Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old unarmed boy shot dead by 28-year-old George Zimmerman on the streets of Sanford, Florida, on Feb. 26, was suspended from school once for carrying an empty plastic bag with traces of marijuana inside it, according to a new report. The question that arises is this: Why should this news matter when a killer is still on the loose and Martin's family has not received justice nor closure?
The Martin family's attorney has confirmed that Trayvon was suspended for the infraction, according to the Miami Herald, adding another twist to the racially charged tale of his senseless shooting death. But that by no means should affect the investigation into Zimmerman, or the reality that Martin was shot while unarmed, and, according to witness statements and telephone recordings, seemed not to threaten his killer.
Trayvon Martin did not have marijuana on him when he was shot; he had iced tea and Skittles. And he was black and wearing a hoodie, like so many of the other suspicious characters Zimmerman had reported to police in his entirely unofficial position as self-appointed neighborhood watchman over the last couple of months.
Martin family spokesman Ryan Julison pointed out to the Herald that the new revelation does not change the particulars of the case:
The fact of the matter is that an empty baggie does not change what occurred, he said. The reason he was suspended does not change the fact that if George Zimmerman had stayed in his car, none of this would have happened.
On the heels of the marijuana revelation has come the expected litany of racist comments on the Herald's website. One commenter, who calls himself sinbadsailor, said the following, demonstrating the mindset of many who would use aspects of Martin's appearance and manner as excuses for killing him:
Zimmerman was following Martin because he appeared to be on drugs and looking suspiciously at the houses in the neighborhood. Perhaps Zimmerman's observations weren't just a matter of racial profiling as some have claimed, sinbadsailor wrote on Monday. By the way, where was Trayvon getting the money to pay for his marijuana?
The comment not only inserts convenient, rumored details that have not been officially corroborated (appeared to be on drugs, looking suspiciously at the houses), but also diverts attention from the slaying and the questions it raises about racial injustice, discrimination and other problems in contemporary America. In doing so, the focus is redirected toward the supposed specifics of an individual case, allowing the systemic issues it exposes to go unaddressed and ignored.
And allowing the bigger picture to fade from view lets observers with agendas to make the case that the legitimate concerns raised by the troubling case can be skirted by speculation and extrapolation. That appears to be the strategy janesoutham takes in one of his or her comments on the Herald's Monday story breaking the news about the marijuana suspension:
Give it up. I suspect that some other not so great stuff about Trayvon's activities are going to come up, janesoutham wrote. Watch for the media to start backing away from this story.
What remains at center of this case is the injustice of a teen being shot to death by a larger, older man who was not immediately arrested and charged after admitting he pulled the trigger. Let's ignore the noise and distractions and remember that a boy lost his life. That's the story, no matter what else we may find out about his past or his appearance or his attitude in coming days.