Demonizing Trayvon Martin
The death of Trayvon Martin has become a matter of great controversy and has served to spawn other controversies. One of these is the claim that Trayvon Martin is being demonized.
In terms of the facts, it has been revealed that Trayvon Martin had been suspended from school because marijuana residue had been found in a plastic bag in his possession. It was also revealed that he had been suspended twice before-once for an attendance issue and another for allegedly marking on a locker.
On the one hand, revealing these facts could be seen as mere reporting. After all, the function of the news media (after making money) is to report information to the public. Just as information about Zimmerman is being revealed to the public, so too would information about Martin.
On the other hand, some concern has been expressed that the information about Martin was leaked to the media. After all, his school record is presumably supposed to be kept confidential. Given that this information is negative, it is naturally for people concerned about Martin’s reputation to be worried that he is now the victim of an intentional demonizing rather than this being merely a situation of the media doing some legitimate reporting. It could also be speculated that this alleged demonizing is being done in anticipation of a criminal or civil trial and is intended to cast Martin as a troublesome youth who might very well have provoked Zimmerman into an act of self-defense.
Sticking to the facts, they show that Martin was not a perfect student. He was apparently suspended three times and some might consider the baggie as evidence of drug use. However, there are two important things to consider about these facts.
The first, and the least important of the two, is that while these facts show that Martin was not perfect, they hardly serve to show that he is a thug or prone to violence. At the very worst, they show that he missed school, suggest he smoked pot, and indicate he marked up school property. While I will not defend these acts by saying that they are common behavior for American students, I will note that they do not mark him as a special menace. Rather, they show that he seems to have acted like a fairly typical teenager and this seems no different from when I was a kid.
While I was never suspended, I did get in fist fight (after being attacked) in school and I once got in serious trouble for skipping out on detention. My cross country team did get in trouble once because a bus driver reported that they smelled pot on the bus after a race. While I was not a direct suspect (I was out with an injury for that event and hence not on the bus), I was “locked down” with the rest of the team until the culprits came forward. None of us were thugs-we were just kids doing the stupid things that kids often do because they are kids and not adults (and, of course, adults do very stupid things as well). As such, these facts about Martin are hardly shocking and hardly damning. Unless, of course, they damn almost all American students.
The second, and most important, of the two is that these facts have no bearing on the case. Even if it is true that Martin was suspended three times, even if he marked up a locker, even if he was high at the time, it does not follow that his death would be thus justified. After all, none of these facts indicate that Martin would be likely to simply attack Zimmerman without provocation. There is, after all, considerable difference between what Martin is alleged to have done (cutting school, possessing pot and marking up a locker) and being a violent person.
Naturally, evidence of irrational violent behavior would be relevant-both in regards to Martin and Zimmerman. If either (or both) of them had such tendencies and this could be proven, that would impact the case in terms of the likelihood of who attacked who. There is, however, currently no evidence that Martin was especially prone to violence.