Reluctant Townie: Not discussing Zimmerman - much
I was going to write a column about the George Zimmerman verdict, but pretty much everyone on Earth already published their opinions about it (be it by Twitter, Facebook or Anonymous Internet Comments) — and very little of those opinions are based on the facts and realities of the case.
Most are knee-jerk reactions filtered through the prism of race, and people seem more invested in seeing Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin as archetypes (the Overzealous/Persecuted White Man; the Angelic Victim/Delinquent Aggressor) rather than see them as fallible human beings who fall somewhere in between on the spectrum.
I had nothing new to add to the conversation. I didn't know either party before the incident, nor was I witness to the confrontation, so I can only pontificate on regurgitated, third-party information.
The basic gist of what I had to say was that I do not believe Zimmerman is racist (after all, Zimmerman is himself biracial and showed no outward signs of harboring racist hatred), but that his ingrained racial biases ultimately played a major role in the death of Martin.
If Zimmerman had seen a young Asian or white teenager in a hooded sweatshirt wandering through his gated neighborhood, would he have called 911? We will never know for sure. But my gut tells me that things would have resolved differently.
Had Zimmerman not found Martin "suspicious" and chose to follow him, the chain of events that led to Martin's death would not have occurred. Zimmerman would not have then had the opportunity to ignore the 911 dispatcher and leave his vehicle to pursue Martin on foot, a decision that ultimately led to the fatal confrontation.
In that respect, Zimmerman is solely responsible for the death of Martin. And if you cannot agree with that, then you are refusing the reality of the situation.
Zimmerman did not premeditate a murder, but he willingly instigated a chain of events that led to a physical confrontation, and during that physical confrontation (when, according to Zimmerman's own statements, he lost the upper hand and became pinned underneath Martin) he panicked, reached for his gun and shot an unarmed assailant.
Because of this, I am astounded that anyone offers moral backing for Zimmerman. Why does he deserve your support? He might not be the racist vigilante that some have painted him, but his actions are those of a coward. At the time of the confrontation, Zimmerman weighed 100 pounds more than his victim. It wasn't even a fair fight to begin with: Zimmerman had a weight advantage, and he also brought a deadly weapon.
The night Martin was killed, the only objects in his possession were a can of sweet tea and a bag of Skittles. Unless he was planning to inflict diabetes upon Zimmerman, he had no threatening means of extermination.
Why then has a segment of White America chosen to support Zimmerman with impassioned Facebook posts and Twitter blasts? What about his actions are heroic to anyone?
Zimmerman was overstepping his duties as a citizen when he exited his car and followed Martin — it takes very little imagination to see him being motivated by the juvenile thrill of playing "Cops and Robbers" — and as such, he is responsible for all of the events that resulted.
I believe that Zimmerman should have been convicted on manslaughter charges. I think that he overreacted in defending himself, and some consideration must be made for the fact that he instigated the events. A manslaughter conviction would have also gone a long way toward smoothing out inflamed racial tensions — although that is not an acceptable reason to bend the word of law.
I cannot blame Martin's parents for wanting blood — if he had been my son, I would literally have wanted Zimmerman's head on a pike.
But in a way, Zimmerman received an even harsher sentence: a lifetime of glancing over his shoulder, waiting for the worst to materialize. The rest of his life will be the last scene of "The Sopranos" looped ad infinitum.
For the majority, whites and blacks appear to be aligning themselves along racial lines in support of Martin and Zimmerman — which is a shame. Instead of taking sides, we could be using this time to talk openly and honestly about our inherent racial biases (we all have them) and trying to overcome them.
The truth is that American media (meaning ALL the media: music, movies, television; not the capital-M "Media" of whatever 24-hour news station you disagree with politically) does a really good job of offering up images of young black males as thugs and criminals, but does a really poor job of showing young black males like Martin doing anything else.
Over time, that has a cumulative effect.
But anyway, I decided not to write anything about the Zimmerman verdict this week. I doubt it would have made any difference if I had: just more noise in the echo chamber.
Ryan Jackson hopes he lives long enough to see things change between us — brothers and sisters that we all are — and he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.