For as long as the Trayvon Martin story has been in the news, the mindset of those feverishly trying to defend George Zimmerman has been fascinating to me. And for a while, I had trouble coming up with a parallel. But earlier this week, I think I managed to come up with what it reminds me of. It reminds me of how so many folks clung to a belief that OJ Simpson was totally innocent of the murders of his ex-wife and her boyfriend, no matter how much evidence began piling up against it.
Most readers of this blog aren’t under any illusions as to what happened that night in Sanford. George Zimmerman, a ridiculously overzealous “block watchman” who’d called 9-1-1 dozens of times, sees Martin walking back from the local 7-11 and finds him suspicious. What happens next is abundantly clear from both Zimmerman’s 9-1-1 call to police and Martin’s brief conversation with a friend back home. Zimmerman, who’s armed with a firearm, confronts Martin. Martin, likely already in fear for his life, tries to defend himself. But he’s armed with nothing but candy and iced tea – and as a result, Zimmerman is able to shoot him dead.
The common thread between both the OJ dead-enders and the crackpots bending over backwards to absolve Zimmerman of any blame is a strong desire to believe the counter-narrative. With the OJ case, so many people wanted to believe that this was about crooked law enforcement and not the murder of two innocent people. And with the Trayvon Martin case, many people want to believe that this is about criminality in the black community and not the senseless murder of an innocent teen. But the reality with both cases is that neither narrative is relevant. The only thing that really matters is that innocent people were killed and the families involved have the right to demand justice.
It’s an unspeakable outrage that George Zimmerman hasn’t been arrested yet. And sadly, I worry that even if he does get arrested, not enough was done by the police to collect enough evidence to convict him. When OJ was acquitted, I was in the student union building in Ann Arbor watching it on TV. Dozens of African-American students celebrated in what I found to be a somewhat disturbing display. And yet, I’m almost bracing myself for the same thing should George Zimmerman stand trial and beat that murder charge. Those who believe that killing the innocent is acceptable within the shadow of some other perceived injustice will celebrate. And America will die a little bit again.