Trayvon Martin: The Blaming the Victim Stage

Trayvon Martin was a 17-year-old black teenager who was shot to death by a reputed Neighborhood Watch captain, named George Zimmerman. The fatal shooting, which happened a little over a month ago, has now reached the blame the victim stage. Trayvon’s mother has said that his life was destroyed and now the attempt is being made to destroy his reputation. About the only thing of any substance that has been brought up about Trayvon’s life is the finding of traces of marijuana in his backpack in school; however, that holds no relevance to the claim that he may have attacked Zimmerman. Very recently, a charge has been made that Trayvon swung at a bus driver. That charge seems to rest entirely on an email from a cousin, who made a reference to Trayvon swinging at a bus driver. There  apparently is no report of such an incident being made by a bus driver, nor is there any police report. Trayvon and his cousin may have been playing out a psychodrama without any real substance.

The other attempt to try to discredit Trayvon Martin and perversely try to justify the shooting by Zimmerman, is the circulation of a picture of him in baggy pants, “showing the finger”. The picture is apparently of another black teenager. The only aspect of Trayvon Martin’s history that could be relevant to the claim that he attacked George Zimmerman would have been a record of physically attacking others and such a record does not exist.

The story surfacing very recently is that Martin jumped Zimmerman from the back, toppled him and then drove his face into the pavement repeatedly, breaking his nose and bloodying his face. Allegedly, Trayvon tried to get Zimmerman’s gun from him. This story raises some questions. I don’t recall an initial report of a bloody-faced Zimmerman with a broken nose. Does Zimmerman now have a broken nose? Does his face show signs of bruising?  Two eyewitnesses who saw and heard the shooting from a kitchen window, went outside and saw George Zimmerman with his hands on Trayvon Martin’s back. One of the eyewitnesses said the two were within about ten feet of the prone Martin. Neither noticed anything unusual about Zimmerman, although one eyewitness said it was getting dark and the lighting was not good.

It is hard to believe that George Zimmerman would have allowed Trayvon Martin to get the jump on him. Zimmerman said in his call to the police that the guy he was observing was “up to no good.” Why would he have let someone who was “up to no good” overpower him from the back? Wouldn’t he have kept a wary eye on Trayvon Martin if he was walking away from him? I think I would have kept turning my head in that type of situation.

Supposing that George Zimmerman was somehow able to escape a situation in which he was totally overpowered and even get the upper hand, was it still necessary to shoot to kill his attacker? He had his gun out and Trayvon Martin was unarmed. With the huge advantage he had on Trayvon at that point, did the teenager pose such a threat to him that it was necessary to shoot to kill?

Racial stereotyping was brought into the case when Geraldo Rivera raised the issue of Trayvon Martin wearing a hoodie and that made him appear to be more dangerous: to many people a hoodie conveys an image of black teenagers filled with menacing violence. A number of years ago, reports of a new generation of super-predator young people bent on violence traumatized many Americans.

So, besides the racial element, why might there be such a major effort to blame Trayvon Martin for initiating his death and exonerating his killer? A motivation that comes to mind is the fear that “Stand Your Ground” laws might be overturned because of this case. The National Rifle Association was the driving force behind the “Stand Your Ground” laws and the more it can promote the idea that using a firearm is a legitimate way to end what is perceived to be a potentially dangerous situation, the better it will be for gun sales. Fear is a great generator of gun sales and if people feel safer carrying a gun, but also know that they can claim self-defense if they mistakenly perceive a threat to them, they will be more inclined to arm themselves.

I have heard claims that the number of claimed self-defense shootings have tripled in Florida since “Stand Your Ground” was enacted but have not seen any law enforcement statistics. It would seem that making it easier to claim self-defense in a fatal shooting would impose a big burden on a prosecutor when someone is able to make an intended killing look like self-defense.

Finally, in regard to the local police force, standard police procedure is to interview everyone who has seen or heard anything in the course of an apparent murder. The local police force did not conduct such an investigation in the  killing of Trayvon Martin and did not do a toxicology test on George Zimmerman, only on Trayvon Martin.

It is a part of the deteriorated state of U.S. society that when firearms are such a major component of the high level of violence that we should be promoting the greater availability of firearms.

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