April 2012

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Trayvon Martin — What Happened?

by Bruce A. Clark

I have been obsessively following this case for a few days. I don’t usually get so absorbed but the magnitude of the response to the killing, the rush to judgment and the lynch mob mentality of the movement to condemn the shooter, George Zimmerman, created a situation I couldn’t ignore. There is no way, in a short article, to address the development of the case nor address new facts as they come along. For this, I refer readers to an article I put on my web site, Trayvon Martin, Prejudice and the Rush to Judgment. I tried to address the issues there instead of writing a really long article here. In this piece, I hope to concentrate on the essence of what seems to be going on.

After a few weeks of not noticing the case, the media and people in the community got a hold of the story, and the Internet coverage of it exploded. Predictably, many in the African American community and the usual suspects of outspoken “leaders” like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton took the side of the young black man who was killed, despite the paucity of factual evidence publicly available at the time. Then many, many people in the liberal/progressive/radical parts of the population jumped on the bandwagon and joined the chorus calling for the arrest of Zimmerman. The facts to justify this were, however, lacking.

Moreover, every kind of irrelevant excuse or possibility is added to Zimmerman’s name:

A neighborhood doesn’t need a formal organized group to pay attention to what’s going on. Where I live, there is an unoccupied house across the street, and often nefarious characters go into the yard to steal fixtures or to use the property as a route into other properties. Fortunately some of us started keeping watch on who is there, and politely approach nearly everyone who goes there. Most are impressed with the neighborhood that people are watching out for each other. The car thief with a long record who we got arrested after calling the local sheriff’s department was not one of them. It’s all in noticing who belongs there and who does not, race not a factor.

The more details accumulate, the more we see that there are unknown factors in the chain of events. By the same token, the more unknown factors accumulate, the less legitimate are the accusations made against Zimmerman. The more this goes on, the less we should pay attention to anything said about the parties in this incident. Both parties have an increasing number of factors by which they could possibly be held at fault for the killing of Trayvon Martin. Taking a side before the legal investigations are complete makes less and less sense as time goes by. The more someone takes a side and demands “justice” for one side to the exclusion of the other, the more it looks like prejudice is the predominant factor in taking sides.