George Zimmerman is in custody in Seminole County Jail, charged with second-degree murder in the death of Trayvon Martin on February 26th in Sanford, Florida. If convicted, he faces a sentence of 25 years to life in prison. Zimmerman’s arrest is long overdue. So why am I uneasy?
Because, in a world in which a bag of Skittles has become the icon of youthful innocence and a hoodie the symbol of ghetto behavior, almost everything about this case has become a dangerous cliché.
Because Zimmerman needs to be tried by a jury of his peers, not by an inflammatory press or an inflamed public.
Because the outcome we seek should be justice, not vengeance or justification.
We are in danger of losing sight of both the big picture and the small one. The small one is the human one: Trayvon Martin, a young man, is dead. President Obama struck the right chord when he said, “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.” Without mentioning the matter of race, he called attention to the killing of a young black man, and he simultaneously urged us to transcend race by mourning the death of a son.
The big picture is the Florida law that encourages shooting first and explaining it later – a law that is the product of this country’s relentless gun lobby, which continues to insist that we are all safer when we are all armed, and that the horrendous noise of gunfire is just the sound of freedom.