I have no personal knowledge about the Trayvon Martin case. Everything I know is what I have read online. I am certain that much of what I have read about the case is wrong because it contradicts other stuff I have read. If you hear two mutually exclusive things then both of them cannot be true (but they can both be wrong.)
It is interesting and disturbing how quickly the Trayvon Martin case has become a racial Rorschach test. The undisputed facts are ambiguous. We know that a young man was killed. We know that another young man killed him. We know where and when it happened. We know a little bit about each man, including their age, height, weight and race. We know a little bit about the background of each man, but not a lot. We know what one man’s version of events was. We will never know what story the other man would give.
There is some physical evidence. Not all of it has been disclosed by the police. There are some witness statements. We have been told what some witnesses allegedly told the police but none of the witnesses has been publicly examined and cross-examined under oath.
In one version of events Trayvon Martin was a gang member and a thug and George Zimmerman a hero. In another version Zimmerman is a bigot and a murderer and Trayvon Martin an innocent and wholly blameless victim.
I don’t know the truth. If I was on a jury and had to render a verdict I would vote not-guilty, not because I think Zimmerman is innocent but because the case for his guilt has not been proven to me. There is a jury instruction that states if you can draw two or more reasonable conclusions from the evidence, and one of those
reasonable conclusions points to innocence and another to guilt, you must accept the one that points to innocence.
But much of what we hear about this case is simply speculative and is designed to shoehorn the case into a predetermined narrative. That narrative is racial and requires that Zimmerman assume the role of a white, racist oppressor and Trayvon the role of innocent victim.
Why is that narrative so important?
According to FBI statistics in 2009 there were 2,867 black people murdered in this country. Of those, 2,604 were killed by other blacks and only 209 were killed by whites. Those are facts.
But what do they prove?
Let’s assume that George Zimmerman is a racist and a cold-blooded killer. What does that prove? Does it prove anything about America or society in general? What lessons can the rest of us learn, what changes can we make?
If George Zimmerman was sent to prison, would that be justice? Justice for who? Will it make up for slavery, lynchings and Jim Crow? Will our nation suddenly be free of racial bigotry?
The sad fact is that no matter how this ends there will be many people who think a terrible injustice has been done.