Nothing defines the phrase "race to judgment" like the tragic death of Trayvon Martin at the hands of George Zimmerman. Many prominent people have chosen sides before all the facts are in as though Martin and Zimmerman are teams to root for rather than human beings.
The case has captured the nation's attention as the two men involved are tried in the court of public opinion. The media are acting as prosecutor and defense attorney as the story shifts.
The first storyline—Martin as innocent black teen gunned down by Zimmerman, an overzealous white man—was immediately embraced by those who seek to fan the flames of America's racial discord. Their demands for justice were quickly followed by the inevitable counterpunch as new information suggested Martin was somehow to blame, that he attacked Zimmerman and was not quite the choir boy the media had made him out to be.
The latest version, courtesy of ABC News, suggests that Zimmerman may not, as he claims, have been attacked by Martin before the shooting. An enhanced examination of the footage, courtesy of The Daily Caller, suggests he was. What is the truth? There may be those—other than Zimmerman—who know exactly what happened. Suffice it to neither I nor any of the pundits who have thus far weighed in on the story do.
The whole business should leave a bad taste in all our mouths, not because one man is dead and another may unjustly face the loss of his liberty as a result, but because of the way we have allowed it to stimulate a kind of blood lust within ourselves. In taking up sides, as so many have done, we have allowed the desire to prove a point for political purposes overwhelm the facts of the case, even as we do not know them. No one looks good here. Not Martin. Not Zimmerman. Not the police who are investigating the case, the media that are covering it, and especially the politicians and organizations who have seized on the case as though it says something about America.
This is nothing less than an American tragedy—but because of what it says about us, not because of what it says about Martin or Zimmerman. It may be that the clothing companies that manufacture "hoodies"—which have become the symbol of the case and are becoming nearly ubiquitous, even appearing on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives—are the only ones who are going to come out of it in a good position.