I am sure we have all heard about Trayvon Martin by now. If not, this young man was shot and killed February 26th in Florida, but his story was not widely known until march when his parents took to the media to defend his reputation and ask for a federal inquiry into the death of their son. I can not imagine what it would be like to lose my child, so I can sympathize with their need to justify what happened to their son.
As the media took hold of the issue, news details came to light that suggested that the shooting was not really a case of self defense but rather an issue of racism. I remember listening to some of the news programs as they played and replayed a portion of George Zimmerman’s call to 911 when he said he was following a black male who looked suspicious. Zimmerman is the one who shot and killed Trayvon.
Facebook and other social networking sites have been flooded with people sporting hoodies in support for Trayvon. Trayvon was wearing a hoodie when he was killed, and it has been made out that a black male in a hoodie is enough of a threat to some people that shooting them is justified. People across the US. have been moved by the sense of social justice and are taking a stand in outrage over this case of racism and cover up by the local law enforcement, who themselves have had a long history of racial prejudice and discrimination.
Now, as new details come to light, the victim status that has been placed on Trayvon seems to being disappearing some what. Witness details are being released that place Trayvon attacking Zimmerman after questioning why he was following him in the first place. Zimmerman had left his car and was following Trayvon when the 911 dispatcher told him to stop following the boy. The alleged attack that led to the shooting occurred as Zimmerman was returning to his car.
Trayvon’s girlfriend was on the phone with him when she heard Trayvon ask Zimmerman why he was following him and then heard a scuffle before the line went dead.
It was also learned that Trayvon was staying in the area after he was suspended from his school for possession of a bag that had contained marijuana. While illegal, Trayvon’s family feel that detail is being used to tarnish Trayvon’s reputation and take away from what actually happened that night. The family has not really helped the issue by not being forth coming with more details about why the boy was suspended. They admitted that it was not due to an act of violence, but that it was an issue about the boy being in an unauthorized area on school property. Their version of what happened at school did not match up with school officials until the drug issue was released. Unfortunately, other areas of Trayvon’s life are being scrutinized as well. A comment from his cousin on Twitter asked about the boy taking a swing (punch) at a bus driver.
This event is being compared to the false accusation of rape against the Duke Lacrosse players in that the media and people jump ahead of the facts and rush to an unwise decision. While the FBI is now stepping in to investigate if this was a hate crime, people need to step back and let the details come out before fanning any more flames.
Social justice can be a good thing when correctly used to stop atrocities and wrong doing. Those who want to practice social justice need to balance any outrage with additional facts though so it is not just an emotional response based off misperception. There is no need to fan the flames of racial division if the case is not warranted.
I wonder at times what will happen to the good that social justice can do when it becomes misused or over used and people become numb to it when outrage is truly warranted.