A 17-year-old boy is walking home on a rainy night. He holds a canned iced tea, a bag of Skittles, and is talking on his cell phone to his girlfriend.
So what’s the punch line? What’s the solution to this riddle?
There isn’t one. But there’s a gunshot, and because of it, that boy is dead. He’s never going to celebrate his eighteenth birthday. He’ll never graduate high school, go to college, get married, or have boys and girls of his own.
The man who admitted to killing Trayvon Martin is one 28-year-old George Zimmerman.
Oh, and I forgot to mention something: The victim was black.
Does that matter? Abso-freaking-lutely.
It matters because Trayvon’s story isn’t unique, except for one respect: It’s gained significant media attention.
As an infant, Trayvon was over twice as likely to die than a white infant. As soon as he reached his teens, he was 1.5 times more likely to die than his white peers. FBI statistics show that blacks are the victims of hate crimes at much higher rates than any race in the U.S., making up 70 percent of victims of these crimes in 2010. Homicide is the most likely cause of death for black men Trayvon’s age.
If he were in his 20s, the plastic baggie with traces of marijuana that cost him a suspension in high school would’ve most likely equaled a prison sentence, on the fact that his race and gender alone insured him a one in eight chance of going to prison period.
In general, the media has grasped on to the negative; not of the shooter, as you’d expect, but of the victim. They’ve clasped that plastic baggie with traces of pot like it’s their last dying breath. They’ve focused on the hood he was wearing— Geraldo Rivera of Fox News even went as far as saying that “the hoodie is just as responsible for Trayvon’s death as George Zimmerman” (after scathing criticism, Rivera hastily apologized and hoodies mysteriously disappeared from the Fox Merchandise website).
Folks, that’s victim-blaming: Blaming the choices of the victim (such as a hoodie, or walking late at night) rather than the perpetrator of the crime. Such grossness is irresponsible at best and purposefully disrespectful at worst.
Here’s what they don’t tell you: Trayvon was an A and B student. He wanted to be an engineer and was studying at an aviation school in addition to his high school work. He had a girlfriend. He had no criminal record whatsoever.
Let’s set the scene again. It’s raining (most likely why Trayvon was wearing a hood), it’s night, and Trayvon’s carrying a bag of Skittles and a can of iced tea.
OK, now let’s take a look at George Zimmerman (who was carrying a 9 millimeter handgun). He outweighed Martin by at least 60 pounds and 11 years. His criminal record consisted of resisting arrest with violence and battery on an officer. He has called the police 46 times since 2004.
According to his peers and neighbors, he was “fixated on crime and focused [on] young, black males” (Miami Herald). His neighbors also complained about his “aggressive tactics” (Huffington Post). He was not, as he so claimed, a member of a registered Neighborhood Watch group.
Zimmerman claims Martin was the attacker in this scenario, that he punched him in the nose and slammed his head on the sidewalk over and over again, leaving him bruised and bloody.
However, there is so much that refutes this statement it’s ridiculous.
Three witnesses say they heard a boy (read: A boy, not a man) cry for help before a shot was fired (Miami Herald). His girlfriend said on the cell phone conversation they had that night that a man was watching him, that Trayvon had finally lost him.
She asked him to run, but he said he wouldn’t, that he’d just walk fast. The last thing she overheard was Martin asking “What are you following me for?” and the man saying “What are you doing here?” Surveillance videos taken right after the shooting show no blood or bruises on Zimmerman, which would be evident if Martin had indeed attacked him.
Perhaps most telling of all, Martin’s funeral director has said that his body showed no signs of fight: No knuckles or bruises on his hands (which would be there if he had indeed punched Zimmerman).
Justice hasn’t been done here. I really, really hope that it will be.