Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Profiling for Racial Profiling

I haven't seen any evidence that Zimmerman racially profiled Martin, I have seen significant evidence that people have profiled Zimmerman as a racial profiler.

I'm glad in our country the burden of proof is on the prosecution. And not because of this case. Screw George Zimmerman. I probably wouldn't like him if I met him. He seems like a wannabe Charles Bronson mixed with Dirty Harry. And his side of the story so absolves him of any and all blame that I struggle to believe it. It's too pristine. But doubt isn't proof. And our system requires proof. Innocent until proven guilty. That's why he is free. Not because of race, not because our system is broken.

I have a similar philosophy that I wish were applied by more people: Not-racist until proven racist. It would be nice if there were more of a burden of proof on MSNBC pundits, protesters, Ivy League professors, Twitter rabble rousers, and a New York City mayoral candidate, before they blame racism.

I'm struggling to see the racist element in this case. I feel like I'm staring at one of those 3D Art posters and I'm unable to see the hidden image of a spaceship that everyone else seems to see. Where's the racism? I see no smoke. Where's the fire?

Blacks, Hispanics, whites, Asians, Pacific Islanders, Native Americans, we all have the right to not be treated as criminals. Zimmerman was suspicious of Trayvon Martin. We can't get into Zimmerman's brain and discover the underlying reasons why.

Zimmerman has been accused of racial profiling, even though in his call to police he's initially not certain Martin is black. Not until Martin walks near his car. And he doesn't mention race until asked. He focuses on Martin's behavior as the reason he's calling. How can anyone presume to know the motivations in Zimmerman's mind as he calls the police?

Where's the proof, or even suggestion of racism? Did Zimmerman racially profile Martin? It's possible. But what evidence supports that? Martin was black. Zimmerman isn't. Zimmerman called the police about a young black kid. Is that all the evidence needed to prove racial profiling? What a light burden of proof.

It seems as though everyone who thinks Zimmerman racially profiled Martin reached their conclusions when the few facts available to us included a deceitfully edited audio clip of Zimmerman describing Martin's race. Immediately, Zimmerman was profiled as a gun-toting, racist vigilante. And those same people who profiled him are the ones now accusing him of doing the same.

The people that jumped to conclusions about Zimmerman have now seen that audio clip debunked, learned he is Hispanic, learned he's a Democrat, seen the media make endless mistakes in their coverage, seen cuts on the back of Zimmerman's head (even though ABC initially reported there were none at all). And despite all this, their opinion of Zimmerman is the same as when they thought he said "fucking coons" in his call to police, not "fucking punks."

I'm not going to victimize Zimmerman as others have, because he's not a victim. It wasn't a crime to get out of his car, but it was good common sense to stay in it, and an unnecessary risk to leave it. It's not a crime for him to carry a gun. But I think he wouldn't have had the stones to walk around that dark sidewalk without his firearm on him. People who carry guns don't become victims. That's one of the reasons gun rights advocates support gun rights. So Zimmerman is no victim.

Zimmerman was, however, profiled. By a media hungry for a story about a white man killing a black man, hungry for a story that involved race and guns. Who cares if it turned out to be an Hispanic man, the race story was already there, just ask the New York Times who called Zimmerman a "white Hispanic," maintaining that white vs. black narrative. NBC aired an edited phone call that made Zimmerman seem like he was racially profiling Martin. ABC used fuzzy, unenhanced images of the back of Zimmerman's head to say he wasn't injured at all, despite police reports that said he was. The Times came up with a completely new race for Zimmerman to be part of.

There's no proof or even suggestion that Zimmerman was worried about Martin because of race. There's been no evidence presented that Zimmerman is prejudiced against black people. He's a registered Democrat. His life has been investigated and turned upside down, and nothing has emerged to suggest his actions on February 26th were in any way motivated by race.

Why is it the people think that Zimmerman following Martin was wrong because it was racist, not wrong because it was stupid/zealous? Why does it have to be racist to be wrong?

People worked themselves up in a frenzy when on The Today Show they heard Zimmerman say "This guy looks like he's up to no good. He looks black." Which was proven to be a misleading edit by NBC. The same people incensed by hearing that, were not deterred in their outrage when it became known that the audio had been spliced together, making Zimmerman seem like he was racially profiling Martin. They're still now just as angry at Zimmerman, and at the system, as they were when they thought that's what Zimmerman actually said, and wasn't an editing trick.

In reaction to the verdict, many have said that the justice system failed to do justice for Trayvon Martin. And that this was because he was black.

Where is the exact failure in the justice system? Zimmerman wasn't just taken at his word by police, he was placed in handcuffs the moment an officer arrived. He was detained, brought to the station in the back of a police car, questioned, questioned again. The scene was examined, photographed. Tapes were analyzed, clothing was taken into evidence. The investigating detective admitted that he didn't feel there was enough evidence to accuse Zimmerman of murder. And due to pressure from other officers to do so, that veteran detective requested to be put back on patrol duty. Did the Sanford Police fail Trayvon Martin? If so, where's the evidence of that?

When the media was fed a story by political activists, public outrage eventually motivated Zimmerman be charged with murder. And I think that's a good thing. It's the public's duty to watch the watchers, to keep an eye on what our police do, and make sure they're doing their jobs. For all of us. The people wanted Zimmerman to be put on trial. He was. All the facts became available to the public. And the prosecution couldn't prove he committed murder.

Did the State of Florida fail Trayvon Martin? If so, where's the evidence of that? Was it when the judge berated the defense lawyers? Was it when Martin's disciplinary records at school and his texts were deemed inadmissible?

Was the jury racist? The jury was composed of 6 women: 5 white, 1 black or Hispanic (so that's a non-white Hispanic, New York Times). They were selected from a pool of 40 potential jurors. During jury selection, one eventual juror believed Zimmerman did something wrong by getting out of his car and following Martin. Another believed that it should be harder for people to receive concealed carry permits. Two had been victims of nonviolent crimes. One had been arrested in her life. Two volunteer to rescue animals. One is a nurse. One is a safety officer. One is active in her church and her children's school.

Where's the racism?

These jurors spent weeks as attorneys argued in front of them. They were isolated. Their entire life became State of Florida vs. George Zimmerman. Can you imagine that? And they didn't think the prosecution proved Zimmerman guilty.

One thing that's great about this country is that 6 women decided that a man should be free, even though thousands, even millions of others want him in prison. This country would be a scary place without due process. Look at the South before the Civil Rights movement. Look at people like Che Guevara, who executed 500 people without trial, including a 14-year old boy he shot himself, while running a prison in Cuba. Look at Iran and their lack of self-defense laws for women who are raped.

I like that we have due process here. I like that we have self-defense laws here.

I only wish that the people now crying racism had more than just their gut-feelings (along with the psychological need to feel as though their opinions are being opposed by powerful forces of wrong/evil) to prove that racism. I wish people accusing Zimmerman of profiling had more proof than just possibility. I wish people criticizing the system could point to one moment when Martin's race was a reason the system worked against him.

The people convinced that Zimmerman racially profiled Martin are the same type of people who were equally convinced that a Cambridge cop racially profiled a Harvard professor in 2009, instead of two men just being jerks to each other. This was the Cambridge Police sergeant who "acted stupidly" according to President Obama. Remember the "teachable moment?" The Beer Summit?

Weirdly enough, when talking about that incident, Obama mentioned another ethnic group that has received unfair treatment: "What I think we know separate and apart from this incident - is that there is a long history in this country of African-Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately, and that's just a fact." Zimmerman is a Latino. Until he became accused of racially profiling. Then he became "white Hispanic," or just white.


Why did a Cambridge cop have to prove he wasn't a racist when he was accused of racial profiling? Why does Zimmerman have to prove he wasn't profiling? Why do the people fighting against profiling profile so much?

Racial profiling is a real problem. It happens all the time. But instead of spreading all the outrage and anger over the entire issue, people have focused it like a laser beam at one man. Why not try to understand and deal with the problem as a whole?

Instead of seeing George Zimmerman as an opportunity to extract justice on someone who may have racially profiled a black child, maybe we should figure out how to identify and eliminate racial profiling in our society. Why do people profile? That's a complex question to answer.

Instead, people just want to see Zimmerman rot in a jail cell.

If Zimmerman were in jail right now, some black kid being frisked in New York might still feel profiled. Some worried homeowner or business owner might be more likely to call the police because black or Hispanic kids are loitering around their home or business. The problem would persist, with just as much horrible strength as it's persisted for years.