Speaking of Sanford, Florida, until recently meant nothing to most people. Located just north of Orlando, Sanford is a racially-mixed city of approximately 50,000 people. Baseball historians might know that Sanford was once the Spring training headquarters of the Brooklyn Dodgers. On March 5, 1946, a group of white citizens there protested the presence of Jackie Robinson, whom the Dodgers had assigned to their minor league affiliate, the Montreal Royals. The atmosphere became so tense that Robinson and his wife were shuffled off to Daytona Beach. This sad episode would prompt the Dodgers to move their baseball operations from Sanford to Daytona Beach shortly thereafter.
Many years elapsed and Sanford moved on. Then came the rainy night of Feb. 26, 2012. George Zimmerman, a Neighborhood Watch volunteer in Sanford, observed Trayvon Martin, who was visiting the home of his father’s fiancée, who lived in Zimmerman’s townhouse complex. Zimmerman didn’t recognize Martin, a 17-year-old black male, but he fit the profile of suspects who had recently been identified in a rash of burglaries there.
Zimmerman then called the police to report Martin’s presence and was advised to await officers’ arrival. Instead he followed Martin, claiming later that Martin attacked him. Zimmerman, fearing for his life, then shot and killed Martin with a handgun he had a legal permit for.
No neighbors or eyewitnesses could provide a full account of an incident that ended as quickly as it likely started. Only Zimmerman truly knew what occurred. An investigation by local authorities determined that insufficient evidence existed to arrest Zimmerman or charge him in Martin’s death. Then the “race hustlers” entered the picture.
Who are the “race hustlers” one might ask? They are individuals who seemingly view all issues through a racial prism, dedicating themselves to tracing all of America’s problems to (white) racism. They also inject race as an issue when it has no factual relation to a situation at hand in order to create a victim. The Duke lacrosse rape case is a recent example where a black “victim” was created at the expense of innocent white athletes of “privilege.”
The mainstream media has long participated in race hustling and injected race into the Zimmerman case from the very beginning, falsely characterizing him as white on numerous occasions despite his verifiably Hispanic appearance based upon his mother’s ethnicity. The media darlings also willingly assisted the king of race hustlers, Al Sharpton, in pushing for Zimmerman’s prosecution. Sharpton led several rallies, pledging that his supporters would “move to the next level (violence?)” if Zimmerman wasn’t arrested. These efforts ultimately succeeded after Florida Governor Rick Scott appointed a Special Prosecutor to investigate the Zimmerman case, even though local law enforcement found no evidence of a crime. Zimmerman was then arrested on April 11, 2012, 44 days after Martin’s death.
During the investigation leading upto Zimmerman’s arrest, Sharpton threatened to “occupy” Sanford if an arrest didn’t occur. Another race hustler, Attorney General Eric Holder, publicly praised Sharpton for his “tireless efforts to speak out for the voiceless.” Holder then vowed to initiate a federal civil rights investigation, ignoring the legal impact this might have on a still innocent Zimmerman.
But the race hustling didn’t stop there. The media continued to paint Zimmerman as a “white” racist, while broadcasting pictures of a young, child-like Trayvon Martin. President Obama even got in on the act, stating, “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon” and more recently when he said, “Trayvon could have been me 35 years ago.”
Once Zimmerman’s trial began, he faced a charge of second-degree murder and eventually a charge of manslaughter. The prosecution figured it too would do some race hustling, pushing to add a charge of third-degree murder against Zimmerman based upon child abuse ie. Martin was 17. Fortunately, Judge Debra Nelson nixed this attempt.
As the trial’s outcome became less than certain, the media would make one last desperate attempt to assist the race hustlers: reporting the spectacle of violence should the jury reach a not guilty verdict. Fortunately, 6 woman jurors would not be deterred, finding Zimmerman innocent and proving that the seriousness of a charge should never be valued more than the ability to prove a crime.
Trayvon Martin’s death was indeed tragic, but “fixing” the Zimmerman trial would not have resulted in justice. Still, the success of some in painting George Zimmerman as a racist killer tells us much about the state of race relations in America. The race hustlers are alive and well.
Mark Figley, of Elida, is a guest columnist of The Lima News.