What’s truly sad about this incident is that a teenager needlessly and senselessly had his life ended and the only thing that many people can talk about is racism. So many have only focused on the fact that Trayvon Martin was African American, and called those opposing Zimmerman racist, saying that they only take issue with Zimmerman killing an unarmed kid “because he was black.”
The argument that this would not have been an issue had the victim been white, female, or elderly is absurd. And to argue that Zimmerman was justified because Martin was “thuggish” or “suspicious” is also absurd. There is no justification for instigating a confrontation with someone and subsequently ending their life because you are losing that confrontation.
Whether or not Martin was a “troubled teen” has zero relevance to this incident. He was clearly profiled, whether for his race, behavior, or his choice of clothing, otherwise Zimmerman would not have taken the initiative to follow him and confront him. What else can that be considered but profiling?
Zimmerman admitted to seeing Martin walking through the neighborhood and decided that he looked suspicious. His justification for taking actions that led to the murder of an unarmed teenager is that he “felt he was suspicious.”
Zimmerman took the unusual initiative to get out of his car and follow a person he later described as “suspicious,” whose “body language was intimidating,” and who, he decided on impulse, may have had a “weapon.” Zimmerman’s course of action seems unusual in that stalking someone one considers “suspicious,” “intimidating,” and potentially armed seems to be the opposite of a logical response.
He later denied following Martin on foot in an interview with Sean Hannity, despite telling a police dispatcher “yes” when asked if he was following Martin. He then denied that Martin was running away from him, despite being heard on tape saying, “he’s running.” He then altered his denial, after being pressed by Hannity, saying that Martin was “like skipping, going away quickly. But he wasn’t running out of fear.”
Now, let’s assume you are a 17-year-old boy. You are walking home to your father’s house at night in a neighborhood in which you do not normally live. You notice a car following you – a man on a cellphone who is staring at you. Would you be concerned? Suspicious? Perhaps even exhibit defensive body language? The man continues to follow you in his car, and then exits his car and begins stalking you on foot. You do not know this man, or know that he is a resident of that neighborhood. Would you run from him? Take measures to defend yourself? In an ensuing physical altercation with an armed man, would you fight for your life?
One thing is certain: had Zimmerman not taken it upon himself to initiate a confrontation with a teenager who was walking up the street to his father’s home, Trayvon Martin would be alive today. And had any wrongdoing occurred, that issue could now be properly and reasonably addressed.
That so many are only focused on defending a murderer because the kid that the “poor guy” shot was African American (and because now some in that community, along with numerous non-African American citizens, let’s not forget, are up in arms about the murder of a young man) is deeply disturbing.
Whether or not you agree with the verdict, the fact that a teenager lost his life after being targeted by a paranoid vigilante is both immensely saddening and alarming.
Alisha is a writer and researcher for Ring of Fire.