George Zimmerman And Mainstream/Social Media Witch Hunts

The verdict is in: the jury acquitted Zimmerman in the death of Trayvon Martin, finding him not guilty on charges of second degree murder and manslaughter.

Immediately, the media went into a (another) frenzy — bracing for riots and devastated race relations and calling for justice for Trayvon Martin’s death. The consequences weren’t as bad as predicted. There were some mostly-peaceful protests in California and some vandalism, but overall the strongest reactions occurred within the mainstream media and the online community. 

The Washington Post reported, “We do not have, especially where African Americans are concerned, a ‘justice’ system.  It is often an injustice system that results in unequal treatment.” Charles Howard wrote for the Huffington Post that “[a] lack of justice has resulted in a lack of peace.” Finally, there was the eruption on social media. As I scrolled my news feed and Twitter, I saw celebrities weigh in on the verdict. The hashtags #NoJustice and (dauntingly) #IfIEverSeeZimmerman trended. 

It seems like we’re once again witnessing the effects of the legendary all-American witch hunt. The modern witch hunt typically goes like this: there is an event and the mainstream media steps in to pick winners and losers. They claim that they are simply “reporting”, but the reports tend to come with little regard to the law though the attempt is made to shape it that way. When the law actually comes into action and juxtaposes the narrative Americans have been exposed to — people get angry. Death threats are made. Riots start. Justice, they feel, has not been served.

What people forget is that they lack important knowledge about many of these cases. Take Trayvon Martin. It has been pretty fairly established that it was next to impossible for the prosecution to prove that George Zimmerman committed second-degree murder or manslaughter beyond a reasonable doubt. And as Americans we have to remember that we are watching a very filtered story unfold. A year has passed and the evidence has shifted and changed.

No one was at the crime scene except for Zimmerman and Martin. All people can do is speculate.

The media speculated (many actually concluded) that Zimmerman killed Trayvon because he was racist and that became the narrative of Martin’s death.

I can’t pretend to know what the verdict for Zimmerman should have been. The entire point is that nobody knows. And nobody should pretend to know.

No matter what the verdict was for Zimmerman — there is nothing but tragedy in this case.

A child lost his life through an act of violence.

A Florida family now has a well-publicized hole in their lives.

Upon his death Trayvon Martin became a martyr for racism in America. His death, under that frame, was in vain.

Zimmerman, regardless of the cause, killed a 17-year-old boy. This fact remains, despite his acquittal of second-degree murder and manslaughter. Zimmerman made a grave mistake and now must live the rest of his life in fear. Having already received death threats, Zimmerman’s life will be forever changed by those who chose to politicize the case.

The Zimmerman trial has sparked so much outrage that it is time to step back. A boy’s life is gone and that is a tragedy. But to villainize and threaten George Zimmerman takes the case too far. We are not judges. We are not the jury. We are not God. What we think we know about this case has been packaged nicely for us to digest by the media — we can’t pretend to know every intimate detail.

The verdict has been made, and it’s time to walk away.