Monday, March 26, 2012

Trayvon Martin - details coming too late

It is the way it is. It seems to have taken the news media excruciatingly long to develop this story. By the time all the details are presented - the public will have made up its mind with little chance of changing it. We are often influenced by the initial headlines leading to misperception of the event.

Now we are being told that the shooter said that Martin was going for the shooter's gun. "George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch crime captain who shot dead 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, originally told police in a written statement that Martin knocked him down with a punch to the nose, repeatedly slammed his head on the ground and tried to take his gun, a police source told ABC News." [ABC/Yahoo! News].

It is not clear what is to be inferred from this statement. Arguably had Martin got a hold of it and shot him - it would have been self defense. It is just as reasonable to cast the shooter as the aggressor, and therefore, morally and legally wrong.

Much of shooting story has been obscured by the remarks like that from Geraldo Rivera about the 'crime' of wearing a hoodie. It was a remark much like blaming women for rape because of the clothes they were wearing. A person that suffers a violent crime should never be blamed. Of course there are exceptions, but violence against another is rarely excusable.

But arguably neither should race become a factor in a violent act unless it can be shown that it is causative factor.  It is a factor of life still that where there is violence and one person is white and the other is black - the assumption is that it is race based violence. It may still be the case in Trayvon Martin's case - but it is far from clear even as more 'facts' become known.

Of course the history of racial bias in the US still leads the media and others in the direction of seeking to find it in every incident between races. The hearing of a racial slur in the audio of the Martin shooter's 911 call is just an example. Listen to the call - it doesn't exist.

And it hasn't served the public well by the alleged police procedural errors in failing to arrest the shooter. I would have found it more enlightening to know the crime situation in that neighborhood that apparently felt it had to have a watch captain. And why was he carrying a weapon.

Yes - arguably the shooter had a legal right to carry a gun - but that doesn't necessary justify its use or even its carrying. In this case it seems its availability inevitably led to its use however justifiable or not.

Self-defense implies a fear of great bodily harm. One wonders - would he have confronted the teenager had he not had the gun? Yet - the shooter by electing to confront Martin put himself in the position of letting his fear and perception dominate his decision making. It is why we have trained police officers.

Here were two people in a rainy night that didn't know each other and one was apparently following the other because "these assholes always get away?" [See my post.] It may not be race based but one must question why the shooter was following Martin that night? There appears thus far no probable cause for the shooter to suspect Martin of anything except that what wearing a hoodie and sweatpants conveyed to the shooter.

The shooter might have not been racially prejudiced, but he apparently had preconceived ideas about those walking in his neighborhood. He was apparently in tune with Geraldo Rivera notion about those who wear hoodies. Is Rivera racially biased - not likely.

The story didn't need to have a racial character to it. From what we know it is not too difficult to argue that the circumstances was as set out in a New York Times opinion without the use of the word "black:"  "A self-appointed vigilante, brandishing a deadly weapon, reportedly ignores police directions and assaults an unarmed black 17-year-old, and as a result of this self-instigated confrontation the teenager is killed; the assailant pleads self-defense and may escape prosecution."

In the blog Held to Answer the author posits that fear of criminals was the participating factor. In comparing Martin facts with another similar situation the author states: "Daniel [he was white and not a gang member] was killed by a man [who thought he was protecting his family from gangs] who was afraid.  Trayvon was killed by a man who was afraid. What were the two shooters afraid of? Criminals."

She further notes: "That is an understandable fear, especially if you’ve already been the victim of a crime. Yet race — not crime — has become the dominant issue in Trayvon Martin’s death with protests across the nation."

I am not sure I entirely agree with her arguments in the post - but it does seem that this issue could have been discussed without the race card being played. Would the president have become involved if the Martin was not black? Won't the story play out without it being a white versus black encounter? Given the facts known to date, would it have been wrong if there had been no racial factor in the media coverage, or maybe there would have been no media coverage?

That is exactly the example used in the Held to Answer post. Look - as the facts are known today it appears that the shooter had no knowledge of the race of the person wearing the hoodie. For whatever reason - the shooter put himself in the position of confrontation where he determined that the use of the firearm was necessary.

But we have made up our minds - Martin was shot because he was black. That may well be the real tragedy.

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