard for our lives" was on display? None other than the kid so many people hastily assumed was innocent.
Granted, when Zimmerman had called 911 to report a prowler, he ignored the 911 operator's instructions to remain inside his vehicle. And it's not outside the realm of possibility that the teenaged Martin felt threatened - or at least challenged - by somebody he didn't know asking what he was up to. But as long as we're hypothesizing, what are the chances that when Zimmerman realized Martin was a teenaged kid, he actually did not harbor the racist thoughts the Sharptons and Jacksons of this circus assume he did? Instead, might Zimmerman have gotten out of his vehicle less out of bravado or a lust for violence, and obviously not profiling the teen as a brutish thug (otherwise why risk getting out of your vehicle?), but more in a neighborly act of investigation, assuming that maybe he (Zimmerman) was the one over-reacting?
Turns out, it was Martin who over-reacted. Not that it's any comfort. Martin's own girlfriend has testified to police that, over Martin's cell phone, she heard him being questioned - not attacked - by Zimmerman. Plus, based on his behavior, Zimmerman had wondered if the teenager might have been on drugs, and sure enough, we've learned today that Martin had been expelled from school for having a baggie with marijuana residue.
Hmm. Kinda all fits, doesn't it? A kid using drugs goes on a rampage against an innocent crime watch volunteer because the drugs have somehow heightened his sense of feeling out of place in his father's girlfriend's gated community? Out of place not because he's black, but because he's a product of a broken home. And probably a borderline juvenile delinquent.
OK, so maybe that last statement is more assumption than fact. So I'll be patient some more and let still more facts - like maybe an autopsy report - begin to emerge about this case. Facts which will probably further render the spectacles our country's racist troublemakers, Jackson and Sharpton, have created even more exploitative.
After all, aside from Martin's death, nobody gets hurt in these farcical tirades from these two bogus clergymen more than black Americans. Which only compounds the problem. Yet even today, some black activists are blaming the Sanford Police Department for trying to malign Martin's character by releasing so much negative information about him. It's as if facts don't matter any more. Especially now that they've already tried and convicted both Zimmerman and the Sanford police chief in the court of public opinion.
And yes, if, as the facts continue to emerge about this case, the evidence that has already accumulated is contradicted, then I'm fully prepared to write again about my own mistakes as I, too, grapple with assembling the pieces of this sad story in some semblance of order. In fact, it's imperative that all of us - from black activists to the news media to Martin's family - are willing to do the same.
Meanwhile, the vitriol, racism, and fear being stoked among many blacks remains unwarranted. When people of color lament the state of race relations in the United States, they often point correctly to the ample examples of white bigotry which still exist in the "Land of the Free." But when anybody takes advantage of emotionally-charged tales of violence and death between people who aren't like them without benefit of all the facts, the suspicion and apathy which sets in amongst the general populace only harms the greater cause of justice.
As it's slowly shaping up to look, the justice black activists say they want in the Trayvon Martin case may be just what he received that fateful night in a gated community in Florida.
And yes, that's a tragedy for everybody involved.
4/1/12: And another thing, since Sharpton and Jackson persist in their portrayal of Zimmerman as a bloodthirsty bigot, consider why Zimmerman even bothered to call 911 before he fired his gun. If he was packing heat on the off chance he could kill a black person, why not shoot to kill and pretend to "discover" the body afterward? Why risk the charade of calling 911 and banking on the chances Florida's "stand your ground" law would hold in his case?