2:04pm December 14, 2012

Would USA Today Ask This Question If Trayvon Martin Was White?


In yet another case where the dead Black person has to explain himself, USA Today ran a front cover this week asking an interesting question: Trayvon: Typical Teen or Troublemaker.  Here, we wrestle with the so-called, “dueling images of Trayvon.”

Trayvon Martin, 17, was shot to death walking home on February 26 with an ice tea and a pack of Skittles. Yet USA Today wants his corpse to explain itself.  You have to wonder: If the dead teen was white would such a question be asked. Particularly when you consider the details of Martin’s killer George Zimmerman.

George Zimmerman — not Trayvon Martin — has a criminal record that includes violence,   including an assault on a police officer.  Perhaps USA Today can put some front cover energy into that information.  The Orlando Sentinal reported that in 2005, Zimmerman’s ex-fiance, Veronica Zuazo, filed a civil motion for a restraining order, alleging domestic violence.  In that same year Zimmerman was arrested after a tussle with a law enforcement officer.  So why is it Martin, who is dead and has no criminal record being analyzed?

Zimmerman had so much time on his hands he called police 46 times over a 15 month period.  If Martin had been done that it’s likely he’d been arrested for harassing the police.  The Miami Herald reported in August that failed cop wannabe Zimmerman had a lowly D in a criminal justice class and a .5 (yes, that’s “point five”) to 2.3 grade point average.  Remind me again, who was the “troubled” one and who was the bad student?

The Sanford Police in their report on Martin’s death stated: The encounter between George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin was ultimately avoidable by Zimmerman, if Zimmerman had remained in his vehicle and awaited the arrival of law enforcement.

What more do we need to hear? I guess USA Today needs more — from the dead teen.

“Trayvon had been suspended several times during his school years, usually for minor trouble,” the USA Today piece reads.  So what.  He was never arrested as Zimmerman was.  We already know that the American school system suspends Black males disproportionately.  Perhaps a look at the U.S. Department of Education report on this would help USA Today.  The New York Times reported on the issue, Black males facing harsher school discipline, in March 2012, a month after Zimmerman shot Martin to death.  The violent actor on February 26 was Zimmerman — the one with the criminal record and the handgun.

We already know that Zimmerman left his vehicle to follow Martin.  That’s made clear on the police 911 tape and the police report.  We already know it was Zimmerman who was carrying a deadly weapon, a Kel-Tec 9 mm PF-9.  We also learned in September that there was no DNA evidence that Martin touched Zimmerman’s gun.

Can anyone imagine the claim Zimmerman is now making, that he killed Trayvon Martin in self defense, not being laughed out of the room if it was Martin who killed Zimmerman and possessed a criminal record, a gun and failing grades?

We have far more evidence that Martin, who was minding his own business on February 26, stood his ground up against Zimmerman who was following him with a deadly weapon, than the other way around.  Yet will still analyze the teen victim? Where’s the USA Today analysis on Zimmerman’s criminal record? Perhaps I missed that.  If anyone knows of one, please send it.

Just as Zimmerman neighbor Frank Taafe made the point in April that, “there had been robberies by “young Black men before” and this justified Zimmerman’s surveillance of Martin.  Perhaps only in America do individuals who happen to also be Black males have to defend themselves in death and be held accountable for others who look like them that they have absolutely nothing to do with.

But we already knew that Martin wasn’t judged by Zimmerman as an individual. He was a color.  A stereotype wearing a hoodie.  That gave Zimmerman all the justification he needed.

About the Author

Lauren Victoria Burke
Lauren Victoria Burke
Lauren Victoria Burke is an opinion journalist, comms expert and political analyst focused on justice reform policy. She created Crewof42.com, a blog that covers the work of Black members of Congress, in 2009. Ms. Burke was a staffer for the Senate Democratic Policy Committee and Director of Communications for Rep. Andre Carson (D-IN). She has had a very diverse career in politics and media and appears regularly on NewsOneNow with Roland Martin, Hardball and Up on MSNBC, WVON in Chicago, WURD in Philadelphia and WOL and WHUR in Washington, D.C. She is currently the Managing Editor of Politic365 and a contributing writer for TheRoot and NBC Black where she writes opinion and analysis. Additionally, Ms. Burke has been a contract photographer for Associated Press since 2004. She has authored three books of photography including two on President Obama's 2008 campaign for the presidency and one with Marvel Comics publisher Stan Lee. Ms. Burke was born in the Bronx, New York and grew up on Long Island. She holds a B.A. in History from The American University. Here e-mail is: LBurke007@gmail.com. Twitter: @LVBurke. Instagram: LVB325.



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  1. [...] this week asking an interesting question:  ”Trayvon: Typical Teen or Troublemaker. ” Politic 365‘s Lauren Burke says this is just another sign that the case of the unarmed teen is another [...]

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