For those of you who don’t know about the Trayvon Martin case, may I first suggest coming out from under that rock? It’s okay. We’ll wait.
Don’t worry about it, I’ll explain. On Feb. 26, in Sanford, Florida, 17-year-old African American Trayvon Martin was shot by 28-year-old Hispanic George Zimmerman, who was the Community Watch Coordinator for the gated community in which the shooting happened. On the day of the shooting, Zimmerman saw Martin walking (in Zimmerman’s words) “suspiciously” while going to visit his father and his father’s fiancee. Shortly afterwards, an altercation occurred and Zimmerman shot Martin in the chest.
According to Zimmerman, he shot Martin after being attacked, and suffered a wound on the back of his head as well as a bloody nose. The EMTs found no evidence contradicting his self-defense assertion. However, Martin was not found with any weapons on his person.
After being questioned, Zimmerman was released. Arguably, the most interesting part of the incident was the call that Zimmerman made to the police while the altercation was taking place. Voice analysts cannot agree on who is talking, nor what they are saying, but some argue that it is Zimmerman yelling a racial slur.
This claim of self-defense falls under Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, which allows those being attacked to use force to defend themselves without attempting to retreat first.
The media has taken a special interest in this case, claiming that because Martin is black, his shooting is considering a hate crime. Many have taken it to be an example of the way African Americans are treated unfairly in society, and specifically the way white people stereotype black people as “suspicious,” despite Zimmerman being Hispanic.
Personally, I don’t even want to touch this issue of whether Zimmerman is guilty or not. There is so little evidence supporting either side, and to really make any judgement would be ill-informed.
Whether or not Zimmerman’s motivation was hate can’t really be discovered, and typically in cases like this, we would give the self-defender the benefit of the doubt, anyway.
The real problem is the “statement” the media is trying to make with this case. The photos every major television station or newspaper are using are the fresh-faced elementary school photo of Martin and the mug shot of Zimmerman from a previous arrest.
For those who are just glancing at the newspaper or television screen, it looks a lot like Zimmerman shot a grade-school child.
I’m not defending either Zimmerman or Martin. After all, this case is one huge gray area. All I’m saying is that people should treat it that way. The media and followers of the case have turned this into an issue of race, inequality, and discrimination. We don’t actually have very much information about what happened at the scene, and the only evidence of racism was the phone call from Zimmerman’s phone involving a lot of screaming and a supposed racial slur that most people can’t decifer.
This very well could have been an attack based on Martin’s race, but how are we to know? The media’s portrayal of the case is absurd and is certainly not helping anyone (including a potential judge and jury) make an unbiased and fair verdict about the case.