In the most recent yearly accounting, there were 16,259 homicides in the U.S.1 That comes out to more than 44 homicides a day. Even if George Zimmerman had been found guilty of murder for the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, that homicide would have been just one among very many. Most homicides barely make the local news. Why should this one be a national tragedy? Why has this case become an icon of American race relations? One reason: most Americans believe in pervasive racism, and the mainstream media capitalizes on this belief to generate revenue.
Let’s review. George Zimmerman was a Neighborhood Watch coordinator in a multi-racial neighborhood. His neighborhood had suffered from a number of burglaries, break-ins, and at least one shooting in the past year. Most of the perpetrators of these crimes escaped justice. Zimmerman had called the police to mention suspicious activity a number of times before he called about Trayvon Martin.
Trayvon Martin, for his part, had been suspended from school for drug use, petty theft, and vandalism. He was under his third disciplinary suspension of the year (in February?) at the time of his death. Zimmerman trailed Martin almost all the way to Martin’s then place of residence, at which point there was a confrontation. Martin fractured Zimmerman’s nose and smashed his head into the concrete. Zimmerman eventually got his gun and shot Martin, who died.
As soon as it was reported that Zimmerman had been released without charges, the mainstream media, and mainstream America, went ballistic. They were all sure that racism and racial profiling were the obvious culprits here. The media was so sure in fact, that they wanted to make sure even the facts didn’t get in the way of their conclusion. In their initial coverage of the shooting, they posted a years-old picture of Trayvon Martin that made him look like a harmless baby-faced little boy. CNN had a feature in a “state-of-the-art” audio forensics booth that stated that Zimmerman had used a racial slur during his phone call with police. (They later back-tracked from this assertion.) NBC News edited the dispatch call to make it seem like Zimmerman was racially profiling Martin. They later fake-apologized for this. Zimmerman was and is called “white” in news report after news report.
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