Sunday, April 01, 2012

Complicating Factors

Disgraced human Bill Bennett was, for inexplicable reasons, given space on CNN's front page to urge us not to "rush to judgment" in the Trayvon Martin cases. The facts are more "complex" than they appear. We all need to sit back and let the system take its course.

First of all -- and I can't stress this enough -- the controversy here is not that George Zimmerman has not yet been put in the electric chair. It is not that people are impatient with the "process". It's that the process seems to have, from the start, shown a marked disinterest in the death of a young Black man and all too ready to assume that "he had it coming". We can't be patient for the "process" to work itself out because the "process" never really started. Zimmerman wasn't given a drug or alcohol test (but Martin sure was). The police just took Zimmerman's word that he had a clean record, just as they took his word that he shot in self-defense. Virtually all of the numerous, numerous inconsistencies in Zimmerman's story have emerged not because of diligent police work, but because of media pressure trying to fill in the gaps left by an apathetic police force.

But second, nearly all of Bennett's "complicating factors" -- aren't. Whether or not Martin was suspended for drug possession or truancy is entirely immaterial to any relevant fact in this case. It doesn't demonstrate any propensity towards violence, doesn't make him into a "bad guy", and certainly doesn't mean he's worthy of death. Honestly -- if you attended college you know people who have used drugs; and unless you think of them as basically one toke away from a psycho murder binge, then I don't want to hear about Martin's alleged possession of marijuana.

Most outrageous is the hay Bennett is trying to make over Zimmerman's apparent registration as a Democrat. So what? Are the predominantly liberal advocates for justice in this case supposed to say "whoops, he's one of us -- I guess it was all alright?" Just how cynical is Bennett anyway? Could there be a starker example of how Republicans view racial issues in America -- literally, they can't fathom why Democrats would care about a potentially race-motivated homicide if they can't find an immediate political advantage? What message would it send if Democrats stopped caring? Martin's slaying isn't outrageous because "ewww, only a Republican could be so racist." It's outrageous because a young, almost certainly innocent Black man was killed for seemingly no other reason than that his Blackness rendered him suspicious. And admittedly, the GOP's sudden "soft on crime" conversion when it looks like the crime has a racial element isn't helping them amongst the Black community, I suspect. But Zimmerman's own political identification is irrelevant.

What's immediately relevant is the indifference the Sanford police displayed towards Martin's life. And what's secondarily relevant is how public figures view this travesty -- as an occasion to call for reform, or as a political threat that necessitates slandering the reputation of a dead child. If Bennett is wondering why conservatives are so often pounded on the subject of race, it's because they often deserve to be.

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