by Fatima Badreddine

A couple of weeks ago, I went to a party in an unfamiliar neighborhood. I parked a block away from the host’s home because I was one digit off on the house number. Luckily, I realized that before walking up to the wrong house and embarrassing myself. It was nighttime, but I decided it was easier to walk than move my car. So, I walked down the street, pausing at every couple of homes to look at the house numbers. I eventually arrived at the correct location without being stopped by the police.

Surprised? Me neither. After all, I hardly fit the stereotypical description of a thief, although that isn’t dispositive of whether I actually was a “threat” to the neighborhood.

I’m sure everyone has heard about the Trayvon Martin shooting – the African-American teenager who was shot and killed by neighborhood watch vigilante George Zimmerman. Recently, a flurry of media attention focused on Zimmerman’s self-defense claim, alleging that Trayvon had attacked him. Zimmerman’s friends and family have been quick to support his version of events, attempting to paint a sentimental portrait of a man who cried about killing Trayvon.

The flood of reports about the Martin case has distracted the public from the simple fact that a young, unarmed African-American teenager was targeted and killed by an armed vigilante who chose to pursue the teen. Zimmerman had no right to target and follow Trayvon. In doing so, Zimmerman broke the local neighborhood watch rules.[1] Zimmerman illegally chose to take the law into his own hands, and as a result of his actions, a young man’s life was taken.

In his 911 call, Zimmerman’s own statements illustrate that his actions were motivated by racist stereotypes and a desire to take the law into his own hands. In an oddly calm voice, Zimmerman tells the operator, “This guy looks like he is up to no good, or he’s on drugs or something. It’s raining, and he’s just walking around, looking about.  . . .  looking at all the houses  . . . He’s got a hand in his waist band, [pause] and he’s a black male. . . .” During the beginning of the call, Zimmerman had already reported Trayvon’s race to the operator, so it was unnecessary for him to stress it again. Zimmerman also added, “He’s got something in his hands. I don’t know what his deal is.”[2]

That “something in his hands” was only a bag of Skittles and a bottle of Arizona Iced Tea. Trayvon had been returning to his father’s home after a trip to a local convenience store.

Near the end of the call, Zimmerman expressed his first signs of emotion, stating, “These guys, they always get away.” He then exclaimed, “[Expletive], he’s running!” The operator warned Zimmerman not to follow him, but Zimmerman ignored the warning. After all, he wasn’t about to let another one of “these guys” get away.

The above exchange illustrates why we have laws against vigilantism. Zimmerman was not a trained law enforcement officer. By trying to take the law into his own hands, he killed an innocent teenager. Zimmerman chose to leave his vehicle to chase Trayvon, against the operator’s advice. Trayvon had every right to walk through his father’s neighborhood without being harassed or pursued, and he had a right to protect himself from Zimmerman.

Moreover, new evidence has surfaced that rebuts Zimmerman’s self-defense claim. Zimmerman’s attorney claimed that Zimmerman was hurt defending himself, resulting in a broken nose and a gash on his head. However, a video of Zimmerman, taken at the police station shortly after the altercation, shows Zimmerman walking into the station. His attorney claims that the video is too grainy to see Zimmerman’s injuries and that his red jacket hid blood stains. He also pointed out that Zimmerman had been cleaned-up and given first aid treatment before being taken to the police station. However, the video is clear enough to show that he doesn’t have blood stains on his grey shirt, face, or head. He does not appear to have a gash on his head, as he originally claimed. More importantly, he’s able to walk without trouble into the police station, which is impressive for someone who allegedly had his head smashed against a sidewalk repeatedly. If Zimmerman was injured as badly as his attorney claims, why was he only given first aid instead of being immediately transported to the hospital? However, he did not go to the hospital.

A statement from Richard Kurtz, the funeral director[3] who prepared Martin’s body, further disputes Zimmerman’s allegation that Trayvon attacked him. Kurtz stated, “The only thing that I was able to see was the gunshot wound. I could not see evidence like he had been punching somebody as the news media say he was punching … It just did not add up to me.”

Zimmerman should have been arrested and placed in jail. Chasing down another individual is provocation, not self-defense. I firmly believe that if the victim had been white, manslaughter charges would have been filed by now. So why should Trayvon be deprived of justice?

[2] The City of Sanford has posted an audio recording of the full conversation on its website.

[3] It should be noted that Kurtz was not the forensic medical examiner.

One thought on “Blatant Racism

  1. Great Article Fatima!
    I firmly agree with you that if this was a white teenager, this would have resulted in Zimmerman being put away for years. Sadly, I think there are many people like Zimmerman, a small hateful minority of people who choose to stay in their warped reality and refuse to accept the fact that people from all races, religions and culture have more in common with them than they think. That is not the measure of this country. The measure of this country should be what we do when this happens. How do we take steps to reduce crimes based on hate, racism, intolerance? First thing I would do is try Zimmerman. It is very important for millions of people, especially young ones, to understand this should never go unpunished. Second, let’s start a debate about racially motivated crimes. Let’s start talking in schools, community halls, colleges, law school, about hate crimes, about widespread racism in our justice system, about mandatory minimums that considers certain drugs to be more dangerous than other drugs for no other reason than the skin color of the user/seller.

    This tragic shooting is a symptom to a bigger problem we’re facing in this country today.

    The easiest thing to do is just get discouraged and wait for the older generation (that is typically has more inclinations towards racism and intolerance) to die out. Many people I know down here has a parent, grandparent, loopy great uncle of what have you that still holds on to some ignorant beliefs about people from different countries, cultures, races. The problem is that it’s not just them. In these times of economic downturns where many are out of a job, not making mortgage or rent payments, all these external pressures drive us to turn on each other. This happens again and again throughout history.

    As far as I’m concerned we are all just shooting ourselves in the foot by turning on each other. It absolutely serves no purpose to put all our anger and blame onto other groups in the society. Sadly these times affected us all and we can either sink or swim together. This country is a lot more codependent than people realize.

    I couldn’t attend the vigil held by the Phoenix School of Law this past monday. I dont know if ASU is organizing one but I hope they will. We cant fight this injustice sitting idly by and doing nothing. We can sign petitions, we can hold vigils, we can make people hear us. We have a voice.

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