The smear campaign against Trayvon Martin has begun. “They killed my son and now they’re trying to kill his reputation,” Trayvon’s mother Sybrina Fulton told reporters on Monday.
I can’t say I’m surprised, but I wanted to be. George Zimmerman’s excusers grasp at hollow straws — like the hoodie Trayvon wore to stay dry in the rain, or a widely circulated picture of a teenager in a defiant stance that turned out NOT to be Trayvon, or police-leaked information about an empty marijuana baggie found in Trayvon’s backpack. And in each derogatory detail and outlandish accusation, I hear what isn’t being said loud and clear: He was Black and though unarmed, he was a threat. There’s always a way to excuse the inexcusable when a Black life is taken.
Geraldo Rivera told Fox & Friends on Friday, “I think the hoodie is as much responsible for Trayvon Martin’s death as George Zimmerman was” and pleaded with the two Black people who watch Fox News not to let their children wear hoodies, as if that matters. As Bill Maher pointed out, Martin and Malcolm wore suits and they’re dead just the same.
On Monday, The Orlando Sentinel reported police accounts that Trayvon laid out George Zimmerman with a single punch, the way Mike Tyson once did his opponents in the first round (no mention made that Zimmerman outweighed him by 100 pounds). It seems they’re trying to defuse the powder keg that’s been lit in their own backyard by casting doubt on the victim. And whomever it was that scrounged up a picture of Trayvon’s thug-life doppelgänger is trying to do the same: justify the unjustifiable.
An unarmed child, whether he had the cherub-esque cheeks of a boy just reaching puberty or the chiseled jawline of a man-child entering his prime, was preyed upon by a grown man playing Batman. Trayvon was murdered and his killer remains free, finding harbor in someone’s cozy living room and protection under thin claims of self-defense.
It’s been over a month since Trayvon’s murder, and still we wait for Zimmerman’s arrest. Zimmerman, a man who may have derided Black folk as “f—ing coons” on his 911 call, as reported by ABC, sends his delusional Black friend to the national press to plead his case. President Obama carefully chooses his words when he comments on this American tragedy but notes, “If I had a son, he would look like Trayvon” — and the right-wingers hop all over him for stating the obvious. (They’d do the same even it wasn’t an election year.) Everyone with a camera phone and a bathroom mirror uploads pictures of themselves rocking hoodies, in protest of the assumption that a sweatshirt with hood makes you a criminal instead of a person who is cold (or maybe just kinda cool). And so many of us tweet of lofty ideals like justice and fairness, as if America has never disappointed us before. And so we wait, with patience thinning, watching the calendar, anticipating action and hoping against the fear in our stomachs that Florida, that America, will rise to the occasion and defy the odds by doing the right thing.
Demetria L. Lucas is the author of “A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life” (Atria), in stores now. Follow her on Twitter @abelleinbk