So I am trying to participate in this "Blogging Trayvon" or "blogging for justice". I have been writing about this incident on the PG OP/Ed comment section for months now. I have watched those who supported George Zimmerman evolve over those months. Many started generally saying that while it was self-defense Zimmerman should not have gotten out of his car, but after the verdict they hardened into a positon that by attacking Zimmerman, Martin sealed his own fate. This is what the gun rights advocates (or absolutists, as some say) seem to feel.
One thing that has been interesting to watch is the efforts to make a logical case for profiling Trayvon Martin. Actually this effort to use logic to justify one's position permeates the PG comment pages. There is a great deal of (something like) "if they would only take responsibility for themselves" and in the Trayvon Martin comments (something like) "It's a fact that African Americans commit (some number, I have seen as high as 76%) of (some crime - robbery, murder, etc)". This is all done in isolation, as if the only history we have are these crime statistics, there is no other history or context.
But this brings me to a first point about context. Much of what we know about what happened comes from George Zimmerman, and I would suggest he has strong incentives to paint himself in the best light possible. But there are a couple of things he said when he was talking to the police dispatcher that I want to note. First of all, early in the conversation he said "these assholes always get away". Shortly after that he tells the dispatcher Martin is running, and Zimmerman starts running after him (what he was thinking I can not imagine). The dispatcher asks Zimmerman if he is following Martin (as Zimmerman is evidently breathing hard) and when Zimmerman says yer the dispatcher utters the now famous "OK, we don't need you to do that".
I want to pause briefly to point out that Martin did not have a history of violence that I am aware of. Some possible petty theft and marijuana use, but not violence (and most people will say that marijuana promote lethargy, not violence). On the other hand, Zimmerman had once shoved a cop and once had domestic violence charges leveled at him. These did not come to much, but there they are, along with the mixed martial arts training and the concealed handgun.
So at that point that particular evening Zimmerman had lost Trayvon Martin (or so he said) and is supposedly returning to his vehicle. Trayvon Martin reappears. According to Zimmerman Martin "sucker punches" Zimmerman from behind, but it doesn't seem like that is born out by the testimony of Rachel Jeantel, who was on the phone with Martin up to the final confrontation.
We already know that Martin had tried to run away from Zimmerman. Why had Martin returned? Well, one possibility is that Martin had turned in a thug bent on beating Zimmerman to death (despite having no history of violence). Another possibility is that Martin, unfamiliar with the neighborhood, had gotten lost trying to get home, and in desperation had gone back towards where he had seen the creepy guy since he thought the house he was staying at was back that way.
So we have this claim by Zimmerman that Martin sucker punched him, which is made doubtful by other testimony. What if what actually happened is Zimmerman repeated to Martin a version of the thing he had said earlier to the dispatcher - "You are not going to get away with it"? What if to make his point Zimmerman life his shirt to show a gun concealed in his waistband? What if he did all that without identifying himself as a neighborhood watch volunteer who had call the police?
If those things were true, it is easy to see that Martin, already frightened, might feel his worst fears were confirmed, that he was dealing with a crazy person about to kill him for no apparent reason. Martin, only 17, might well have reacted instead of asking what was going on. As a member of the football team, Martin would have had some experience with tackling a person and taking him down to ground. Being terrified at that moment, Martin would had reserves of adrenaline and the training needed to overpower a heavier man (whose fitness at the time is apparently an open question), could well have knocked Zimmerman to the ground and if they were on the sidewalk (at least one witness put them on the grass, but whatever), could have wrung Zimmerman's chimes.
Am I justifying Zimmerman's claim of self defense? No I am suggesting what seems the strongest possibility is that Zimmerman provoked the situation at every step, right up to the point the kid did not cooperate by collapsing to the ground crying. Zimmerman played with fire and it got away from him and bit him in the ass (so to speak).
Much was made in the trial that Zimmerman had no obvious hatred of African Americans. Perhaps not, but how should we look at Zimmerman's automatic assumption that the suspicious figure he saw, who he knew was black, was "getting away" with something? The insidious casual racism can be seen as worse, in that it is so ingrained that we can overlook it. Supposedly at least a couple of the jurors started deliberations leaning towards a guilty verdict for Zimmerman (either of second degree murder or manslaughter), but were persuaded otherwise by the rest of the jury. And as I said earlier, even here in Pittsburgh, commenters on the PG online refuse to look at the totality of the situation of African Americans, instead only seeing violent criminals or at best welfare cheats and abusers. This is a problem that seemingly has been made worse by the election of an African American President during an economic downturn that has swollen the ranks of the unemployed and the welfare rolls.
The other point I want to make is how this all fits in with the logic of the gun debate. Gun rights advocate want to say that this has nothing to do concealed carry law laws or the stand your ground laws, except to prove that they work. But I think that gun rights advocates have based a lot of their arguments on the notions that gun owners are responsible, and therefore to do not need to be regulated. But we know that the neighborhood watch had training that said volunteers should not follow and especially should not confront suspicious people. We know the police dispatcher essentially reminded and reinforced that point with George Zimmerman that night. We can reasonably assume the purpose of saying those things to volunteers was to avoid the risk of injury to either volunteer or suspect. Yet Zimmerman ignored his training and what the dispatcher told him.
"Only a good guy with a gun can stop a bad guy with a gun". So sayeth the NRA. But was Zimmerman a good guy with a gun? Does a good guy with a gun take unnecessary chances with people's lives? As I am sure others have concluded, George Zimmerman, taking chances and with a casual racism, went from neighborhood watch good guy with a gun to reckless vigilante, the guy who kept Martin from zlways getting away with it. Problem was, Martin did nothing except maybe get scared and then killed when he tried to defend himself.
What responsibilities does concealed carry place on you? In the State of Florida, apparently very few. And if things do go bad and a black man is shot, you can be confident people will decide he brought it on himself.