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The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

Zimmerman committed a crime, but not a hate crime

Some argue that George Zimmerman, the 28-year-old neighborhood watch captain who fatally shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin on Feb. 26 in the central Florida town of Sanford, committed a racially motivated crime. At this juncture, I disagree.

Before you tell me I’ve gone stark mad and dismiss my thoughts, I urge you to read on. Zimmerman undoubtedly overstepped his bounds, and someone died.

Be that as it may, I think it’s best to wait for the evidence to speak for itself before we accuse the man of committing a hate crime.

Zimmerman might be guilty of many things. However, calling this a hate crime without hearing the bona fide facts is wrong, even if the subject matter has mobilized our nation.

According to the Christian Science Monitor, “The U.S. Justice Department could bring a hate crime charge against the shooter in the killing if there is sufficient evidence the slaying was motivated by racial bias and not simply a fight that spiraled out of control, legal experts and former prosecutors say.”

A U.S. Department of Justice attorney and friend told me by phone that there are too many unknown factors at this point to pass judgment.

“You have to look at all the facts,” this attorney told The Guilfordian. “With the demonstrations, there is pressure on the judicial system to do something about what happened. Until all the facts are known, it’s anyone’s guess as to what the crime was, if there was a crime at all.”

In the highly sensationalized, much politicized, wildfire debate regarding the Martin case there are three truths: Zimmerman’s truth, the public’s truth and the truth which we’ve yet to hear in completeness.

If the crime was racially motivated, Zimmerman deserves punishment to the full extent of the law. However, at this juncture it’s not appropriate to say what motivated this unfortunate event until the case is presented to the grand jury.

We need facts, not rhetoric, even when the subject matter involves racism and laws like Florida’s “stand your ground” rule that kept Zimmerman out of jail, as it condones deadly force in a self-defense scenario.

Here’s what we do know: a neighborhood watch captain — a “wannabe” cop — gunned down a black teen. Also, 911 tapes reveal Martin being identified as a “black” male.

We’re also aware that Martin was unarmed and that the police dispatcher clearly directed Zimmerman to step down and allow the police to handle the situation. Reports also indicate Zimmerman sustained injuries during the altercation.

Zimmerman allegedly uttered a racial slur during his 911 call, though this has not been confirmed. Attempts to decipher the mumbling produced by the recordings with the ease of sandpaper may, in the end, be considered unreliable evidence.

What the media has yet to address is the larger issue at play, an ember that I hope will not diminish after Martin’s death is just a memory to the public eye: we are still a very racist society.

Outrage, protests and mounting pressure on those in power to hold Zimmerman accountable for taking a life is an understandable reaction.

We need real truths, not immediate gratification by way of labeling an act without fully understanding what took place.

A young black teen being killed reminds some that, where race and perception is concerned, we’ve still a long way to go.

Until the complete facts are examined in Zimmerman’s case, I refuse to allow all the media analysis and scapegoating techniques to affect my judgment one way or another. Until those true facts are presented to a grand jury, I’m staying tuned.

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