Because what do we know? For a while I didn’t really care to find out. I was in the thick of school when it happened and the only exposure I had to the story was the surrounding hype on twitter, some brief articles I read online and one of my professors voicing how she felt (very un-journalistically, I should add). My opinion up until recent was this- George Zimmerman is probably crazy, I don’t know why this happened, and this whole thing is very tragic.
For whatever reason, I recently spent a couple hours reading into the case, listening to a lot of audio recordings and reading eye-witness accounts, and as with everything else, the more I explored the less I felt I thought I knew about it. You begin to realize that this is a very complex situation in a really simple case, the makeup of a great story. Both Trayvon and Zimmerman are minorities in this country. They both probably would’ve voted for Obama in November, or more likely neither of them would’ve voted. Maybe they liked the same music. George Zimmerman likely doesn’t carry a pocket Constitution to wave his Second Amendment rights in people’s faces to explain why he has a Desert Eagle in a Burger King. Trayvon probably wasn’t in a gang or an excessively violent person. Stuff like that would make it easier for people to understand, but with this there is so much to misunderstand. It’s probably more about human fear and decision-making than hoodies and Skittles.
I volunteered for the recent Republican primary and was talking about the Trayvon case with a Richard Mourdock supporter who was also kind of crazy. He, like many, feel that the media is biased toward liberalism, choosing to ignore the violence done to Zimmerman and sympathize with Trayvon, who he described as a “thug.” He made it make sense to him, but hopefully you can see how that can be dangerous.
It’s not easy to side on this case without saying something about yourself first. That’s usually the case with hyped crimes like these. It’s easier when race becomes a part of it. It’s even easier when we live in a society where everyone shares the deep and flawed belief that racism is only seen in neo-Nazis and Bryce Dallas Howard in “The Help” rather than something practically everyone is a part of. This is so ingrained; I took a race class and the grad student teaching us had this point of view. She said race was nuanced, but presented it in a way that wasn’t nuanced at all. Learning history at a collegiate level in a frame of modern superiority is just an expensive and time-consuming way to masturbate. I’m probably racist. So are you. So was Abe Lincoln. I happen to think that’s ok so long as we work to make the world a nicer place to live in.
Consider what is now the poster image of Trayvon Martin. What can you really gather from it? What does it make you feel? Do you think those questions relate? If he took it for a profile pic because he wanted to appear nice, what does that say about our reading of it?
Let’s say Trayvon was an asshole. He would’ve hated us without cause. Let’s say this 17 year-old kid would’ve continued to beat this guy against the pavement, if that’s even what happened. While I may think that would warrant a punishment for assault rather than murder, I’m less confident I can answer that question with resolute confidence, even with the hypothetical assurance of what I don’t know. I merely have to entertain the possibility that it’s just that, and in this way I have it easy.
Though after considering everything I’ve learned, my precious opinion is this- I don’t know why this happened, this whole thing is very tragic, and these negotiable situations probably happen more than we care to think about.