Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Zimmerman, Martin and Racism

To begin, a brief rundown of the case, in case any of my readers aren't familiar with it-
Trayvon Martin goes to a 7-11 at about 6:21pm. He buys candy and a soda.  
He hangs around for a while, and heads back home. At 7:09, Zimmerman calls police while watching Trayvon near the gated community's clubhouse, less than a half-mile from the 7-11.
"This guy looks like he's up to no good," Z tells the police.  "Or he's on drugs or something.  It's raining and he's just walking around, looking about."  (TM was either on drugs or had been within the last month, according to his autopsy. )
"He's coming towards me," Z tells the police about TM, who is now walking towards his truck. When asked to describe TM, Z says he is a black male. "He's coming to check me out. He's got something in his hands." "Can you get an officer patrol here?"
After TM passes his truck, Z says, "He's running."  Z says TM is headed "toward the back entrance." (of the neighborhood)
The dispatcher tells Z "we don't need you to do that" in reference to following TM, and Z stops for a moment. TM leaves. Z arranges where he'll meet officers, and Z gets out of his truck and looks around, and seeing no sign of TM, gets back in. (conflicting reports here- some sources say Z only got out once, when TM confronted him; some say Z got out to look around after TM left and got back in.)
TM comes back and confronts Z about following him. Z gets out of his truck. Words are exchanged, and TM attacks Z, banging his head on the sidewalk. Eyewitnesses confirm that TM was on top of Z beating him up. Z takes out his gun and fatally shoots TM. Cops arrive, Z is questioned, but not charged with a crime.

George Zimmerman is hispanic, but has been referred to as "white hispanic." Trayvon Martin was black. simply because of this fact, there were riots, protests, and "retaliation attacks" on whites by blacks with the aggressors citing TM as their impetus for the attack. The media paints TM as a nice kid who was just out for a snack and was profiled and shot for being a young black male in the wrong place at the wrong time. However.... the evidence does not support that theory.

 For one thing, in the media blitz, Trayvon is often represented as a cherubic 12 year old or labeled a "child". In reality, he was a physical match, perhaps more than, for Zimmerman. A key witness for the prosecution actually changed her testimony after learning that the "big guy" was TM- she said that the "guy on top was clearly bigger", and she assumed that was Z, because TM was "just a little kid." Well.... not really. TM was 3 inches taller than Z, and roughly 20 lbs lighter. 

It is also possible that TM actually was related to a recent string of robberies in Z's neighborhood, as Z feared. (Z's neighborhood had seen many recent break ins, robberies, etc committed primarily by young, black men, so when Z saw behavior from TM that appeared consistent with "casing the joint", Z had reason to believe TM was up to no good.)   "He's just staring, looking at all the houses," said Z. TM's background is pertinent here: On October 21, 2011, he received his second suspension of that school year. A security guard at his school had seen TM writing on a locker, and in looking through TM's bag for the marker, the guard discovered 12 pieces of jewelry, a watch, and a screwdriver described as a "burglary tool". Also, there were incriminating pictures on TM's phone, not released to the defense when they should have been, one of which was of a pile of jewelry on his bed. 

In the media, TM is portrayed as an innocent youth who went out for snacks for his brother and never came home. The background we have on him does not seem to support this conclusion.  

Trayvon had "statistic" written all over him.  In the past year or so, his social media sites showed a growing interest in drugs, in mixed martial arts-style street fighting, in a profoundly vulgar exploitation of "bitches."  
Trayvon posed for one photo with a raised middle finger, another with wads of cash held in an out-stretched arm....

(this post  says that a YouTube video shows him refereeing a fight club-style street fight, (I saw the video, and I can't tell if it's actually him or not) and that a cousin had recently tweeted him, "Yu ain't tell me yu swung on a bus driver," meaning, if true, that Trayvon had punched out a bus driver. It also speculates that the two items he purchased were two of the necessary ingredients for a homemade codeine-based drug he was fond of, if his facebook posts can be believed. The concoction was known as Lean. (since his facebook posts are no longer available, this is pure supposition. I've seen screenshots of the posts, but their validity is difficult to prove. They do seem to be from his actual facebook account, but they could have been altered pretty easily.)
...Zimmerman never saw the cute little boy that the TV audience did.  He saw a full-grown man, a druggy, a wannabe street fighter, the tattooed, gold-grilled, self-dubbed "No_Limit_Nigga."

In popular media, we have seen George Zimmerman's life dissected, from his study of Florida law to his possible ambitions to a career in law enforcement, his knowledge of and ownership of guns, etc. He is painted as an overeager, wannabe vigilante, and a racist one at that. He may well be all of those things, but why, I wonder, was the same scrutiny not placed on Trayvon Martin? (Not to say I'm glorifying Z here either- I think he acted like a complete idiot- but then, I think they both did.) Why the one-sided media campaign, even to the point of editing Zimmerman's call transcripts an recordings and photoshopping the police photos to remove evidence of injury? Why the protesting, the electric dialogue of race and privilege? Why was the police chief who refused to charge Z without grounds fired? Why was the DA who refused to charge him replaced? Why did the President side with TM, when he knew practically nothing of the details of the case? Either party could have ended it without any violence happening- TM by not returning to confront the "creepy ass cracker", and Z by staying in his vehicle until the real cops arrived. Why did the president issue the following statement:

"The death of Trayvon Martin was a tragedy. Not just for his family, or for any one community, but for America. I know this case has elicited strong passions. And in the wake of the verdict, I know those passions may be running even higher. But we are a nation of laws, and a jury has spoken. I now ask every American to respect the call for calm reflection from two parents who lost their young son. And as we do, we should ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to widen the circle of compassion and understanding in our own communities. We should ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to stem the tide of gun violence that claims too many lives across this country on a daily basis. We should ask ourselves, as individuals and as a society, how we can prevent future tragedies like this. As citizens, that’s a job for all of us. That’s the way to honor Trayvon Martin."-Barack Obama

One word: Racism. 

It is racist to assume that because Zimmerman is not black, he would automatically racially (as opposed to criminally- they're not the same) profile and fear a black man. It is racist to side with Trayvon, in the face of evidence of his culpability, because he was black. It is racist to vilify one party and extol another, without knowing the details, and basing that decision solely on the races involved. It is racist to give Zimmerman's life now lived as a hermit and in shambles no thought, just because he is not Black. If Zimmerman had been black, his life would not be in danger. If he were black, or even if his name sounded less white, he would not have had to go through the ordeal he faced, and still faces. His family would be safe, he would be working, and he would not fear unjust prosecution- if he were just a little less white.

In summary- If Mr. Zimmerman were a little less white, his life would not be the testament to American racism that it is today. From the President down, I have seen some shamefully racist responses and assumptions, and it's embarrassing. The facts of a case should matter more than the political implications of it, the actions of the parties involved more than their skin color, and if we could go back to "innocent until proven guilty"..... that would be nice. Making something about race that never was, harming innocent people in the process, co-opting an unrelated situation to highlight social issues like guns, violence against or by black men, etc, or glorifying a person because of their race... those things are racist and do nothing but contribute to the racism we still have here. This case should have been about two men who were desperately in need of some common sense, discretion, and calm reasoning; about a man who put himself in the position to be attacked because of his own stupidity, (Z) and who was then in the position to have to use his weapon in self-defense. Nobody wins, and the death of a person is always a serious thing, but the case, truly, has nothing to do with white-on-black racism.

Racism is an ugly thing in all its forms. Black people have faced a lot of it in this country, as have Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Arabs, Jews, etc. But- the solution is not to turn the tables into the racism against Whites that we see here! Far from it. The solution is to see each other as people, not colors- to demand nothing, give up nothing, expect nothing, and silently endure nothing because of our race. Race should tell us nothing about a person but the colors which look best on their skin tone and the ease with which they sunburn- and even there, it's hardly an exact science. A black person is no less capable or intelligent than a white person, and a white person is no more disposed to prejudice than is a black person. We are born in our bodies- we should embrace them in all their beauty and diversity. We cannot change them, nor ought we to try. But our actions, our words, our culture- that we can change.

Race does not make us criminals, or poor, or privileged, or oblivious to the less fortunate, or educated, or uneducated, or smart, or uncivilised, or more or less worthy, capable, or successful. We are responsible for that ourselves. So let's not blame our actions or circumstances, or those of others, on race. Color is just that. As Christians, we have all the more responsibility to be just and fair in our dealings. Jesus taught humility and solidarity with all believers- rich, poor, jew, roman, greek, slaves, free, men, women.... there is no racism, and no arbitrary privilege, in the kingdom of heaven. We all have lenses through which we view our world- these lenses should be inspected for racism and other prejudices regularly, no matter what race, gender, or class we are. We are not the same, but we are of equal value. We are individuals, not colors, or genders, or sizes, or anything else. We may not have the same gifts and talents and abilities as everyone around us, but those things are not handed out based on characteristics like race or gender. We are responsible individuals and beloved of God. Let's act like it.

For video of the trial, go here.


  1. Snopes has debunked some of what you have said here. The picture you mention of him giving the camera the finger is actually not a picture of him at all. For the actual most recent picture of Trayvon Martin before his death, see their website:

    Snopes on Trayvon Martin Images

    He really does look like an ordinary 17-year-old boy.

    As for the drug "lean," this website shows that the candy Martin had with him is not the usual candy used in the drug, nor did he have any of the active ingredients to make a drug.

    Urban Dictionary:Lean

    You and I agree on many things, but on this one I think perhaps some more research would be in order. A fact-checking article really ought to be from a neutral, fact-checking news source. The American Thinker article you link to so often throughout this post doesn't exactly seem to be that.

  2. On the pictures- in the article I linked, the picture they referred to was not linked, so I don't know which one it was. I did see a photo in a clip on CNN.com with that gesture, and I edited the link to reflect that. I've not seen any of the memes/fake photos in the snopes article, except in posts refuting them. :) The article I linked listed his size exactly as the snopes article and ME's report did. Thank you for linking to the snopes article- while I disagree with their taking the prosecution's word on the date of the younger photo, another source is always good. :)

    As far as the Lean goes- while the recipe lists jolly ranchers, it is my understanding that, the candy being merely for flavor, other things would also work. I have seen facebook screen shots (using correct names/handles) and other things which support the theory- but those can also be falsified, and the video of him and the street fight is not clear enough on his face to be conclusive. I have edited to reflect the supposition in those ideas.

    There is a lot of assumption, speculation, and supposition in the post you refer to, and the website in general is a one way trip to crazy town, but.... at the time, it was a collection of facts/a timeline that was hard to find elsewhere. Even the crazies get it right sometimes. :) I do think that the article is very much an opinion piece, as is the other one(from a very different perspective) that I originally linked at the top of the post. After some reflection, I think that quoting from a greater variety of sources would be helpful, as would substantiating with some original sources, so I have made some edits to reflect that.

  3. I think the real point of this post, though, is not what drug TM was taking or if he punched the bus driver- the point is that the media and various government officials allowed their racism to dictate their treatment of Zimmerman and of this case, and politicized and sensationalized a criminal trial, using it as a platform for racism, (as Charles Barclay says here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=shODnGQJ6FU ) and that justice came close to being majorly subverted because of it.

  4. I appreciate the response. I am very wary of simply taking the defense's word on how it all happened as well. I do think there is a lot of systemic, institutional racism that it's easy to unintentionally participate in. I think it was important that the media coverage platformed some of these uncomfortable realities, and that there are reasons why so many in the black community feel the way they do about it. Trying to see from their perspective is, to me, a form of "do unto others as you would have them do unto you."