George Zimmerman, Trayvon Martin, and the Way of the Gun

No, that's the rapper Game, in a crass, racist email in circulation since the shooting
No, that's the rapper Game, in a crass, racist email in circulation since the shooting

The recent acquittal of George Zimmerman in the death of Trayvon Martin is of particular relevance to Arizona.

In many ways, Florida is as racist and as gun crazy as Arizona, though here in Sand Land, the divide is Latino/Anglo more than anything else.

Like a lot of folks, I've been perplexed by Florida State Attorney Angela Corey's statement following the not-guilty verdict that, "This case has never been about race or the right to bear arms."

Of course, she's dead wrong.

What the entire country knows, is that the Zimmerman/Martin case always has been about race and guns.

I mean, is anyone really surprised that an almost all white jury of six women in the state of Florida, a state that was part of the Confederacy during the Civil War, didn't side with a black teenager wearing a hoodie?

Please.

See Also: Harold Fish, Grant Kuenzli and the Right to Kill Roger Garfield Released From Prison and Granted New Trial Based on Change in Self-Defense Law Justice for Trayvon Martin Rally Tonight in Phoenix

True, Zimmerman, 29, is half-Hispanic, as his mom is from Peru.

So if Zimmerman profiled Martin, it's no small irony that in Arizona, the neighborhood watch volunteer would be at risk for being stopped by the cops.

You know, for "driving while brown."

Still, there is the reality that race affects how people are charged and convicted in this country. And blacks get the worst of it.

Stats are not hard to come by.

 

For instance, according to the DC-based research and advocacy group the Sentencing Project, "Black males have a 32% chance of serving time in prison at some point in their lives; Hispanic males have a 17% chance; white males have a 6% chance."

The same group reports that, "38% of people in state or federal prisons were Black, 34% were white, and 23% were Hispanic in 2011."

This, though African-Americans currently make up about 13 percent of the U.S. population; non-Latino whites, 63 percent.

The Center for American Progress notes that one in three black men can expect to go to prison during their lifetimes.

And last year, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, the University of Chicago and Harvard University released a study, confirming the existence of racial bias in sentencing.

For most, the disparities in how different races and ethnicities are treated by law enforcement and the justice system are intuitive.

Along these lines, I'm fond of an observation from comedian D.L. Hughley:

"Everyone wants to be black till the cops roll up."

As the Zimmerman trial was under way, someone forwarded me a now-infamous chain email, featuring a photo of the rapper Game, alleging the photo was Trayvon Martin, though Game is much older, and muscular.

The anonymous author claimed Martin was not the sweet-smiling kid in images offered by the media, but a menacing "thug" as personified by Game.

Kinda ridiculous if you're the least bit informed about hip-hop. Still, the email was so persuasive that more than one media outlet had to take time to debunk it.

This is what a lot of scared white folks wanted to see in Martin. The kid's minor scrapes with authority became, in their minds, the reason why he deserved his fate.

Never mind Zimmerman's own scrapes with the law -- as an adult.

I guess you could call the Game email "online profiling," similar to the street-level profiling Zimmerman was accused of, and the profiling, proved in federal court, that the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office is guilty of.

Then there's the issue of guns.

Here in Arizona, the law makes it a little too easy to kill and claim self-defense, as the burden's on the prosecution to prove otherwise.

At least Zimmerman had some injuries, a bloody nose and lacerations on the back of his head.

 

In two high-profile, Arizona examples of supposed self-defense, those of Roger Garfierld and Harold Fish, there was nothing of the kind.

In both cases, all parties were white. Fish and Garfield each felt their lives were threatened because another man was advancing on them. Both of the men they shot and killed were homeless.

Arizona law favors the slayers. Fish's conviction was thrown out, after the state legislature changed the law to help him. He was not retried.

Garfield's conviction was also thrown out. A new trial is pending.

What bothers me is the extent to which the law gives a kind of license to frightened white guys who're willing to plug someone so they can avoid fisticuffs

I believe -- or at least I hope -- that most of us do not want to live in some comic-book version of the Old West, where everyone has a gun on their hips, ready to kill at the drop of a hat.

But the NRA, the far right, and gun nuts everywhere do want that.

Unsurprisingly, their blood-drenched fantasies do not include minorities wielding a weapon in self-defense.

Perhaps everyone in benighted states such as ours should carry a piece.

And if you're frightened by someone approaching you, make sure your shots are fatal, thereby eliminating one potential witness.

That's the distasteful message the cowardly gun crazies are telegraphing.

Not the way I plan to live. But wherever the barrel-lickers are ascendant, the way of the gun and the law of the jungle are triumphant.

Such as in Arizona and Florida.

And elsewhere in the U.S. of A.


Sponsor Content

Newsletters

All-access pass to top stories, events and offers around town.

Sign Up >

No Thanks!

Remind Me Later >