Trayvon Martin Story as Allegory


In case you missed it, the BET awards were this past Sunday night, and Jamie Foxx was honored with the award for Best Male Actor.

His acceptance of the award gave opportunity for everyone in the crowd and those watching on TV to learn what Foxx thought about the George Zimmerman/ Trayvon Martin murder trial. Foxx wore a Trayvon Martin t-shirt to the awards show.

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I have no problem with Jamie Foxx’s choice to wear a Trayvon Martin t-shirt. He very likely believes that George Zimmerman is guilty of murder and that the facts of the case will bear that out.

But what if he’s wrong?

Over the months since the tragic shooting death of Trayvon Martin, what I have seen is the fracturing of American society into camps. One believes that George Zimmerman is a murderer. The other believes that Trayvon Martin attacked Zimmerman and that Zimmerman responded appropriately to save his own life. These arguments always seem to devolve into ad hominem attacks that lack any reasonable merit. I don’t believe that one side is monolithically racist, or that the other is equally monolithically solely influenced by Martin’s race. However, how could either be so sure of guilt or innocence before the trial is even finished? What has happened to presumption of innocence before guilt is proven?

The case is one that stirs people passionately and makes them feel as though they have a true stake in the outcome of the trail. I understand the emotions at play. I too am heartbroken for the parents of Trayvon, but in considering that Zimmerman may be innocent, I feel great empathy for his position as well.

What concerns me is that these two sides have been called along what seem anecdotally (and probably imprecisely) cultural, racial and political lines. It appears that liberals believe that George Zimmerman is guilty of murder, while conservatives believe that he is likely innocent and was simply defending himself. Overwhelmingly, it appears that African Americans believe Zimmerman to be guilty, while the majority of the white community thinks he is probably innocent.

This is worrisome because of the way that it could negatively affect our American community. I think it behooves us to remember that this case is not about us.

zimmerman-on-trialAs important as the trial is to us, it is not about us. And that’s really what concerns me about Jamie Foxx’s t-shirt. People like Foxx have the power to mold and guide opinions–so they should be very careful with the way they use that power. This trial is not about Jamie Foxx’s opinion. This trial is not about the continued existence of racism within our culture. This trial is not about the efficacy of “Stand your Ground laws” or the “Castle Doctrine” or even gun laws in general. This trial is not an allegory for something greater.

This trial is about the Martin family and the Zimmerman family.

This trial is about whether George Zimmerman killed an innocent young man in cold blood, or whether he was simply defending himself from a violent attack. This is case is big enough on its own; let’s not add our cultural and political baggage to it.


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