The death of 17 year old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida, has sparked controversy across the nation. How did a teen who headed out on foot to buy a drink and candy end up dead on a street in a gated neighborhood where he had come as the guest of a resident?
Yesterday, a reader from out of state called the office to ask, “Are you going to write about this? It breaks my heart.” The reader is white.
Concerns transcended race—at first. What most heard was that a teen was dead, shot by a man in his twenties who was white.
The shooter’s father came forward to correct the record with a statement to The Orlando Sentinel. The paper published excerpts:
“George Zimmerman is Hispanic and grew up in a multiracial family…He would be the last to discriminate for any reason whatsoever ...The media portrayal of George as a racist could not be further from the truth."
Martin’s trip to the store intersected with Zimmerman’s volunteer efforts as neighborhood watchman on the night of Feb. 26. Zimmerman phoned the local police department. A tape of the call has been released:
“Hey, we’ve had some break ins in my neighborhood and there’s a real suspicious guy...the best address I can give you is *******. This guy looks like he’s up to no good—he’s on drugs or something—it’s raining and he’s just walking around, looking about.”
The dispatcher asks if the guy looks “white, black or hispanic.”
“He looks black.”
“Did you see what he was wearing?”
“Yeah, a dark hoodie like a gray hoodie and jeans or sweatpants and white tennis shoes. He’s standing around, just staring. Looking at all the houses.”
The dispatcher asks, “Just walkin’ around the area?”
“Now he’s staring at me.”
The dispatcher and Zimmerman exchanged remarks about the location and then Zimmerman said, “Now he’s coming towards me. He’s got his hands in his waistband. And he’s a black male.”
The next part of the conversation appears to indicate the teen is moving away from Zimmerman who makes a comment, “These ***** always get away.” The audio released by The Orlando Sentinel isn’t clear on what term Zimmerman used at that point.
Then the situation takes a dangerous turn.
The dispatcher asks, “Are you following him?”
“Okay, we don’t need you to do that.”
The audio sounds suggest Zimmerman followed on foot anyway, and then Zimmerman said, “He ran.” The audio also suggests Zimmerman was moving quickly because his breathing pattern changes noticeably for a brief period. As the call ends, however, Zimmerman appears to have slowed down and agrees to meet with the officer who is on the way to the scene.
The night’s events ended with a confrontation between Zimmerman and the teen, with Zimmerman reportedly bearing some injuries and the teen shot dead.
An article published the day after Zimmerman shot Martin quoted a witness who saw part of what happened between Martin and Zimmerman. That witness told police: “And then, when I got upstairs and looked down, the guy who was on the top beating up the other guy, was the one laying in the grass, and I believe he was dead at that point."
There is no doubt the community and others across Florida demanded a more thorough investigation, because calls for that began as soon as news of the event began to surface. Those calls came from all quarters, from conservatives and Leftists, from blacks and whites.
Gov. Rick Scott has subsequently taken steps that include a special task force, an investigation by the Florida Dept. of Law Enforcement and the appointment of a special prosecutor, state attorney Angela Corey of Jacksonville.
The U.S. Dept. of Justice is also investigating.
The case has also attracted the attention of opportunists like Al Sharpton and kindled racial tensions as a result. Sharpton has a questionable track record, having injected himself into cases involving false accusations based on racist claims.
Based on what is actually known officially at this point, Zimmerman’s actions appear to have been partly grounded in a tendency to pay overzealous attention to strangers in his neighborhood, as well as an unwillingness to follow the dispatcher’s suggestion that he not follow Martin. Zimmerman has been depicted in some accounts as “a wannabe cop” who frequently called 911 to report suspicious people.
Was the neighborhood troubled by crimes committed by strangers? Little has been reported about why Zimmerman felt compelled on a rainy night to patrol the streets where he lived.
It doesn’t take long to do a search of the Web to find horrible crimes committed by one race against its own or against others.
One case that drew Internet interest but that was downplayed by national media was the carjacking, kidnapping, rape, torture and murder of two young people in their 20s in Tennessee in 2007. The two victims were dealt with so brutally it is almost impossible to comprehend.
The Tennessee victims were white. Their attackers were black. None of the acts were alleged as hate crimes. Wikipedia has a well-sourced account of the crime. Justice was eventually served in 2011.
In areas like Chicago, gangs routinely kill innocent people, often of a different race than their own.
At a press conference on Friday, President Barack Obama expressed sympathy for the family, but his final remarks drew attention for racial overtones. Obama said, “If I had a son, he would have looked like Trayvon.”
Both the teen’s parents appear to be black. Martin’s features bore no resemblance to Obama’s facial features and the president’s complexion is different than the teen's.
Dismissing an opportunity for leadership, Obama did not call for calm nor call attention to Martin’s value as a human being.
Meanwhile political opportunists like the Nation of Islam’s Louis Farrakhan bordered on the Leftist standard regarding extreme rhetoric when he said, “Soon the law of retaliation may very well be applied.”
Several leftwing pundits became completely irrational, introducing politics by blaming Republicans.
Do those pundits hold Democrats responsible for the ongoing abundance of killings by one race against another in cities like Chicago where the Left holds power? Do those pundits hold Democrats responsible for flash mobs who randomly attack anyone of a different race?
Pundits interested in politicizing death and opportunists seeking the limelight to boost their platforms run the risk of inciting violence to others. Students opting for walkouts in Miami high schools would be better served by attending to their education and permitting state authorities to fulfill their commitment to a valid investigation.
In the death of a teen and ensuing public unrest, Florida’s governor chose to lead. Our president missed the opportunity.
[Commentary by Kay B. Day; follow Day on Twitter @TheUSReport.]