I'm Too Tired To Discuss Duck Dynasty, So Let's Bring Up Trayvon Martin

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 14.472% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

A while back, I discussed how Twitter twisted world views of Trayvon Martin, presenting customized versions of the world depending on what your friends were like.  My Twitter-feed, f’rinstance, consisted of tales of how badly the defense was doing and how clear it was that George Zimmerman would be convicted.
And after I said, “I hope George Zimmerman is convicted,” an LJ-friend replied:

So you admit your information comes from The Daily Show and an overtly biased Twitter feed, yet you have presupposed the ‘correct’ outcome.
You, sir, are part of the problem.

Which I thought about for a good long time.  For I could be a part of the problem.
Except that my biased Twitter feed linked directly to the coroner’s report, which I read in full, and several transcripts of various testimonies.  Now, admittedly, I did not watch the case with the full attention of, say, a juror, and it’s possible some damning evidence in Zimmerman’s favor slipped through the loop.
But my very point in that essay was that when you have a biased Twitter-feed, you need to compensate.  Which I tried to do so, by skimming the more morally-superior essays and drilling down to what facts were presented.  In short: I compensated.
And what I saw from that evidence was a man who was not irredeemable – he was trying to accomplish good – but someone who, as I once described a friend, “Would break a little old lady’s hip in his eagerness to escort her off the street.”  Zimmerman seemed to be acting from fear, not quiet justice, and I do believe from the evidence I saw that he placed himself into a position where he shot Trayvon Martin in, if not cold blood, extremely reptilian-temperatured blood.
Was Zimmerman an active racist?  Hard to say.  But was he the sort of guy who’d automatically jump to “kid in a hoodie in strange neighborhood who refuses to answer questions from a terrified stranger” == “mortal threat”?
I think so.  He was certainly driving around seeking danger.  Maybe he did it because his neighborhood had gone to shit and crime was on the rise, but you know who’s the last guy I want running around my block with a gun?  The guy who’s treating his turf like it’s territory to be defended in a videogame.
So I said that I hope he was convicted.  The man shot a teenager who literally no one has seriously argued was doing anything illegal at the time of the shooting.  That fact left conservatives twisting in the wind, because there were all sorts of arguments of who should be threatened by what, and whether a hoodie should equal suspicion, and brought up all sorts of facts about what Trayvon had done in the past.
But based on what Zimmerman knew as he stepped out of that car, I think he was a danger to innocents, and is a danger.  The only reason he’s not in jail is because the “Stand Your Ground” laws vindicated him – but vindicated in the eyes of the law does mean that someone is safe, unless you’d care to invite OJ Simpson to date your daughter.
And frankly, Zimmerman’s actions since then have done not one iota to contradict the impression I built up from reading those biased articles.
Which is not to say that I couldn’t be wrong.  The accusation leveled against me is serious, and I take it seriously.  It’s too easy to drink the Kool-Aid of whatever social stream you swim in, picking up outrage and narrowing to a sclerotic world view.  Which is why you have to compensate, working hard to see past the obvious to what’s there.  And if you don’t, yes, you become the danger.  You become George Zimmerman, convinced so utterly of his righteousness that he steps out of a car against police advice to start handling problems his own bad self.  And, armed with twisted information, you leave truth dead on the sidewalk.
The distinction my friend failed to make is that yes, I’ve convicted him in my heart.  But I did it based on a fair amount of evidence, and I am not a jury.  The jury acquitted him, and they did so rightfully – based on the box they got shoved into, they had to.
That does not make the laws right, it does not make George Zimmerman a stable man, and it doesn’t make the shooting a good thing.
It does not also make me right.
Now.  Go read the best article you’re going to read on the Trayvon Martin case, a wonderfully balanced take not just about the case but how people reacted, and draw your own conclusions.

1 Comment

  1. Chad Miller
    Dec 20, 2013

    As someone who was sitting at “Zimmerman’s gonna walk”* when you made your last Trayvon post, I agree with you that you are by no means “the problem.” If anything, it’s probably the proper call to refuse to have a strong opinion for as long as you can, precisely because all the information is going to be buried in a sea of incomplete information, knee-jerk reactions, and deliberate misinformation that hasn’t yet been fact-checked. But it’s not wrong (and possibly beneficial) to say “this is my current gut feel” if you tell everyone that’s what you’re doing.
    If I had to propose anyone as “the real problem”, it would be:
    – The racists who instantly assumed Trayvon had what was coming to him
    – The people who edited racist slurs into the 911 call before playing it on TV
    – The prosecutors who engaged in arguably unethical behavior to make an end-run around a grand jury and then fired a whistleblower for pointing it out
    – The people who ignored both of the above because it fit their narrative
    – The people who promulgated the “colored boy” meme** because it fit their narrative of a racist jury
    – The people who agitate to ignore the law entirely, recommending throwing out reasonable doubt altogether, or using jury nullification for convictions, or other dystopian measures, many of which would ironically increase racial disparity, simply because their short-sighted idea might have caught a bad guy this one time.
    * I got most of my detailed info about the trial from lawyers, which were all between “no opinion” and “the prosecution can’t win.” I notice your link (which I hadn’t seen but is also well-stated) was also written by a lawyer.
    ** “Colored boy” didn’t happen. Juror B57 reportedly said “boy of color,” which is at worst an honest mistake given that he was a 17-year-old boy and a person of color, both of which are (as far as I know) perfectly acceptable even in social justice circles. I realize “boy” itself has some connotations, but nowhere near the level of “colored” as an adjective, especially when applied to a minor.

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