One of the tragedies of the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin case – and there are many of them, believe me – is that it has revealed, once again, the seamier side of the American mindset, particularly when it comes to the concepts of justice and “mob rule.”
To be sure, there are certain points about the case that everyone seems to agree on. Trayvon Martin, a 16-year-old adolescent was shot and killed by 26-year-old volunteer community crime watchman George Zimmerman on the early evening of February 26, 2012 in a gated community in Sanford, Florida. There was a confrontation of some sort, there was a scuffle, and Zimmerman did fire a single shot from a pistol he was licensed to carry, a shot which killed the teenager.
Unfortunately for those of us who have been following the case from a long distance, the whole sad incident is still shrouded in a fog of uncertainty. Very few people in the gated community actually saw what happened, and like many similar occurrences in which several persons witness an event, there are several different versions floating around in the media and in cyberspace.
Some of the eyewitnesses (or, in some instances, ear-witnesses) have stated that Martin was merely walking home from a nearby convenience store when a hyper gung-ho Zimmerman overzealously “racially profiled’ him, followed him around in a SUV and eventually killed him after a short scuffle that he started.
Others say, however, that Martin wasn’t as innocent as his family and many others have made him out to be and that it was he who attacked Zimmerman, forcing the older man to use his gun in self-defense.
Because I do not know all the facts about the case and must therefore adhere to the legal concept of “presumption of innocence,” I will not speculate about which scenario is true and wait for the trial before I decide whether Zimmerman is guilty of murder or not.
\What I can write about, however, is how easily the racially-charged mob mentality that lurks beneath the surface of “civilized” American society can rise in every community and cause a great deal of havoc.
Although it is true that many white racists have latched on to the notion that Trayvon Martin was no angel and have portrayed him as a “thug” because (a) at the time of his death the teen was on suspension from his Miami-Dade high school for various infractions and (b) because his Facebook profile features several photos of Trayvon in “thug-like” poses.
Obviously, the pro-Zimmerman (Zimmy to many commenters now) tend to try and avoid sounding like racists, but even in “mainstream media” outlets with Internet discussions the “Trayvon was a thug” narrative is still expressed, as in this post on the Washington, DC-area TV ABC station WJLA Channel 7:
May 16, 2012 - 10:59:29 AM
Of course Zimmy confronted him, thats what he was supposed to do you nutcase.. you think he should just sit there and eat twinkies? Play pocket pool? He saw a young thug acting suspicious and didn't want him to get away and stash his stolen items while the Popo was on da ways. So then the young thug with his head full of Rap music decided he was going to be a badass, and got himself shot. Dats da ways I sees it. Zimmy may be a bit of a wannabe crusader, clean up the neighborhood kinda mentality, but no way he just walked up and shot the kid, he could have done that from a distance.
Black racists, however, aren’t shy about expressing their own divisive and ill-considered views.
Back in March, the radical group that calls itself the New Black Panther Party offered a $10,000 bounty for the capture of George Zimmerman.
As The Two-Way blog on National Public Radio said at the time:
The Orlando Sentinel reports that Mikhail Muhammad announced the reward during a protest on Saturday, and when a Sentinel reporter asked if he was inciting violence, Muhammad said, "An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth."
Nationally the shooting death has brought up questions about whether Zimmerman, who was on a Neighborhood Watch patrol, profiled Martin and whether Sanford police's failure to arrest Zimmerman had to do with racism.
The New Black Panther's bounty just heightens that narrative.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the New Black Panther Party has been rejected by the Black Panther Party of the '60s and '70s. The SPLC says the group is "a virulently racist and anti-Semitic organization whose leaders have encouraged violence against whites, Jews and law enforcement officers..."
The Sentinel also reported that the group "called for the mobilization of 10,000 black men to capture Zimmerman."
As a result of the New Black Panthers’ ill-considered actions and the posting of his family’s address on the Internet, George Zimmerman is hiding at an undisclosed location whileout on bond awaiting trial, while his family has been reduced to living like fugitives because of death threats.
According to an article in the website NewsMax, the Zimmermans have left their Sanford home and travel from place to place incognito:
Tensions over Trayvon Martin’s shooting death are so high that George Zimmerman’s parents and ailing grandmother have had to go into hiding.
Robert Zimmerman, George’s father, told the Miami Herald the family is moving from hotel to hotel, where they stay under assumed names and always pay cash to avoid being recognized.
“It’s unimaginable,” said the older Zimmerman, 64, a retired magistrate. “Our lives will never be the same.”