I have read snippets in the news about Trayvon Martin and his death but I hadn’t read much, or enough, to give any valid opinion on the subject of his death. I spent a good few hours yesterday morning researching the events surrounding and following his death and find, if anything, that it is now harder to make up my mind about what happened, but the verdict, I still find incredibly tragic. I, like the majority, think George Zimmerman should not have got out of his car that night. He shouldn’t have been armed. He shouldn’t have put himself in a position where he felt threatened, let alone, so threatened that he took a life. I know that according to Florida state law, and if Zimmerman’s statement is correct, that standing his ground and protecting his own life was an act of self defense and therefore is unpunishable by state law. But I can’t accept this… I try and put myself in the position where I make the same errors, I put myself in danger, I’m armed and my attacker threatens to kill me. I wonder what I would do..how I would respond. Would I pull the trigger of the gun I lawfully carry? It’s hard, for I wouldn’t own the gun in the first place. Gun laws are a subject I need to read more about but after hours of consideration, discussion and switching opinions, I don’t think I could ever own a gun. The only time I would consider using one, would be in defense of my loved ones, but I would use it as a deterrent, as a threat. To, at most, injure the attacker, never to kill.
So on those grounds, I find it almost impossible to imagine being in Zimmerman’s shoes. I then consider being in Martin’s (these suppositions are based on the honoured accuracy of Zimmerman’s statement). I consider how I would feel being watched and then pursued by a stranger in a vehicle, then on foot. I would feel threatened. Tempted to address my follower once he departed his vehicle and chased me? Perhaps. With the confidence of late teenage years and an edge of bravado, I think I would. In order to justify my presence, im order to address his, and query his intrusion into my evening walk home. I probably would address him. If he then began to criticise me, revealing his suspicions related to local crimes, I would be angry. I would feel discriminated against, for whatever shape, size, sex or race I was, or clothing I was wearing. I think, if he did in fact attack Zimmerman, in some way, Martin was then acting in self defense too. Threatened and subjected to discrimination for simply being in his neighbourhood one dark and rainy evening. On this account, I think Zimmerman is still in the wrong. I accept that as part of the neighbourhood watch, after a succession of local burglaries, that he could see innocence as suspiciousness. But at the same time, we have a teenager walking home on the phone (surely a key to his innocence – I don’t believe a theif would be chatting on his mobile post-burglary) from a 7-eleven with a bag of sweets and a drink. He’s new to the neighbourhood, so he’s walking slowly, it’s raining but he doesn’t care, he wants to be outside, he wants to be talking to his friend on the phone, so he’s taking it easy. Then we have Zimmerman’s statement that he was weaving in and out of neighbours gardens…Trayvon was 17. He’d had a few small run ins with the law, you may say, a typical teenage boy with a bit of rebelliousness in him. He’d been caught for having a bag with traces of marijuana in, in his schoolbag. He’d been found with jewellery in his bag after a theft, for which he had an excuse. Then we consider, maybe he was a little bit too rebellious, reckless. He’d been got at, at school or at he for things he’d done or not done amd here was some man following him home…he flips out. He punches him and knocks him to the ground where Zimmerman unleashes a tirade of verbal abuse? To which Trayvon attacks him in retaliation..leaving Trayvon with no wounds but Zimmerman with cuts to the face and a bloody nose? He gets caught up in the moment, he sees Zimmerman’s gun, fuelled by frustration and anger, he threatens Zimmerman. At this point, Zimmerman feels overwhelmed, he has no control over the situation, he worries that he will lose his life. In fright, in the heat of the moment, he acts to save his own life…he shoots Trayvon. In one gunshot, he’s killed. In one moment, fury and frustration between two men comes to a head. A life is lost…that of a 17 year old boy. Killed by a man who needed a gun for what reason? By a man studying criminal justice (aware of what he could get away with? Perhaps having planned the event…we will never know). Killed by a man who called the police to report Trayvon’s suspiciousness who was told by the authorites not to follow the teen. Who put his own life in danger, who is now, despite what the law says, a murderer. In self defense or not, George Zimmerman shot and killed a child that night because he took an unnecessary act upon himself for which he would’ve gained what? Recognition for catching a crimimal? Self gratification?
I don’t think Zimmerman was racially motivated. Media outlets worldwide edited his police call to make out racial undertones in the attack. He didn’t disclose Trayvon’s race until prompted by the police. Years previously he had supported and participated in marches in support of the unlawful assault of a black homeless man in Florida in a racially motivated attack.
I think that the excuse of Trayvon’s attire suggesting his suspiciousness is appauling yet tragically common. A teenage boy wears a hoody and it makes him a criminal? It is as terrible as suggesting because a girl goes out wearing a skirt, she is asking for assault. It is wrong. Trayvon Martin was wearing typical attire for a 17 year old American.
I think it is important to consider Zimmerman’s initial response in which he stated he would not do anything differently but he did regret being in the situation where he had to take Trayvon’s life.
He should’ve done something differently, he should’ve stayed in his car that night. If he was worried, he should’ve just phoned the police and let them handle the situation (of which there wouldn’t have been one, had Zimmerman not been there). He should not have pursued Trayvon.
If Trayvon did in fact attack Zimmerman, he shouldn’t have. He should’ve run quicker and got home. He was 64m from his back door when he was killed. But he shouldn’t have been in the position where he had to run home. He, like all, should’ve been free to walk his neighbourhood, any neighbourhood, without being discriminated against, without being approached and questioned, with the freedom that America tries to promote. Zimmerman shouldn’t have been armed. He did not need a gun.
A catalogue of errors surrounds the event. But the most tragic is what came afterwards… A family lose their 17 year old son and his killer is free, and will remain so.
The case highlights the flaws in the legal system, further highlights the flaws in American gun laws, highlights the fact that the world is not free, equal but fuelled by all sorts of discrimination. From our age, to our race, to our clothes, we are subjected daily to unjust judgement for being who we want to be, and for parts of ourselves we cannot nor should desire to alter.
I think it’s tragic. I think it’s frustrating that we will never know what actually happened that night. I think it’s incredibly frustrating for Trayvon’s family, to not know. I think it’s awful for all the families, the residents of The Retreat that they were subjected to the sounds of the fight and the gunshot that killed a teenager behind their home. I think it’s tragic that we will never know what would’ve happened if the night had played out differently, what Zimmerman is like, exclusive of this atrocity.
I think the issues the case has raised in both America and the world, are incredibly important. But it shouldn’t take death after death to make us think about these things. Discrimination, gun laws and the legal system are troublesome issues.
Gun ownership needs tackling now. The loopholes and flaws of the legal system need addressing through time. But I believe Zimmerman should not be free. In self defense or not…he shot and killed someone and that is not ok. Discrimination is, and unfortunately always will be, an issue. Our judgement is primarily based upon appearances but we all need to think more before we make a judgement but most importantly, before we make an accusation. Trayvon was not in any way connected with the trouble in Zimmerman’s neighbourhood but he suffered because of it. Because of prejudice and that is something really difficult, and most tragically, something that is unlikely to change.
I wish to read more on the event. I want to read through Zimmerman’s full statements. I want to read opinions from every side. I need some kind of explanation, resolution, let alone the suffering families of both Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman.