Trayvon Martin & Racism Today

George_Zimmerman_leaves_court_with_his_familyOn February 26th, 2012, Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by George Zimmerman in Sanford, Florida. Thus began the latest example of a race-based media narrative in modern times. While the slaying was tragic in and of itself (no matter the circumstances, the death of a seventeen-year-old is sad), what was astounding about the case was the amount of attention it received, and beyond that, why it received that attention. Ever since the Civil Rights movement in the 1960’s, racism has become obsolete as a rational way of thought for civilized people. American society as a whole has moved on. Yet despite this fact, time and again the media tries to demonstrate how progressive it is by decrying racism whenever there might be the hint of a chance of it sticking.

First of all, without actually sitting in the courtroom of the trial, it is impossible to know as many of the relevant facts of the case as can be known. Understanding this, but plunging gamely on, pundits looked at the end result and attempted to create a story out of it. The deed looks like it could be racially-influenced, and, boy, wouldn’t that be a huge wake up call to all those head-in-the-sand conservatives who act like they can’t see their own racial prejudice? But the actual facts of the case couldn’t possibly be relevant, could they? Actually, the reason trials are held is to ensure that the judicial process is as objective as possible, so it would seem that already any media narrative that exists outside of the courtroom would already be extraneous and misleading.

Second, doesn’t the uniqueness of this episode belie the media narrative by dint of how singular it was? If the Trayvon Martin case is truly emblematic of continuing racial problems in America, then this sort of thing ought to happen a bit more often. When a black teen is shot dead in the South on tenuous grounds, that would make a “To Kill A Mockingbird”-style story that exposes the rampant latent racism in the area automatically, right? Except for the fact that everyone is so surprised that it even happened.

Third, it should be shameful how the media pirated this story to make it something it wasn’t. It was a murder case, pure and simple. Race wasn’t allowed to be brought up inside the courtroom. Yet, the populace was constantly reminded that a BLACK teen was killed by a WHITE-looking man. How dumb does MSNBC think we are? Anyone would know that there was clearly more to this story than just those facts, and even if there weren’t the issue would still have to be tried in court. This is America and Wolf Blitzer doesn’t settle legal matters. It is simply yellow journalism reminiscent of William Randolph Hearst and any attempt by the media to add something to this story that wasn’t there should have been treated with extreme suspicion.

Fourth, at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter what the average American thinks; he wasn’t one of the jurors. (In fact, there were no “he’s” on the jury; it was, in true progressive fashion, all-female.) Basically, if you weren’t sitting in the jury box, you weren’t part of the judicial process. I have no earthly idea why this is so hard to understand. There is a court of public opinion, and, with no access to the court room, it has been solely responsible for destroying reputations and livelihoods for generations. It is time the media stops encouraging this behavior in society and simply acknowledges that sometimes it doesn’t matter what their opinion is.

While the story of Trayvon Martin’s death is certainly not a high point for American culture, if all of the race bias is removed, it is put into perspective. If the court of public opinion finds George Zimmerman to be racist, it becomes all the more important for the justice system to run its course and do what it is meant to do: render a verdict based solely on the objective facts of the case as presented by the plaintiff and the defense. And as far as it can be known, this is what happened. In the eternal words of Ferris Bueller: “The movie’s over now. Go home.”

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