Yesterday, now-triple-entendre The Smoking Gun announced the news that Florida judge Debra Nelson had decided in favor of George Zimmerman’s defense, barring the prosecutor’s request to omit from evidence a part of Trayvon Martin’s toxicology report that revealed a small amount of marijuana he had in his system at the time of his murder. For the sake of due process, I’m glad that Zimmerman’s lawyer has gone above and beyond the room-silencing knock-knock joke of his opening statement, but this defense speaks to the much larger culture of victim-blaming. The same culture that would allow an armed adult in a vehicle to proactively seek out and start an altercation with an unarmed teen to begin with. Why is de facto character assassination such an standard part of our legal process? Why does the perceived societal “value” of the victim always need to be stacked against that of the alleged perpetrator, in order for justice to be served?
Picture this: one man, armed, spots a younger man walking along the side of the road. Concerned, he calls the dispatcher, choosing to ignore directions not to escalate the (barely, maybe) situation. He approaches the “threatening” young man, and makes the choice not only to confront him, but to exit his vehicle instead of speaking to the boy from a safe distance. An altercation occurs, in which he either attacks or is attacked by the boy, who was heard, on a recorded phone call, both noting and being creeped out by the person tailing him before the fight took place. Sometime in the course of the struggle, the man shoots the boy.
Does it matter whether, if after the incident occurs, we find out that the shooter and victim, both strangers to each other, turn out to be George Clooney and Pauly Shore? Or that the shooter was the captain of the football team, and the deceased used to smoke cigarettes under the bleachers during 4th period? Perhaps we should amend our constitution to note that in order to apply for “victim” status, one must submit to an exhaustive background check, as well as have the means to dress in blazers, not hoodies, and buy the evidence of you smoking drugs instead of having it leaked to the media. This attitude, which informs misogyny as well as racism, is the reason that presidents can legally slaughter thousands of civilians, and that when a batterer tells his terrified wife that “no one will believe” her, he’s probably right. How does being guilty of one thing translate to being guilty of everything? It’s so sad how the angry, disenfranchised, and undereducated in our country cling to superficial differences as metaphor for the real evils that are present in society, like poverty, addiction, violence, and oppressive power dynamics. These evils will never subside, as long as melanin, a vagina, or frankly, unrelated criminal or “immoral” acts on the part of the accuser, continue to be accepted red herrings used to distract from otherwise accepted facts.
Last night, I watched a Gangland episode about Portland white supremacist gang Volksfront (presented in full below), who clearly don’t see themselves as a gang at all. Their members seem utterly convinced that by seeking out a homeless maybe-drug-addict to beat to death, or interracial couples to forcibly separate, that they are somehow above the thugs and pimps that they very clearly are. This traditional male sense of entitlement which drives wars, gang activity, and single “freak” acts of violence alike, is equally damaging to everyone, from the women it claims to know best for to the pawns who fight each other on the streets while more laws are passed to keep them poor or in jail.
Later tonight, I’ll probably light up a joint. If someone breaks into my house and tries to harm me afterwards, should I curb my impulse to fight back because sure, the approach may have been unwarranted, but now that we’re just two people in a room, any retaliation from me would be considered drug-induced and aggro? Please. The fact that marijuana is still illegal at all (see the “anti-drug” skinheads consuming a popular judgment-impairing intoxicant known as alcohol in the video) is a private-profit-induced bad joke to begin with, but let’s not add insult to injury by assuming that because you willingly cause harm to your own body that others have the right to as well. Trayvon didn’t “ask for it,” and neither are the millions of other “lowlife” victims whose most serious offense ends up being their proximity to a real criminal.