Guilt Fatigue: Why the Zimmerman-Martin Case is a Man-Bites-Dog Story

If it weren’t summer, college campuses across this great land of ours would be chockablock with “Justice for Trayvon”™ teach-ins, vigils, bake sales and the like.

Leave it to the denizens of Collegetown, USA, though, to ignore the triple-digit heat index and fan the flames of racial discord by organizing “Social Justice and Trayvon Martin™: An Evening of Contemplation, Support, and Sharing,” a public forum sponsored by the office of the chancellor and the division of student affairs and campus life at UMass Amherst.

Miss was too overcome by the effects of the humidity to attend, but the forum’s provocative title and a bracing gin and tonic left her feeling contemplative, supportive and in a mood to share her thoughts about euphemistic “social justice.”

About forty people showed up to the forum, which consisted of a speak-out followed by a broadcast of a radio program. None of the speaker-outers touched upon the issues that concern me the most in the aftermath of George Zimmerman’s trial and subsequent acquittal.

Much has been made of whether Zimmerman used racial profiling as the reason he started following Martin on that rainy night in 2012. The answer is obvious—of course he did not.  We know this because a) it was dark; b) Martin’s face was obscured by a hoodie; and c) Zimmerman’s equivocal answer to the 911 operator’s question about race. “He looks black,” said Zimmerman. That’s not to say, of course, that Zimmerman did not use profiling that night. The answer is obvious—of course he did. What he was profiling, however, was not the race of the suspicious character but rather his attire. I say this because were I in Zimmerman’s shoes I would have been leery of a hoodie-clad stranger.

It is not often I agree with Geraldo Rivera, but on the topic of hoodies as an indicator of the wearer’s possible criminal intent I do. And I think anyone who does not agree is crazy, foolish or both. Before you start foaming at the mouth, I do not think wearing a hoodie defines one as a criminal.

But I do think the evidence is pretty overwhelming that while not all hoodie-wearers are criminal, all criminals wear hoodies:
Another element of the Zimmerman aftermath that troubles me is the assertion that  if Trayvon Martin™ were white, he’d be alive today. What shred of evidence supports this idea? Zimmerman shot the young man who was pummeling him. Would a white perp’s blows been any less painful? Less threatening? Preposterous.

What distresses me the most, however, is the elephant that’s been in the room since the day Zimmerman shot Martin: the reason this incident is such big news. It’s not the media’s fault for running with the story—seasoned reporters know news when they see it. And the simple fact is that this local crime story became national news because it contained the element of unexpectedness: a mixed-race but white-looking person shot and killed a black person. The likelihood of such a crime taking place, according to the FBI, is seven out of one hundred. Pretty slim odds. Newsworthy odds, I’d say. In contrast, the chances of a black person killing another black person is nine out of ten; the chances of a black person killing a white person is thirteen out of one hundred.

So, yes, the story itself is big news. The claims that it is open season on blacks or that we live in a perilous time for African Americans are demagoguery. Sadly, they are not news.

9 thoughts on “Guilt Fatigue: Why the Zimmerman-Martin Case is a Man-Bites-Dog Story

  1. It was great that Sybrina Fulton will use Trayvon’s name to expand his legacy, maybe with her own line of handgun-accessories like hollow-point-thug-bullets or perhaps some marijuana items like a Trayvon-brand-pot or maybe some bongs and roach clips or maybe some burglary tools like crow bars, lock-cutters, and glass cutters or maybe have a t-shirt with a gun-target on it with a picture of Trayvon inside the bullseye.

  2. As usual, Miss misses the boat. If someone holds a gun on you, you are fighting for your life when you hold no weapon but fists. You also presume Zimmerman did not know Martin. What if he did know him from a previous encounter? Zimmerman was stalking a teenage boy, whatever his professed or never spoken reasons.

    • As I understand it, Martin jumped Zimmerman and started punching before Zim pulled out the gun. You miss my point about the hoodie: it could’ve been an+ybody underneath it. And there is a big difference between 13 and 17.

  3. And now comes word that there’s a chance we’ll all be able to make pilgrimages to the Smithsonian to genuflect in front of the Shroud of Sanford. Ooooh, talk about a guilty pleasure!

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