Monday, July 29, 2013

The Tragedy of Travon

The sexy issue of the day has been the death of Trayvon Martin and the acquittal of his killer George Zimmerman. From the time of this murder, this incident has spark racial tensions and incited roars that this murder was a product of racial profiling. Since George Zimmerman was released with no consequential justice being enacted, the cries for further prosecution have never been louder. The questions most relevant to this issues are (roughly) as follows:

  • Was George Zimmerman's initial judgment of Trayvon Martin racially driven? Did he decide to pursue Martin simply because he was black? 
The prosecution was not out to delineate whether Zimmerman was simply a racist, but instead whether his initial suspicions of Martin where driven only by the fact that he was black - this prompting the suspicion, pursuit, and eventual killing of Martin. The answer is yes. Zimmerman had almost no information on Martin apart from the fact that he liked iced tea, skittles, hoodies, and that he was black. It is easy (an accurate) to say that the largest driver in that suspicion was the fact that Martin was black, and those other noticeable traits were irrelevant or anomalies in the situation. This instance of profiling does not mean that Zimmerman is a racist (although he is free to hold those prejudicial views), but it does mean that he used the race of Trayvon as a determining factor in whether this anonymous boy had any malicious intent (which as we know, he did not). One important note in Zimmerman's history is that in his time as a neighborhood watch enthusiast, Zimmerman has called the police over 40 times to report suspicious persons in the neighborhood... all those persons where black individuals. So was Zimmerman motivated by race in this act, most definitely, yes. 
  • Were the actions of George Zimmerman legal? 
Zimmerman (as far as we know) did not break the law in his actions. He was lawfully carrying a gun; he notified the police of suspicious behavior; he observed what he thought to be suspicious behavior; he pursued the perpetrator of that behavior; and after confronting the suspicious individual (Trayvon Martin) as an act of self defense, he shot his attacker. The major gap in this case is that no one is certain (except George and Tarayvon) about what happened between the time of pursuit and confrontation. Should Zimmerman have pursued Martin (?) probably not; he was an innocent kid getting a snack. Did he have the right to pursue (from a reasonable, un-infringing distance) someone who he thought was a neighbor up-to-no-good... yes, he did. In the event that Martin did indeed attack Zimmerman, was Zimmerman allowed to wield and discharge his firearm to protect himself... yes, he was. Killing Martin was undoubtably wrong; but (as fucked up as it is), it was within the parameters of Florida law.
  • Should Zimmerman have been convicted for this crime? 
I will admit, this is a bit of a silly question - anyone who shoots a boy should be convicted and punished (what the extent of the sentence is, well that's up to the jury). In this particular case, the evidence didn't amount to enough to convince the jury that Zimmerman's actions were outside Florida's stand your ground laws. Should he have been convicted - probably. Am I surprised he wasn't? Not really.

This case has highlighted two important deficiencies in society. First, that someone can lawfully get away from manslaughter of a minor if he feels his safety is at risk; second, that the color of someone's skin is still a determining factor in the intuition of someone. Do I think Zimmerman is a racist, or do I think Zimmerman thinks Zimmerman is a racist? No. I think that Zimmerman's conclusions that black kids are up-to-no-good is not a product of malice, but of social structures and weighted statistics that have normalized the belief of black children being prone to crime. Zimmerman couldn't escape this prejudice, and Martin couldn't escape the results of that prejudice. 

No comments:

Post a Comment