There are many assumptions being made about the Trayvon Martin case. Many groups have sprung into action at his death, calling it a “hate crime,” a product of “racial profiling” or the “stand your ground” law.That a young man who may not have done anything wrong was killed is tragic, but what is truly disgusting to his memory is the fact that people in our country are using his death to advance their own political or social causes. They are exploiting this young man to aid their own goals.
The “stand your ground” law has absolutely no bearing on the Trayvon Martin case. The “Stand Your Ground” law in Florida states “a person is justified in the use of deadly force” if “He or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony,” (Florida Statutes, Section 776.012).
If George Zimmerman did in fact follow Trayvon with no particular reason and then attack him, without due cause or proof that Trayvon was a danger to anyone else, the “Stand Your Ground”law does not protect him. If George Zimmerman was not at fault and Trayvon attacked him, then the “Stand Your Ground” law would rightfully protect a citizen’s right to self-defense.
Despite what many are claiming, the “stand your ground” law is no new concept. I fact, it has been around for quite a while. In the Supreme Court case of Beard v. United States in 1895, the Justice John Harlan wrote that the victim, Beard, “was not obliged to retreat, nor to consider whether he could safely retreat, but was entitled to stand his ground, and meet any attack upon him with a deadly weapon, in such a way and with such force as, under all the circumstances, he, at the moment, honestly believed, and had reasonable grounds to believe, were necessary to save his own life, or to protect himself from great bodily injury,” ( Beard v. United States, 158 U. S. 550, 562 (1895).There has also been a lot of media attention to the claims that this is a case of racial profiling, some even going so far as to declare it a hate crime.
“I, personally, really truly believe this is a hate crime,” said California Representative Maxine Waters. The Reverend Jesse Jackson went so far as to say that Trayvon’s case shows that “Blacks are under attack.”
These extreme statements that are being made without any actual proof are just putting fuel on a fire of race relations in this country. This predisposition to jump to conclusions is both dangerous and ignorant.
“The Today Show” on NBC rather inventively edited the audio of the phone conversation between Zimmerman and the police dispatcher. In the audio clip that was played on the show Zimmerman said, “This guy looks like he’s up to no good. He looks black.” This makes it seem as if to Zimmerman the two facts are intrinsically connected. However, this sound bite edited out important parts of the conversation between Zimmerman and the police dispatcher. This sound bite does not accurately represent Zimmerman’s words in the least. In the actual phone conversation between Zimmerman and the police dispatcher Zimmerman said, “This guy looks like he’s up to no good. Or he’s on drugs or something. It’s raining and he’s just walking around, looking about.” After which the dispatcher asked him, “OK, and this guy — is he black, white or Hispanic?” Zimmerman replied , “He looks black.” In the real conversation Zimmerman did not even mention Trayvon’s race until the police dispatcher explicitly asked Zimmerman about Trayvon’s race.
Whatever you feel about Zimmerman, what NBC did was wrong. It was unethical reporting and inaccurately represented the truth to the millions of viewers who watch “The Today show.” NBC issued a statement that apologized for the editing, but did not recant the editing on the Today show. That might actually have righted NBC’s mistake by reaching the viewers it effectively misled.
It is really good that the media is giving attention to this death and making the police accountable for getting to the bottom of the incident. But that is where they must stop. If Zimmerman is guilty, there should be no need to manipulate information to make it seem so.
The simple truth about the Trayvon Martin case is that we do not know the truth of the case. Whatever went down between Zimmerman and Trayvon, we simply don’t have enough information to piece it together at this time. It is ridiculous and wrong to call something a hate crime or any other crime when we are only getting tiny bits of the information that the police have, and that is filtered through the media, which in this case seems to have a specific bias. We have a very novel and important idea in America that says that a person is innocent until proven guilty. If Zimmerman is guilty without any questionable doubt, he will end up in jail, where he would deserve to be. Until more information is public, it is not for us to make assumptions and try to decide what happened.