George Zimmerman’s acquittal seemed inevitable. After all, testimony was conflicted about every essential element in the confrontation that ended in Trayvon Martin’s death. There were mixed accounts about who thought they saw what in the dark, about whose voice was crying for help, about everything a jury would have had to consider in rendering a verdict.
And, of course, one of the only two people who really knew what happened is dead.
There were too many unknowns for any other verdict, but if Zimmerman was inevitably “not guilty” in the legal sense, he was hardly innocent.
Trayvon Martin did not stalk George Zimmerman. He was not armed. If he initiated the confrontation he may well have been afraid of the man who was following him in the dark. If he was indeed beating Zimmerman he may well have thought he was defending himself. In fact, as it turned out, his life was in danger.
Clearly, if George Zimmerman had not followed Trayvon Martin, if he had done what the police dispatcher had told him to do, Trayvon would be alive.
Besides the tragedy of a young life extinguished, the wider tragedy is the way this case quickly became a template upon which every racial fear wrote its own narrative. To black people, used to being viewed with suspicion, Trayvon became Every Kid, targeted for walking home while black. To too many whites, he became Every Thug, and his minor infractions and Facebook posings were offered as proof of his iniquity, never mind his teacher’s remark that he was “an A and B student”. And while his school records have not been released, that is not particularly relevant; it is not as if C and D students are automatically guilty of anything but mediocre grades.
The wider tragedy is that this is yet another case that brings to the surface the wounds of a society scarred by a history of racism and fear, a case that only claws deeper at those wounds.
Lord have mercy.