Things get really interesting when a White kills a Black, or a Black kills a White. Our society will pull things into it that are not relevant.
For instance, when Harry Evans killed undercover St. Paul police officer Gerald Vick, the focus was not on the mistakes that Vick made, but on Evans being an ex-con, an armed ex-con killing a White police officer.
Yet, Evans being an ex-con had nothing to do with it. Even ex-cons have a right to protect themselves when an armed person is chasing them down an alley late at night and they have no idea that person is a cop.
Vick had showed Evans his gun in the bar parking lot just moments before, so Evans knew the guy chasing him was armed. Evans is not given the right to fear for his life because he is a Black armed ex-con — but prior criminal activity should have had no bearing on the case, but of course, it was the case.
The same kind of thing is happening with the Trayvon Martin case. In a New York Times article “Murder charges filed in Trayvon case” (Star Tribune April 12, 2012), the first sentence of the article is “More than six weeks after George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old with no criminal record…”
Now, why bring up past-criminal records? Bringing it up only matters if you consider skin color and wearing a hoodie as being proof that a person does have a criminal record.
Martin having a criminal record changes what, that Zimmerman’s behavior was justified? That he was right to suspect Martin was up to no good?
What if Martin did have a criminal record? Zimmerman is not acting on that. He doesn’t know Martin’s past; he’s going on skin color and Martin’s clothing. Even if Martin had a criminal record, all that matters is the night Zimmerman saw him, and on that night there is no evidence of Martin partaking in any criminal activity.
Frank Erickson lives in Minneapolis.