The death of Trayvon Martin was a tragedy, no doubt about that. However, the media coverage has in many cases also been a tragedy. Much of the coverage has inspired anger and while perhaps this anger is justifiable, it in too many cases has gone beyond encouraging justifiable anger to the point that it recklessly incites new levels of violence and unlawful behavior. In this type of coverage, there has been a clear lack of objectivity for no news story has ever more clearly demonstrated how easily conclusions can be drawn toward one side or the other simply by the way a particular media outlet or reporter chooses to provide facts.
First, without assuming Zimmerman is already guilty of a hate crime; We know that he had contact with Sanford police more than 45 times in the last 15 months, Is its irresponsible to assume this is incriminating without asking further questions? At the very least shouldn’t these calls be used to determine if a pattern can be established? Can it be established from these past calls that Zimmerman was using racial profiling in his role as member of a neighborhood watch?
For some there has been a fixation on the fact that Zimmerman did not immediately identify himself by name or as a neighborhood watch captain to the 911 dispatcher. Is this really relevant? Most people don’t give that information to 911 until asked (As did George Zimmerman), they are most concerned with reporting their emergency. This fact is only relevant if you want to conclude that by not initially providing this information he has something to hide and therefore guilty of a crime. Even if the fact is true the logic is false. Zimmerman did report his name and phone number when asked to do so. The fact that he waited to give this information until asked does not seem to be incriminating or nefarious.
Second, its reasonable that one of the objectives of a neighborhood watch is to prevent crime before it happens. The presence of someone out in the rain at night could have been suspicious or merely incidental depending on if that activity is commonly found in that neighborhood. The real question is did Zimmerman consider him suspicious because of his presence/activity or did he consider Trayvon Martin’s presence suspicious simply because of his race. There has been lot of criticism about the nonspecific concerns George Zimmerman raised as reasoning for seeing Trayvon Martin as suspicious. George Zimmerman may have just been doing what our See something/Say Something culture has everyone believing they need to do, he was looking out for suspicious activity which per the See something/Say something web site includes:
Stay alert in your daily travels and routines and get to know:
Who your neighbors are
What cars are normally in your neighborhood
Who regularly makes deliveries at work and in your neighborhood
Additional Suspicious activity is defined as:
Any type of activity or circumstance that seems frightening or unusual within the normal routines of your neighborhood, community, and workplace.http://www.nationalterroralert.com/suspicious-activity/
Third, at what specific point do we know that Zimmerman has identified Trayvon Martin as African American? Wouldn’t one need to know this before it can be assumed he was seeking a sort of complacency with the police dispatcher by using a racial slur or if he was really in fact attempting to commiserate with the operator based on the fact that the police had failed to catch the perpetrator(s) of the robberies that had taken place in his neighborhood. This would coincide with what Zimmerman said when he initially made contact with the police dispatcher, that there have been robberies in this neighborhood. This also fits with the Zimmerman venting his frustration when he said these “blanks” always get away (not that this potentially justifies any racial slur). If Zimmerman was frustrated, then he would have wanted to pursue this suspect so he did not get away. Of the 46 times Zimmerman called did the police fail to catch any of the robbers or suspects? Zimmerman stated that the suspect appeared black then after he states that the suspect walked toward him, he then confirms that this is a black male. Did Zimmerman in fact identify his suspect as suspicious prior to realizing he was African American?
Fourth, Zimmerman seemed to make a racist statement. We don’t know if he made a racist statement or not. Some of the audio posted does in fact sound very damming. Of course, anyone with a PC can download software and attempt to lift the audio and enhance it. Some self proclaimed experts have made the statement that the word he used was punks and others are saying this was a racial slur. Unfortunately this evidence is now too far tainted with public opinion and now no matter what can be proved beyond a reasonable doubt, all that will be remembered is he made a racial slur.
Fifth, Zimmerman ignored the operator and pursued the suspect. I agree, he should have followed the instruction of the operator and had he done so, the course of events might have very well turned out differently. However there are still many unknowns, we don’t know how far Zimmerman may have gotten before the operator asked him if he was following the suspect nor to we know exactly when he started to follow the suspect. The operator does not give him an affirmative do not follow the suspect he gives more of an option by saying “We don”t need you to do that”. This response was more likely not for anyone’s safety but to remove legally responsibility from the police department if something happened. Zimmerman made a choice to follow someone he felt was suspicious and if that suspicion was purely based on race, it would amount to a harassment of Trayvon Martin. Would this harassment amount to a cancellation of a right to self defense? Would that not depend on who the initial physical aggressor was?
Unfortunately, because Zimmerman has practically already been declared and convicted of being a racist as far as the public opinion goes, the premature conclusion has been drawn by many that it was not Zimmerman calling for help but it was Trayvon Martin and the racist Zimmerman shot him down in cold blood.
No matter the motive behind George Zimmerman’s actions the damage has been done. Not just the tragic loss of Trayvon Martin but also in any kind of faith in the rule of law. George Zimmerman has already been convicted and at this point forced into hiding and for fear of his life. Should the law find him innocent, his character is forever stained and without any way to be made whole.
There have been many tragedies associate with the death of Trayvon Martin. Clearly this has been a tragedy for the family of Trayvon, who very understandably want answers and a for there to be reason why they must deal with the great pain of his loss. The media coverage and the many statements by various individual political figures and political groups that have rushed to judgment before the completion of a matter that is now before the courts is also a great tragedy. This is perhaps the even greater tragedy for the nation because this coverage has succeeded in fomenting hatred. This is incites racial divisions, which is never justifiable as it will not solve problems but only exacerbate them. Using the truth to expose ignorance is the longer path but surely it is the right one. Some in the news or in politics may not be content to wait or perhaps it is that some may seize the moment for the quick headline, a bump in their ratings or its usefulness as rallying cry for reelection. Too many I believe are simply content that they can do no wrong in their pursuits so long as it is for a cause they feel deeply.