Emotions tend to muddy the waters of clear and neutral opinion, and in a case like the acquittal of George Zimmerman, emotions are running at a fever-pitch on both sides of the aisle. So I took a few days to really mull this case over; to sit down and really consider it from every angle, before trying to wrap my head around writing an article about it. And no matter how much I try to view this case without bias, or anger, or sadness, I find myself realizing it simply can't be done. George Zimmerman is guilty. And thus far, no one has been able to explain to me how he was "defending himself." The way I see it, it was Trayvon Martin, NOT Zimmerman, who was "standing his ground."
Strip from this case every notion of race and American gun politics, for those very select few of you who are honestly capable of doing that. Think of George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin as gray unisex humans, both wearing white t-shirts and blue jeans. When you consider the case in this fashion, this is about as clear-cut as murder gets. And it becomes obvious that it was Martin, not Zimmerman, who was defending himself.
Let's look at the chain of events, as has been well-established by an endless media storm, by courtroom evidence, and by witness testimonies. Martin was heading to his dad's fiancé's home from the store, after buying Skittles and an Iced Tea. Zimmerman was out running errands, in his car. Zimmerman then spots Martin, and while Martin had committed no crime, Zimmerman assumed he was up to no good. Zimmerman then calls 911, even though Martin had done nothing wrong, and proceeds to follow Martin around, even getting out of his car to pursue on foot. This means Zimmerman made a conscious decision to escalate this situation... and this wouldn't be the last time he'd do that, either.
Zimmerman is following Martin on foot. Martin, seemingly afraid that some guy is following him, decides to run for safety. Zimmerman then decides to chase Martin, regardless of the fact that a 911 operator told him that they "don't need you to do that." We know from the young woman Martin was on the phone with that Zimmerman caught up with Martin, grabbed him, and instigated an altercation with Martin.
This is where the case gets really convoluted. Martin is defending himself against Zimmerman, and puts up a major fight. Zimmerman finds himself on the losing end of that melee, and, according to him, is being handedly beaten by the younger Martin. This is when Zimmerman decides to pull out a firearm and shoot Martin dead.
These are the cold, hard facts of what happened, and are undisputed by anyone whose followed this case. But to hear some people tell it, Martin was the one hunting and stalking after Zimmerman. Some try to say Martin was the one provoking this incident from the word go. Of course, this clearly isn't true. Martin didn't even know Zimmerman existed prior to his being hunted by him.
President Obama and a wide array of black community leaders have been blamed for injecting race into the story, but the truth is, it's Zimmerman's supporters who did that from day one. That's because it is impossible to defend George Zimmerman's actions without first nodding to ignorant, oftentimes racist assertions about why Zimmerman did what he did, and why he was justified.
George Zimmerman has his fair share of fans. While a majority of Americans believe he's guilty, a sizable minority thinks he's innocent. When you ask them why Zimmerman is innocent in their eyes, they'll tell you Martin was beating him up. What they fail to mention, ten times out of ten, is that Zimmerman is the one who started that fight. Zimmerman stalked after Martin, cornered him, confronted him, and tried grabbing him, even though Martin never committed a crime. But that doesn't matter to Zimmerman supporters. All that matters to them is that Martin was winning the fight, even though Zimmerman started it, and because of that fact alone, Zimmerman had every right to defend himself.
You hear all sorts of justifications from Zimmerman supporters, and they all come across as incredibly racist and/ or socially ignorant. "He was dressed like a thug, of course people were going to think he was a criminal (and if I wanted to score crystal meth, could I assume every white person wearing a tank top is selling it, since we're dealing in stereotypes?)." "Martin had a criminal record (he didn't, but Zimmerman did), and was probably casing the joint (there's zero evidence supporting this theory)." "Blacks are more inclined toward crime statistically (a racist and statistically-ignorant statement)."
I've yet to hear anyone make a reasonable, fair, completely non-bias case for why George Zimmerman is innocent, or how he was defending himself. And believe me, I've been trying to find one. I've asked Zimmerman supporters I've spoken with, I've tried scouring the web for a pro-Zimmerman article... thus far, every pro-Zimmerman statement I've heard was either racist, ignorant of the facts, or some combination thereof.
Zimmerman chose to pursue Martin, despite his having committed no crimes, and start a fight. He was losing that fight, and shot Martin. The prosecution set the bar too high for the legal fight, but that doesn't change the fact that Zimmerman shot and killed someone who was minding his own business, in an altercation that never should have happened to begin with (at best, he should've waited for police to arrive). I would love nothing more than for this tragic event to open a serious national dialog on contemporary race issues, gun violence, and more. But we can't have that debate until both sides get serious, grow up, and accept culpability when they know full-well they're in the wrong. Maybe someone will leave a comment below explaining how I'm wrong about this... but if I were you, I wouldn't hold my breath.