We all know George Zimmerman. On February 26, 2012, in Sanford, Florida, which is about 25 miles north of Orlando, Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin, a young 17-year-old unarmed African-American. The initial determination was that it was done in self-defense and Zimmerman was released. Within a month of the incident the matter had been discussed over and over in the public media. The state’s attorney general came in to investigate. The police chief of Stanford was stepping down.
Within the month the Justice Department on March 20, 2012 announced it was opening an investigation. The FBI opened a parallel investigation into whether Martin’s “civil rights were violated, interviewed witnesses, and looked into Zimmerman’s background.” Anyone half paying attention knew all of the facts within a month surrounding the shooting since headlines blared them out in newspapers and on television throughout the nation.
The idea of race permeated every third of fourth story. Trayvon was killed because he was black. Zimmerman was a racist vigilante. The pressure grew on the state to such an extent that Zimmerman was eventually indicted for murder. He is now on trial. I went to get a cheeseburger the other day and his trial was being broadcast over the television in that joint. It’s covered night and day, shades of OJ.
A civilian thinking he was protecting the neighborhood took a young man’s life. We are having people all over the country killed with guns, many as young as Trayvon. They don’t make the news. Civilian upon civilian homicides are common. Some have and may involve racist motives.
We cannot have a country where there will be no racism. We can do our best to prevent it and to put racism behind us but it is a fool’s errand to think we can totally eradicate it. Some hatreds will always find some hearts into which reside. To make a national news story out of something that happens more frequently than we would like to believe shows how the media can turn something prosaic into something of national concern. The outcome will not change the way we operate in America one bit.
I wondered to myself what kind of homicide should be spotlighted by the media. I came up with this story.
Suppose last May 22, 2013, a homicide occurred in the Orlando area. Unlike the Trayvon Martin story which is a local tragedy, this one has national consequences. It involves the FBI and at least six other police officers visiting a man’s apartment, staying there for several hours, and then killing him.
The victim is from a foreign country which is known to harbor terrorist; he’s a Muslim who has a working permit to stay in America; and he is thought to be involved with or at least to know people who committed a terrorist bombing. Just to give it more flavor, let’s say perhaps he may have a connection to a triple homicide. To kick it up a bit more, say after it happens, no one will say anything other than the person shot is dead and pictures come out that show six or seven bullet holes in the body. Six weeks later there is still no explanation.
I know it would be preposterous to suggest that FBI agents with a handful of other cops went into the home of your brother to question him; a few hours later your brother is shot dead, and you go to find out what happened and no one will tell you. Six weeks later you still can’t find out what happened. By that time you know they have had the chance to choreograph a Broadway song and dance routine.
But for a second assume that it did happen in the United States. That to me is a story that should grip the nation. The national media would be all over it until, like in the Zimmerman case, we’d have all the facts set out, perhaps there would be a resignation or two, and the state authorities would be on top of it. The nation’s media would demand answers and not stop until it got them.
Unless the May 22, 2013 homicide never happened. J. Edgar Hoover taught his men that “unless it is in writing it never happened.” So perhaps if the FBI makes no written report on that homicide, it will disappear. Does that mean the victim comes back to life?