It would be nice if some of the people that told us to stop criticizing George Zimmerman earlier this year would tell us what they think about him now.
In case you missed it: George Zimmerman is back in the news. The Florida man who was acquitted in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin back in July was arrested in Seminole County Florida recently after allegedly threatening his girlfriend with a shotgun, breaking a table, throwing her out of the house and then barricading himself inside. When the police arrived Zimmerman offered his own version of events:
“I never pulled a firearm. I never displayed it. When I was packing it, I’m sure she saw it. I mean, we keep it next to the bed.”
He also said [his girlfriend] Ms. [Samantha] Scheibe was responsible for the broken table when she started “smashing stuff, taking stuff that belonged to me, throwing it outside, throwing it out of her room, throwing it all over the house.”
This is not the first time Zimmerman has been back in the news since he was acquitted in the summer. Back in September he was detained by police in Florida after an altercation with his estranged wife and her father. There were also conflicting accounts in that event as well, George claimed he acted in self-defense after his wife began hitting him with an iPad and her father challenged him to a fight. The iPad was the only casualty in that altercation and no charges were filed.
We of course shouldn’t forget that being charged with a crime is not the same as being found guilty of one and Zimmerman remains innocent until he is proven guilty, if ever he is. But while we are on the subject of things not to forget, I think it’s important that we not forget how differently Zimmerman was treated as recently as this summer.
A lot of things were said about Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman over the last year and much of it wasn’t pretty. Personally, I think it is a waste of time to try and get internet trolls, Geraldo Rivera, or Fox News to be introspective about these new revelations. But there were a lot of more respectable people back then announcing that those of us who told the simple story of Trayvon Martin being in the right and George Zimmerman being in the wrong, were ourselves being wrongheaded.
Richard Cohen of The Washington Post told us back in July that Martin had put himself in danger and Zimmerman was being quite reasonable when he got out of his car to follow him. Why? Well because of how Trayvon was dressed, “But I also can understand why Zimmerman was suspicious and why he thought Martin was wearing a uniform we all recognize.”A hooded sweatshirt isn’t a piece of clothing you see, it’s a signal of menace, the uniform of the common criminal. Wear one at your own risk.
Over at Slate back in July William Saletan informed us, in a piece entitled “You Are Not Trayvon Martin,” that the reasons Martin died were “assumption, misperception, and overreaction.” Saletan concedes that Zimmerman made some mistakes. That Zimmerman was wrong when he assumed Martin was a burglar out on the prowl, that he shouldn’t have followed Martin on foot, and that he failed “…to imagine how his behavior looked to Martin.”
Unfortunately Saletan then went on to point out that Martin was not blameless in his own death as well because Martin, “was profiling Zimmerman… If Zimmerman’s phobic misreading of Martin was the first wrong turn that led to their fatal struggle, Martin’s phobic misreading of Zimmerman may have been the second.” You see responding in an impolite manner to a stranger following you around in their car and then on foot in a deserted neighborhood is just asking for trouble.
These are not the comments of kooks or internet trolls, they are opinion pieces written by some of the most prominent members of our political media: a columnist at a major American newspaper and a writer at one of the most popular news and opinion sites online. Does Richard Cohen still think Trayvon’s dress was the reason why Zimmerman decided to follow him? Does William Saletan still think that Trayvon Martin was committing a “phobic misreading” of George Zimmerman, or might he have actually been acting in a pretty prescient manner?
George Zimmerman has already told his story to the world, and it doesn’t seem like he will change it anytime soon. Meanwhile Trayvon can’t tell us his side, but when it comes to the writers who scolded us for our imprudent judgments about Zimmerman earlier this year? Well, they are still very much around. And I think we still deserve answers.
Photo by Joe Burbank/AP