Edit: I am writing this over 4 months later, because as it happens, the situation has changed. My argument back in July was that there was not enough evidence that Zimmerman did not act out of self-defence (which I still think was true), but as has become obvious now, he truly is a very bad person.
Still, I think it is wrong to blame racism. Zimmerman is a terrible man who will do terrible things regardless of the person’s race, and the fact that he was released last time is not an issue of race, it is merely an issue of gun possession being legal and self-defence being a reason to kill someone due to those guns.
As often as these situations occur, I’m starting to think it’s just part of modern society. Whether it is sexism, homophobia or racism, whenever someone from a “minority” is disadvantaged, the claims that it happened because of discrimination are always present. Of course, sometimes it is actually true: homophobia is still a major issue and when people from the LGBT-community are involved in violence, it often is because of their sexuality. To a lesser extent, this also applies to ethnic minorities (especially black people in the US), and to an even lesser extent, it also applies to women.
Still, it seems like discrimination, or in this case racism, is used to explain issues much more often than can be justified. It is used irrationally, without further thought. A black man is killed and the attacker is acquitted, so immediately the conclusion is that there was racism involved. It seems valid, and it is a great way to blame something other than the justice system. But that doesn’t necessarily make it true.
When George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin, a life was lost. That is terrible, and such things should never be allowed to happen. However, when the case came to a trial, that was not what the jury was meant to judge. The jury had to decide whether or not there was sufficient proof to show that Zimmerman had not acted in self-defence, and to put it as simple as possible: there wasn’t enough proof.
Most of the evidence spoke in his favour, or at least not in Trayvon Martin’s favour. There had been calls for help, but nobody had been able to prove that those belonged to the victim, and only the perpetrator was there to testify that they were his. That’s how it goes in murder cases. On top of that, one of the most important witnesses on the side of the prosecution ended up making a mistake which greatly discredited her account.
Even worse, however, was the fact that George Zimmerman carried a gun not on his own account, but because he had been advised to do so by the police. He lived in a neighbourhood which had experienced many issues over the past few weeks, he was afraid, and he was sick of criminals always getting away. On top of that, he was armed with a gun which he had gotten on advice by the police. How could that ever end well?
Does that justify his actions? No. He murdered someone, and that is always wrong. Did he deserve to be locked up for a great portion of his life, perhaps. But were any of his or the jury’s actions racist? Most definitely not.
Yes, Trayvon Martin was black, but on top of that, he was also an adolescent who had been involved in quite a few delinquencies. I am a white male who has never been suspended from school, but even I often get looks of fear from elderly people when I pass by looking less than very cheerful. Ageism, you might call it, or perhaps it’s more fair to conclude that anyone walking the streets at night just looks bloody creepy.
In the end, when the fight started, there were two very scared men (/boys) trying to defend their own rights. One had a gun, the other did not.
The problem doesn’t lie in racism. It doesn’t even lie in the jury system and the fact that uneducated and possibly biased people should never be expected to judge over cases like these. It lies in the fact that someone from the neighbourhood watch was given a gun and nobody came up with the idea that there was a chance he was going to use it. Zimmerman isn’t innocent, but that doesn’t suddenly mean everything should be centred around racism. If anything, it’s adultism that’s the problem here.
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