Tonawanda News

Columns

July 10, 2013

DUVALL: In Martin case, one black and white question

Tonawanda News — The prosecution has rested in the second-degree murder trial of George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer — some would say the neighborhood watch vigilante — who shot and killed an unarmed black teenager, Trayvon Martin, last year.

It’s a case fraught with racial overtones, ones I can’t even begin to unwrap. 

After a tenuous case against Zimmerman from prosecutors and several setbacks in witness testimony, the specter of an acquittal and all the questions it brings — would someone get away with shooting an unarmed white teenager? — hangs over Florida like the suffocating summer humidity.

A line from a song by a white rapper, Macklemore, keeps running through my head as I try to sort out this case: “Don’t even want to tweet RIP Trayvon Martin/Don’t want to be that white dude Million Man Marching.”

Is this even my fight? It’s a question that should have an easy answer: Yes, equal justice is everyone’s fight. 

But it doesn’t feel so easy. “White privilege, white guilt/at the same damn time,” Macklemore concludes in evaluating why we ask ourselves why we even ask the question.

If I can’t unpack the racial element with any lucidity, the least I can do is evaluate the facts of the case.

George Zimmerman had called police frequently to report suspicious things in his neighborhood. He was a wanna-be cop who washed out of the police academy and patrolled his gated community with the gusto of a mall cop on a power trip.

The call about Trayvon Martin was the fifth such he’d made about suspicious black males in his neighborhood. 

Each time he mentioned to the police the individuals he suspected of criminal intent were black.

He ignored a dispatcher’s advice not to pursue Martin himself and let police come do the work. He told the dispatcher he was going after Martin because these guys always “get away.”

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