When I first heard about George Zimmerman shooting Trayvon Martin last year -- accompanied by news photos of what appeared to be a cherub-cheeked 12-year-old, and descriptions of Zimmerman as a "racist" and "racial profiler" and "cop wannabe" and a "vigilante" -- I was horrified: What kind of monster shoots an innocent little kid?
But then more precise details started to emerge:
(1) Martin wasn't a little 12-year-old. He was a 5'11" 17-year-old who posed with gang signals on Facebook and who had gotten kicked out of school several times. Up-to-date photos of him showed him looking decidedly like a man, not a little boy.
(2) Zimmerman wasn't a "psycho white vigilante" roaming around with a gun, looking for innocent black kids to shoot. He was an appointed neighborhood watchman. (And he wasn't "white." He was of mixed descent, his mother Peruvian. Other possible indicators that he wasn't racist: He'd tutored black kids and he'd taken a black date to their prom.)
(3) Zimmerman's neighborhood had been subject to a series of burglaries (including one especially notorious home-invasion while a young mom was home) in the months leading up to the shooting. Neighbors, including black neighbors, had identified suspects as "young black males." So when Zimmerman saw a young black male walking around on the premises at night, he wasn't "racially" profiling Martin, he was "criminally" profiling him, based on what he and the neighbors knew about recent past burglary suspects.
(4) When Zimmerman first spotted Martin, a suspicious person in his mind based on past neighborhood activities, he did not immediately confront him. He called 911. Vigilantes don't call 911; people worried about a potential crime call 911. Then, as the tape of his 911 call indicated, Martin started to run as Zimmerman approached him. (Since when do innocent people run? More on that a little further down.)
(5) Also as the 911 call indicated, when Martin started to run, Zimmerman said: "These assholes always get away." "Assholes" isn't a "racist" term. It is, however, a good term for suspected burglars of neighbors. Though the 911 operator told Zimmerman not to follow Martin, Zimmerman did so. He didn't want this "asshole" to get away. (Speaking of racism: Martin's friend Rachel Jeantel, on the phone with him just before he was shot, said on the stand that Martin told her a "creepy-ass cracker" was following him. Zimmerman, on the other hand, only identified the race of who he was following when the 911 operator asked him specifically if the suspect was white, black, or Hispanic.)
(6) When Zimmerman caught up with Martin, there was at first a verbal confrontation (according to neighbors), then a scuffle. Then a shot. When authorities finally arrived, they noted and/or took pictures of the grass on the back of Zimmerman's jacket. And his bloodied nose. And the lacerations on the back of his head. He'd been on his back on the ground, and he'd been punched in the face. If you had a gun in your possession during all of that, how long would you wait to protect yourself with it?
All of the racial elements inserted by both black spokespeople and media outlets like MSNBC are disgusting to me. I hate this kind of constant "crying wolf," the constant weird psychological need of some black people (and their liberal white apologists) to be seen as perpetual victims, regardless of the actual circumstances (witness the mass public cheering by black audiences when OJ Simpson got off decades ago). The description of Trayvon Martin as "a young black boy killed just for being black" that I continue to hear even as I listen to post-verdict results tonight is completely disingenuous and ridiculous. As is the continual claim brought by several commentators (including Geraldo Rivera on Fox last night) that young black men live in fear of being killed by law enforcement, which might be why Martin ran. While they may live in such fear -- I don't deny anyone the right to their own psychology -- I'd suggest that people take a look at the actual statistics: How many young black men were killed by law enforcement last year? Versus, How many young black men were killed by other young black men? In other words: Take some responsibility for your own behavior, as well as your own group-think.
Of COURSE Trayvon Martin had the right to "walk around" without being shot, as does anyone. But George Zimmerman didn't just shoot Martin randomly, while Martin was simply "walking around." Zimmerman was on his back on the ground, being punched in the face by Martin.
As I said above: If you had a gun in your possession while being punched in the face, how long would you wait to protect yourself with it? I think that most people -- of whatever color or gender or creed -- would react in exactly the same way that Zimmerman did.
I think the bigger questions are: Why would Martin take off running? Why would Martin physically attack someone who was asking him what he was doing?
I'm a gay white woman, a former young woman (now 47). I've been stopped and questioned by police on maybe 3 or 4 occasions. One time, I was 20-ish and had driven down to the river with 3 friends at 4am. We were simultaneously drunk and 'shrooming and wading in the shallows (trying to become one with the water) when a cop-car drove up. And yes, we were asked what we were doing there. It was perfectly legal to be on the river-bank, but still... I'm sure we seemed odd being there at that hour. And I still don't see anything odd about the policemen checking up on what we were doing. Needless to say, none of us ran or tackled a police officer. As a result, the police chatted with us for a minute and then left.
In short, plenty of white people are stopped for acting "suspiciously." The issue is usually cleared up quickly; that is, if the person in question doesn't run and/or tackle the questioner.
What, on the other hand, about Martin's background and culture made him think it was OK for him to act in the way he did? THAT is something that the black community is going to have to think about seriously, sans any phony, self-righteous "white people done us wrong" sloganeering, a la Al Sharpton at a recent "Justice for Trayvon" rally at which he proclaimed: "We love our children!" Do you, now? Then why are a whopping 75% of black children born out of wedlock and raised by single mothers? The black male (non)example is the VERY opposite of loving your children, despite all rhetoric to the contrary. (As is this fact published by the FBI: 91% of black homicide victims were killed by...black men. What do white people have to do with those stats?)
It's not 1865. It's not 1965. In 2013: Clean up your own backyard before blaming either "society" or a self-defending neighborhood watchman (or, for that matter, a simpleton like Paula Deen) for your troubles. Trayvon Martin was more a victim of his own "black community" attitudes than he was of a local guy trying to protect his neighborhood and himself.