The Shooting of Trayvon Martin

This post is about the tragic shooting of Trayvon Martin.

1.  George Will and Donna Brazile had insightful comments on ABC This Week.  Click here for the transcript.

George Will said: “That the law in question, the so-called Stand Your Ground law, is a bad idea, because it tries to codify a right of self-defense, but it really confers upon citizens the illusion at least that they have something like powers exercised by highly trained police officers. Mr. Zimmerman says he was acting under this self-defense law, but he is said to have been recorded saying that he was in pursuit of the person. You cannot be in pursuit and acting in self-defense…But the problem, of course, is at this point we all ought to remember something. The last time everyone in the media and certain well-known agitators got up on their high horses and galloped off in all directions was the Duke lacrosse case, and everyone was wrong.”

Donna Brazile remarked: “Neighborhood — I’m a Neighborhood — I belong to a Neighborhood Watch. We don’t — we don’t carry pistols. We don’t carry guns. We try to protect the streets. We try to protect the neighborhood. We don’t profile people. We just try to make sure everybody is safe, get in and out.  But this has, of course, awakened some wounds, some wounds that go back generations, where young black boys are taught and told at a very early age — I heard my mom, it’s called the talk, my father, the code. The talk is, of course, watch yourself, be careful of your surroundings. If you’re stopped by the cops, protect your pride, but act with humility, and try not to run, to flee. But in Trayvon’s case, he didn’t know who George Zimmerman was. He didn’t know what this guy was up to.”

I don’t know exactly what the events were that surrounded George Zimmerman’s shooting of Trayvon Martin.  I read wikipedia’s article on it this morning, and it was well-documented, going so far as to include sound-clips from George Zimmerman’s call to the police and 9-1-1 calls.  The wikipedia article states the following:

“When the police arrived, they reported finding Martin face-down and unresponsive, with a gunshot wound in the chest. The police report states that they attempted CPR, paramedics arrived and continued CPR, finally declaring him dead at 7:30 p.m. Statements by the police say Zimmerman had grass on his back and his back was wet. Zimmerman was bleeding from the nose and the back of the head; subsequently his lawyer stated that Zimmerman’s nose was broken.[48][49] However, the police report does not indicate that Zimmerman required medical attention. Zimmerman claimed self-defense, telling police he had stepped out of his truck to check the name of the street he was on, when Martin attacked him from behind as he walked back to his truck. He said he fired the semiautomatic handgun because he feared for his life.[50] Martin was unarmed, and was carrying a bag of Skittles candy and a can of Arizona brand iced tea.[50][51]

I wouldn’t be surprised if there was some physical altercation between Martin and Zimmerman.  As Donna Brazile said, Martin didn’t know who Zimmerman was, and Martin wondered why this guy was following him.  An altercation may have broken out, and that escalated into Zimmerman shooting Martin.  I don’t think either person was evil.  From what I have read, Zimmerman deeply regrets shooting Martin.  Could that be because Zimmerman looks back and sees that this action was unnecessary, over-reactive, and impulsive?  While he was fighting with Martin, Zimmerman may have felt that his life was in danger, when it really wasn’t, since he’s much bigger than Martin.  But he acted on impulse, with tragic results. 

If that’s what happened, does that mean Zimmerman should be let off?  I can understand why Martin’s family and many others would be outraged at such a possibility, for an innocent person lost his life—-and it all started when Zimmerman thought that Martin looked suspicious for highly nebulous reasons.  I can feel for both sides.  Some have wondered why the American evangelical community has been largely silent about this tragedy.  What could evangelical pastors do?  I think that they should do what Sister Helen Prejean (played by Susan Sarandon) did in the movie, Dead Man Walking: reach out to the victim’s family, and also the perpetrator and his family.  Both are suffering.

UPDATE: Evangelical pastor John Piper has spoken about the tragedy.  See here.

2.  Newt Gingrich is criticizing Barack Obama for highlighting the race of Trayvon Martin.  Obama said that, if he had a son, the son would look like Trayvon Martin.  Newt Gingrich finds Obama’s remarks to be disgraceful because Newt does not think that Trayvon Martin’s race is relevant: that it would have been a tragedy, whatever Trayvon’s race was.

Indeed, it would have been a tragedy, even if Trayvon Martin were white.  But I don’t think that race should be considered irrelevant in a discussion of this issue.  For one, African-American males are often racially profiled and suspected in American society, and that could have been what was going on when Zimmerman called the police about Martin.  Second, I don’t see why it’s wrong for President Obama to speak as an African-American man about a tragedy that befell another African-American man, and that befalls other African-American men as well.  Should we expect people to leave their racial and ethnic backgrounds at the door when commenting on issues, when that is a significant part of who they are?  And should we pretend that racism had absolutely nothing to do with this tragedy, when it very well could have?

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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