Blame the Victim

The thing I couldn’t wrap my head around regarding the George Zimmerman case and his trial was that it seemed to be the ultimate blame-the-victim strategy.

The fact of the case is pretty clear: Trayvon Martin was shot dead by George Zimmerman. That is indisputable.

After that, all is unclear. Or rather, before Martin was shot, all is unclear.

What it came down to was that the defense pretty much had to put the blame on Martin — an unarmed, black teen — for causing his own death. It wasn’t Zimmerman’s responsibility, even though he followed Martin after being instructed not to by a police dispatcher, and he was carrying a gun.

Zimmerman was the only witness to the killing, and he (and his defense) controlled the narrative. The jury did their job; the prosecution simply couldn’t prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. We can go back and forth all day about race, guns, civil rights, and justice.

A boy died. And no one is going to pay for that. Because of the way the prosecutors tried the case, instead of being able to show how Zimmerman broke the law, they had to prove… something impossible to prove. That Zimmerman — again, the only eye witness — acted out of hate and malice instead of out of self defense.

Self-defense in this case bothers me. (“Stand your ground”, which was not brought into this case, would bother me more. It’s a bad law.) Zimmerman was not in his car, on his property, or in his house. At any point before he was shot, did Martin know Zimmerman had a gun?

Invoking self-defense, to me, sounds like “It’s not my fault that I killed this person. I had to. Otherwise, I would have died.”

There’s no way to prove that, obviously. Zimmerman did not take the stand. It’s not even “he said, he said”. More like, “They said, and he’s dead anyway so you’ll have to take our word for it.”

He’s alive, Martin’s dead. The justice system worked, but to what end?

To the end that says, “It’s the victim’s fault.”

This is the glaring absence for me, that the law is not applied evenly across the board.

It’s the woman’s fault she was raped. It’s the boy’s fault he was killed. It’s time to abandon the idea that bad things happen to people who are asking for it.

I know it will take a generation or two to reach equality for all classes, colors, and crimes under the law. We’ve come a long way since the idea that women and people of color were mere property; we’ve come a long way from the suffragette movement and the Civil Rights Act.

We’ve got farther to go. We’re not done. As I wrote before regarding gun control laws, the status quo will not stand. That Trayvon Martin is dead, and that “it’s okay” in the name of self-defense conclusively proves that. That we sometimes question “is that rape?” proves that. That the law is different for some people — because of class, or sex, or skin color — proves that.

And it’s not okay, and it’s time to speak out. It’s time for change.

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4 thoughts on “Blame the Victim

  1. Nothing gets applied equally. Power protects privilege. Black men go to jail for crimes in which white men hire a a lawyer and pay a fine. Bankers get bonuses for their crimes. Women lose their rights to reproductive freedom while men have affairs and run for office all over again. That’s why we keep fighting.

  2. I agree. The whole thing is so shameful and awful. What was Trayvon Martin supposed to do that night, being stalked down by a gun-toting wannabe policeman? Honestly, what was he supposed to do? Ugh. The whole thing just makes me feel sick.

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