What If George Zimmerman Were Black?
Would Trayvon Martin’s killer be given a primetime platform to raise money if their races were swapped? Allison Samuels on Fox News’s baffling decision to give George Zimmerman a chance to gain sympathy. Plus, five shocking moments from the interview.
Making his first television network appearance last night on Fox News, a perfectly coifed George Zimmerman apologized for killing 17-year-old Trayvon Martin—while in the same breath admitted he’d do nothing different if he had the chance. As Zimmerman, who appeared dazed during parts of the interview, discussed the events that led to the death of an unarmed high-school student simply walking home from the 7-Eleven, it was difficult to imagine a similar chain of events occurring if the tables were turned.
Just prior to yesterday’s interview, Zimmerman’s lawyer Mark O’Mara released a statement boldly admitting that part of the reason for the appearance on Fox was to raise money for his client’s defense. Zimmerman has already received a pretty staggering amount of donations since his arrest this past April. So much so that in June, his bail was revoked due to the fact he failed to report at least $150,000 in an online account donated from his many supporters. What if every criminal was allowed a prime time interview in order to raise money for his or her defense?
Let’s take it further. Imagine for just a moment if Zimmerman were a black man (Zimmerman is the product of a white father and Hispanic mother). He shoots and kills an unarmed white teenager because said teenager “appeared” to be acting suspicious in his neighborhood community one night. Though the now dead teenager has only a cell phone, Skittles, and iced tea on him, the black man who pulled the trigger not only gets to go home that very night, but he remains free for another 44 days, reportedly because of a self-defense law called “stand your ground.” Only marches and public outcry by white leaders lead to his arrest, but he isn’t in jail long. Even after it’s revealed that he wasn’t truthful with the court about his finances and ability to flee the country, he’s freed once again and then given an extended Hollywood-style interview on a top-rated news program to tell his ever changing story.
And Zimmerman’s story does change. The night of the shooting, he told the police dispatcher that Martin was running away in the rain, causing him to become concerned. Last night he told Fox News that the teen was not running but skipping in the rain. That’s a big difference.
Zimmerman and his lawyer also explained to Fox News that he didn’t ignore a Sanford police dispatcher’s clear instructions to stay in his car and not follow the young man with the hoodie running/skipping in the rain. Zimmerman, who lived in the community, said he got out of his vehicle not to follow Martin but to check the street name for the dispatcher. Shouldn’t a person so staunchly committed to safety, order, and the neighborhood watch know the street names in his own community?
Would anyone honestly give a 28-year-old black man the benefit of the doubt telling the same story when a Sanford police officer filed a report that night stating clearly that this tragedy was avoidable had Zimmerman just followed instructions and stayed in his car? Would Fox or any other major news channel dare give him 40 minutes to explain away the senseless death of someone’s child who’d done nothing but walk home from the store with a hoodie on while being black? What network would offer a black man a chance to “humanize” himself in an effort to raise more money for his defense for murdering someone whom he deemed “unfit” for his neighborhood but had committed no crime? And would thousands of strangers send money to support a black man who instead of showing real remorse to the parents of the teenager killed by saying he’d do anything to avoid their child dying at his hands, actually had the gall to say on TV that it was God’s will that the events of that night happened? As Trayvon Martin’s father Tracy said in a statement late last night, “We must worship a different God.’’
Imagine anyone being truly sympathetic to a black man who admitted he never once identified himself to the teenager as a member of the neighborhood watch, which may have given the teenager a very real reason to be afraid for his own life. It’s difficult to believe anyone would be so sympathetic if the tables were indeed turned, and the faces of the accused and the deceased were reversed. But sadly, George Zimmerman is and will continue to be a hero to far too many willing and ready to believe that an unarmed young black teenager minding his own business got exactly what he deserved when he was shot to death that February night.