Friday, July 12, 2013

In Pictures: Trayvon Martin Photoshopped as White, George Zimmerman as Black -- Did Race Shape Your Opinion?

I have been very quiet at this blog on the George Zimmerman trial because it feels more like the defense has been prosecuting Trayvon Martin than defending George Zimmerman. It's been painful to hear and watch, especially for those of us who have black sons and perceive that what's being said is "all young black men are dangerous criminals."

Nevertheless, I had to share this picture which I saw on Twitter. It shows a picture of Trayvon Martin photoshopped to look white beside a picture of Zimmerman photoshopped to look black. The photo has been around since last year, but I didn't come across it until now. It asks in graphics a question that's been around since this story broke in the news last spring: "What if Trayvon Martin had been white and Zimmerman had been black?" My answer to that is that if Trayvon Martin had been white, then Zimmerman would have at least been arrested within 24 hours of the shooting and the police would not have been so willing to believe it was simply a case of self-defense.

But who do I blame most for the death of Trayvon Martin? I blame the state legislature of Florida for passing loose handgun laws and crazy self-defense laws that make it possible for someone to follow a person, shoot that person, and claim self-defense. I don't care who threw the first punch. I think that if you are following a stranger, especially after the police told you to stand down, then you are the person who started the trouble, and you are the person at fault for putting the person you followed in the challenging position of making decisions while in a scary situation.

On imagining how we might feel if the races of the parties involved could be switched, I think race matters here and anyone who claims that it doesn't make a difference in this case is blind. George Zimmerman's repeated 911 phone calls about African-American males combined with his statement that "they always get away," makes it clear he was not simply on the look-out for all strangers; he was on the look-out for black strangers. I think that many of the pro-Zimmerman people out there that I've observed on Twitter and commenting on the case at news sites are not seeking justice for Zimmerman. They are seeking absolution for themselves.

I think many of these pro-Zimmerman people believe in their hearts that all black people, except the ones they know amicably, are criminal by nature and deserved to be punished, which means that if they hear that a black person has been accused of a crime, they are more likely to assume the black person is guilty. If that were not the true, then why have so many of them been intent on painting Trayvon Martin as a criminal? I think many of them are looking for a way to exonerate themselves and justify their own racist thinking. Perhaps they want the right to shoot black men first and ask questions later.

But what they should be thinking about is this: what if they had been the one Zimmerman followed? If they had been fearful when he came close to them and he had tried to apprehend them, would they have calmly let him do so? What were Trayvon Martin's rights? Must we all now be subject to other people who on a whim decide to stop us because they don't like the way we look?

It's one thing to argue that the prosecution did not prove its case; it's another to argue that Trayvon Martin was a criminal.

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