George Zimmerman called the police because he saw Trayvon Martin, a black teenager, walking through his gated community. Set aside for a moment the fact that the end result was George Zimmerman shooting and killing the unarmed teenager. Zimmerman called 911 because he thought Martin was suspicious as he walked through his neighborhood in Sanford, Fla. Martin wasn’t screaming at people. He wasn’t smashing mailboxes or car windows. He was just walking.
The neighborhood association appointed Zimmerman captain of the neighborhood watch. He had made 46 calls to police since early last year, reporting instances of people being rowdy at the pool, windows left open, stray dogs, neighbors leaving their garage doors open and various instances of “suspicious people.” I don’t know George Zimmerman, and I don’t know if he hates black people. What I do know is that calling 911 because someone is suspiciously walking through your neighborhood is an indication of unreasonable fear and borderline paranoia. Combine that with a loaded weapon and a false sense of authority and you have a dangerous combination.
So far, police haven’t arrested Zimmerman because they state that there is little evidence to contradict his version of the story. He claims he was walking back to his car when Trayvon attacked him. According to police, he had grass stains on his back and a busted nose. This doesn’t take into account that he advised the 911 operator that he was following Trayvon when the operator told him not to or that Trayvon ran away from him.
He told police afterwards that he wasn’t following him even though it was recorded, and he just so happened to have jumped in his car and attempted to track Trayvon down. He said he got out of his car to check the cross streets (not sure why he couldn’t see them from his car) when Trayvon approached him, and they had words. He said at that point Trayvon punched him, got on top of him and repeatedly slammed his head into the ground.
All of this could be true, and it wouldn’t take away the fact that a 17-year-old kid got killed by a man who was overly fearful and suspicious, and the likely contributing factor to that fear is that Trayvon was black. And what was the worst-case scenario in Zimmerman’s mind? Did he think that this kid was going to burn down the neighborhood and kill everyone, or was he worried that Trayvon was going to break into someone’s house and steal some worthless junk?
It’s a sign of bubble mentality. Of course you would find a black kid walking down your street suspicious if your world was a small bubble in which the people you perceive to be good are like you. Whether the bubble is a gated community or rural farm, the mentality towards outsiders is the same. The undesirables live beyond the gate and they are only recognizable by preconceived stereotypes. Even now, people are drawing conclusions that Trayvon must have been a thug because of comments on Facebook and Twitter. But Trayvon could have been everything that he feared and it wouldn’t excuse Zimmerman’s actions. He could have thrown the first punch and could have been beating Zimmerman to a pulp, but Zimmerman’s irrational fear is ultimately responsible for Trayvon’s death.