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Being jumped by conclusions

It should not be assumed that the murder of Trayvon Martin was motivated by race

Though it has already been weeks since the Trayvon Martin shooting, the situation surrounding the case still remains ambiguous. Was the shooting in self-defense? Was it a hate crime? As more evidence is revealed, the case seems to get even more confusing. The shooter, George Zimmerman, claimed he shot in self-defense and said he was attacked by Martin.

According to an April 1 article in the Christian Science Monitor, police reports did indicate there was a slight head wound on Zimmerman. At the same time, voice identification technology has indicated that the person who called 911 for help was likely not Zimmerman. Some in the public, however, claim it was actually Martin who called, though it cannot be proven as of now. What has perhaps drawn even more speculation than the shooting itself is Zimmerman's motivation for shooting. Many claim Zimmerman acted on racial prejudices, a rather difficult motivation to prove.

Regardless of whether or not racism played a role in Zimmerman's decision to shoot Martin, the interesting point is that people and the media in general seem to have jumped at the idea that this was a hate crime. The idea of racism as central to the case became popular with the public from the very beginning. A March 30 CNN article claims the case stirred a lot of extremist reactions. White extremists have argued Martin was a thug. On the other hand, the New Black Panther Party put a bounty on Zimmerman's head. Though the people who voiced either of those views are certainly in the minority, the point is that the media and the public are quick to share the conclusion that race was an issue in this case.

From the very beginning, there has seemed to be a greater focus on Martin's race, rather than the fact he was merely 17 years old. By immediately giving significance to Martin's race, we create a distorted image of the situation. Given the importance we ourselves ascribe to race, it seems almost easy to conclude the action was a hate crime, without sufficient evidence to prove it.

The U.S. Justice Department will be investigating the case and could charge Zimmerman with committing a hate crime.

The point of the justice system is that everyone is equal before the law and will be investigated fairly. Our assuming that Zimmerman is guilty of a hate crime obstructs that sense of fairness, and we should await the Justice Department's conclusions.

Meanwhile, our preemptive judgments only increase the racial tension which has already developed.

I am not defending Zimmerman and claiming he was indeed acting in self-defense. The currently reported facts are so contradictory that I do not know; there needs to be a more in-depth investigation. What I am saying is that this case must be pursued in a fair manner. If evidence says Zimmerman was indeed racially motivated, then so be it. We as a society should be a little more clearheaded about the issue and wait until more evidence is revealed to make our conclusions.

I still lament the death of Trayvon Martin. It is undoubtably a national tragedy. Yet I do feel that as a society we are too quick to use racism as an explanation for actions. There is little to no solid evidence to support the claim Zimmerman acted solely for racist reasons. Because of our past as a nation, it is understandable for us to think Zimmerman was racially motivated. History aside, we must learn to distance ourselves from the situation and perceive things clearly.

Fariha Kabir's column appears Thursdays in The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at f.kabir@cavalierdaily.com.


Published April 5, 2012 in Opinion

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