I didn't really want to write about this, but I was inspired by Greta Christina's righteous whinefest, and a conversation I had with another blogger in`the comments at The Uncredible Hallq.
Over the last few days, I have seen no shortage of outraged news articles, opinion pieces, and blog posts about the Zimmerman acquittal. The standard narrative in much of the more liberal media and blogs has been that George Zimmerman unquestionably "racially profiled", "stalked", and "murdered" an innocent person, and some even agree with the random protester that made it on the news, that the Florida legislature and courts have decided that it's now "open season on black people".
A far as "open season on black people"....
I'm not even going to touch that shit-heap of race-baiting bullshit. Fuck that guy and fuck anyone who thinks they're doing good when they say it. (Note: I have tried, and googled, and tried to find the original clip that I saw, which was some white, middle aged protester coining the phrase which has become so popular. I can't find it, though I hear the phrase repeated constantly in the media.)
"Racially profiled", "stalked", and "murdered". There may be room for discussion here, but there's one problem. NOBODY KNOWS except George Zimmerman. And here are some other uncomfortable facts: It is not a crime in most places, or considered universally morally wrong, to be suspicious of someone, or to follow them as long as you are not threatening them. It is not even a crime to confront them or try to ask them questions. The media that has made so much of this case lives on those very principles.
Was George Zimmerman being a racist douchebag? It's possible, but I don't know and neither does anyone else. Did he start the fight? It's possible, but I don't know and neither does anyone else. Did he even touch Trayvon first, possibly opening himself to assault charges and possibly damaging his self-defense claim? I don't know, and neither does anyone else. The only eye-witness testimony was from the end of the incident and favorable for a claim of self-defense. The only physical evidence I am aware of is consistent with Zimmerman's story. And that's all I really know.
The acquittal was the right thing to do.
The only valid criticisms I have heard are about the fact that juries, through conscious and often unconscious racism, regularly convict blacks and other minorities on the slightest of evidence. In general, whites seem to get a "pass" , an extra helping of benefit of the doubt that other minorities, and especially black people, do not get. My own experience and research agrees: However, I have to add that in my experience, money and not race is by far the biggest factor, at least where I live and in highly publicized trials. I can only speak for myself, but I would not have convicted Trayvon Martin if he had killed George Zimmerman, on such evidence. I agree that racial bias often plays a part in trials. I do not agree that the solution is to start convicting people on shitty evidence, or ignoring the law involved, in order to get even. I do not believe that media-driven public opinion based on speculation has a place in deciding courtroom outcomes, or that the courts have a duty to dispense social justice in individual criminal trials unless it is factually relevant to the case and can be produced as evidence. For those tender hearts who prefer unpleasant ideas to be delivered in verse:
I would not convict him, Sam I Am.
I would not convict George Zimmerman.
I would not convict him if he were black,
I would not convict him and that's...
just a fact.