WASHINGTON — It is easy to understand how everyone in the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman case feels.
If I were Martin's mother, I'd want his killer's heart on a platter. If I were Zimmerman's mother, I'd be grateful my son escaped greater injury, however he managed.
If I were African-American, I would fear for my sons and be furious at a system that condones vigilantism, and then acts as though naming a teen's death a “tragedy” ends the discussion.
The list could go on. The point is that this is one of those rare instances in which everyone is right within his/her own experience. Blacks are right to perceive that Martin was followed because he was black, but it is wrong to presume that recognizing a racial characteristic is necessarily racist. It has been established that several burglaries in Zimmerman's neighborhood involved primarily young black males.
Picture Zimmerman's neighbor and defense witness Olivia Bertalan hiding in her locked bedroom with her infant and a pair of rusty scissors, while two young males, later identified as African-American, burglarized her home. They ran when police arrived.
This is not to justify what subsequently transpired between Zimmerman and Martin but to cast a dispassionate eye on reality. And no, just because a few black youths caused trouble doesn't mean all black youths should be viewed suspiciously. This is so obvious a truth that it shouldn't need saying and yet, if we are honest, we know that human nature includes the accumulation of evolved biases based on experience and survival. In the courtroom, it's called profiling. In the real world, it's called common sense.
One thing we can all agree upon without much strain is that this incident — this senseless, heartbreaking death — never should have happened. Zimmerman, who began acting as a watchman in 2004 and had made more than 40 calls to authorities over the years, never should have left his car once he had notified police, who told him to stay put.
We also can surmise that Zimmerman would not have followed Martin if Zimmerman weren't carrying a gun. If Martin were perceived as dangerous, wouldn't an unarmed individual keep his distance until police arrived?