It all started in 2012. As I have mentioned before, I spent my early adulthood as a committed Leftist. I’d like to spell out the exact process by which my deconversion took place. Why 2012? That was the year that George Zimmerman hunted down the young, innocent, Skittles- and tea-carrying Trayvon Martin and killed him in cold blood.
Or at least, that’s what we were all told.
I want to do a little bragging here, because it occurred to me to do some original investigative journalism and dig into as many forensic details of the case as I could find well before the controversies everyone now knows so well ever spilled over into general awareness. In the beginning, I was sincerely interested in finding out what exactly had happened, and I dug pretty deep to try to find anything interesting. I came out with the conclusion that the cops’ original decision to let Zimmerman go because there was no evidence compelling enough to even justify a trial was obviously correct. Here’s how I arrived at that conclusion.
First of all, a simple listen to the phone call (which hardly anyone who thought their opinions were important enough to be voiced at high volume actually did, even though the call lasted less than three minutes) made it clear that Zimmerman’s much-touted act of “stalking” Martin was actually nothing more than a brisk walk which lasted an entire whopping 25 seconds or less, the full duration of which Martin was completely out of Zimmerman’s view, and for which Zimmerman was simply trying to stay within a line of sight in order to continue informing dispatch about the details of the situation in response to being asked to report Martin’s location. And the second that dispatch asked Zimmerman if he was following, and Zimmerman said “yes,” and dispatch responded that they didn’t personally “need him” to do that (which was not an order for him to stop!), Zimmerman did in fact stop trying to follow Martin at exactly that moment, concluding despondently as his breathing slowed and the breeze stopped rustling through the speaker of the phone: “. . . he ran.”
Zimmerman ended his phone call at 7:15 pm, and the first officer arrived to find Zimmerman with a bloodied face and Trayvon Martin on the ground at 7:17 pm . That left just two minutes between the end of the call and the point at which the altercation reached its conclusion. And once you factor in that the 911 calls during this period of time recording the screams heard during the altercation lasted just over a minute, that’s less than a minute after the end of Zimmerman’s phone call left for the altercation to begin — a mere sixty seconds of mystery for which we don’t have directly recorded evidence.
But there is an absolutely conclusive way to fill in that gap once and for all.
By triangulating a few basic points on a map of Twin Lakes, I was able to produce this diagram of the sequence of events.
Area 1 is where Zimmerman first spotted Martin and began the phone call — 1111 Retreat View Circle, the retreat’s clubhouse; an address that was leaked in certain text records of the phone call (despite being censored from all of the audio). Area 2 is approximately where Zimmerman parked his car and got out at around a minute and forty-five seconds into the phone call (quoting Zimmerman directly from the phone call: “If they come in through the gate, tell them to go straight past the club house, and uh, straight past the club house and make a left, and then they go past the mailboxes, that’s my truck”). Area 3 is where Zimmerman ended the phone call (in the 25 seconds in which you can hear wind rustling through the speaker of Zimmerman’s phone, the distance he traveled is from area 2 to area 3). Area 4 is the home of Brandy Latreca Green, Martin’s “daddy’s fiancée”’s home where Martin was staying (her address was leaked in the New York Times). And area 5 is where the police arrived to find Zimmerman’s face bloodied and Martin dead.
Listening to the narrative touted by the mainstream media, the impression one would get is that Zimmerman must have stalked Martin up close down an alleyway until the young Martin panicked and punched Zimmerman in perceived self-defense, causing Zimmerman to shoot the now-aggressive youth down in gleeful triumph. But Zimmerman’s story was that he was assaulted on a casual walk right back to his truck to meet with the dispatched officers — and a simple look at this map makes it clear beyond any credible possibility of doubt that Zimmerman’s story was the truth.
The altercation happens precisely on the path between where Zimmerman ended the phone call and where he had parked his car; not where it would have taken place if Zimmerman had continued walking towards where Martin was running — his father’s fiancée’s home.
Of course, as further details continued to come out, my initial conclusion was only prove more and more strong: the girl Trayvon had been on the phone with actually testified that Trayvon told her that he had in fact reached his father’s fiancée’s home at some point during their conversation before the altercation took place — which finally proved beyond all possibility of doubt that Trayvon Martin was in no way a frightened “child” thinking he needed to use violence to escape the situation in one piece; he made the deliberate decision to turn back and chase Zimmerman down and assault him.
I had to inform a whole hell of a lot of incredibly clueless people about just how dangerous it actually is to have the back of your head rattled against concrete — not only is it frighteningly easy to kill someone this way, a single proper blow doesn’t even have to use that much force to turn the victim into a disabled invalid for the rest of his life. And if nothing else, it’s well beyond easy for someone to be knocked unconscious this way, at which point an assailant has the chance to rape, dismember, or kidnap the victim or do absolutely anything else he may wish with zero resistance. (Warning: disturbing violent video demonstrating an actual example of this.)
After sharing all of these facts with people I had until then considered my friends and assumed would value and appreciate the amount of investigative work I had done (although I did expect the conclusion to surprise them), I was truly shocked to see them still, to a man, find some way to continue doubling down on their condemnation of Zimmerman’s part, no matter how gross or incoherent. It became more and more obvious that the conclusion was preceding the reasoning proposed to get us there.
Some objected just as vehemently to Zimmerman’s decision to carry a firearm — although it’s obvious that the whole premise that Zimmerman was emboldened, with or without possession of a concealed weapon, to stalk Martin down into a corner was ridiculously false. Confidence drawn from grip on a sidearm probably didn’t play a huge role in Zimmerman’s decision to try to stay within eyesight of Martin for less than half of a minute and from a long enough distance that Zimmerman had no idea where Martin was at; and given that that was the case, the only thing that would have changed had Zimmerman not held a gun that night was that it very likely would have been him dead on the pavement instead.
Others continued objecting to Zimmerman’s decision to call dispatch at all, as if this still made Zimmerman exclusively responsible for the entire sequence of events — whether it had been Trayvon who doubled back to go pound the “creepy ass cracker”’s head into the concrete or not.
But Twin Lakes is both a gated community and a Neighborhood Watch Zone — which means every single gated entry has a sign posted which makes it clear that “We report all suspicious persons.” Residents of these communities sign up to live under those rules intentionally precisely because they want to live in an area where those rules can be followed, and outsiders are made aware of, and implicitly consent to the rules when they walk through the gate. So criticizing Zimmerman for calling dispatch in response to Martin’s suspicious activity, much less using that action to pin the blame for the entire sequence of events on Zimmerman, simply made no sense. Martin’s activity was suspicious, and Zimmerman was simply following declared policy by reporting it. A policy that Martin would have to have been aware of were he paying any attention to the nature of the place he was in at all.
If I go into a fancy restaurant that prohibits casual clothing wearing nothing but jeans and a dirty t-shirt, and the people there follow me around the place to give me dirty looks, I don’t have the right to go bash anyone’s head into the wall because I get it into mine that one of those dirty looks somehow meant that they’d like to rape me for coming into the restaurant wearing inappropriate attire.
It was at this point, seeing these “friends” continue doubling down no matter how clear the evidence I presented to them was, that it finally started to become personal. Or, more properly speaking, it was at this point that I finally started to realize that it already was — and already had been — personal. It became increasingly clear to me that these were not people I would want anywhere near me if I ever were to end up in an unfortunate fight.
I started to realize that even if I were completely innocent, if a person who happened not to be white decided to assault me and threaten the integrity of the rest of my entire life with the possibility of death, or an extended coma, or something equally destructive, and I defended myself, it was entirely possible that they would take the side of my attempted murderer and “victim blame” me simply because I was white and my aggressor wasn’t.
Having several discussions that I originally expected would be simple, calm fact-based conversations about what I was learning devolve into vitriol brought that home. However good these people may have considered their intentions to be — however much they may have been viewing themselves as fighters for all that was true and good in the world inside their heads — they were not my friends. Or at least it would be insane for me to trust that they still would be if push ever actually came to shove.
It seemed entirely possible, based on their reaction to this incident, that they would instead be consumed with outrage over the fact that I acted in self-defense instead of allowing myself to be the one raped or killed myself — and yet, sit by idly as my grandparents were forced to go into hiding because of the quantity of serious death threats being made against them and as black militants put out hits to give strangers financial incentive to murder me on sight. If they’d hold those attitudes when it came to Zimmerman, what reason could I possibly have to believe they wouldn’t hold them towards me?
For God’s sake, they were already treating me as if they’d just found out I personally murdered a young, smiling black pre-teen myself just because I let them know about the facts that I had learned. Forget the hypothetical worst-case scenario where I actually end up in a fight of this caliber — why would I stay friends with people who were treating me like shit just for sharing facts with them that I was just as surprised by as I thought they would be?
I could write a full series devoted to detailing how this was the step that first obliterated the conditioning that taught me to trust that if something is treated as a sacred truth beyond any further morally acceptable debate in the public forum or the media, then it’s reasonable to assume that there are probably good reasons why that’s so (particularly when it comes to issues involving race), and how this ultimately dominoed into causing me to question absolutely everything I thought I was morally required to believe all over.
But you’d already understand a lot about what happened to me if you just stopped right here: if I’m going to spend energy to maintain a social connection with someone, why wouldn’t I want it to be with someone who would take my side in a fight, rather than someone I have reason to think may side against me?