George Zimmerman shot and killed unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in 2012. One year later, he was acquitted of second-degree murder; four years later, he’s no closer to feeling the gravity of his actions.
Zimmerman is auctioning the gun used to kill Martin on UnitedGunGroup.com on Thursday and describes it as “a piece of American history.” His O.J. Simpson-caliber flagrancy is salt in the still-festering wound of America’s racial memory.
Martin was walking home from a convenience store on the evening of Feb. 26, 2012 when he was spotted by Zimmerman, who was a member of the Twin Lakes housing community neighborhood watch in Sanford, Florida.
He reported Martin as a “real suspicious guy” to police and disregarded their advice against pursuing him. "These assholes," he can be heard saying in the recording, "they always get away." After the phone call, an encounter took place between the two, which ended when Zimmerman fatally shot Martin.
The 17-year-old was only carrying Skittles and iced tea.
Martin’s death isn’t the only hint of Zimmerman’s dark side. Since the shooting and trial, he’s tweeted an image of Martin’s dead body (claiming it was an accident), called U.S. President Barack Obama “a baboon,” and tweeted nude pictures of an ex-girlfriend, accusing her of sleeping with a “dirty Muslim.” In an almost unbelievable amalgamation, he teamed up with a "Muslim-free" gun store last year to sell his painting of a Confederate flag.
How was this monster created, and why do we still enable him?
One early misstep was Zimmerman’s almost all-white jury. Several studies have found that a juror’s ability to empathize with a defendant or victim is impacted by race—and jurors are more lenient towards white defendants.
Zimmerman’s sixth juror was a 36-year-old Puerto Rican woman named Maddy. In an interview with The Daily Beast, she explained feeling isolated after weeks of sequestration with five white women. They “didn’t understand the first thing” about her and “demeaned and mocked and trivialized” her.
Maddy wanted desperately to be done with the trial. “If they had to put me in jail for going home, then put me in jail,” she said. It’s unlikely that she alone could have swayed her white peers, and even if she was the wrench in a unanimous vote, Zimmerman would have walked due to a hung jury.
Odds already in his favor, Zimmerman also became a nexus for the pro-gun and anti-Black Lives Matter causes, galvanizing supporters who sought to propagate these agendas.
He was a poster boy for the second amendment after Martin’s death. During his trial, defense attorney Mark O’Mara spoke at an Orlando conference for the Second Amendment Foundation, The Orlando Sentinel reported. O’Mara told a crowd of 200 gun-rights activists, “Damn straight … this is a self-defense case.”
Those determined not to make the case “about race” did their part to demonize the 17-year-old: Articles about “black on black” crime were published en masse, and Zimmerman’s defense attempted a smear campaign by releasing photos of Martin flipping off the camera—as if middle fingers justified death.
Political commentator Ann Coulter declared “Hallelujah!” after Zimmerman was acquitted and wrote on her website:
Instead of turning every story about a black person killed by a white person into an occasion to announce, "The simple fact is, America is a racist society," liberals might, one time, ask the question: Why do you suppose there would be a generalized fear of young black males? What might that be based on?
Throw us a bone. It's because a disproportionate number of criminals are young black males.
Coulter’s misinformed sentiment is still echoed today. In his auction listing, Zimmerman wrote that proceeds would be used to “help prevent violence against law enforcement by Black Lives Matter.” Despite numerous debunks of the “violence against police” narrative (dubbed “The Ferguson Effect”), it’s just one persistent myth used to justify killing black people with impunity.
We've seen these kinds of paper-thin arguments invoked to defend the growing list of deaths including Mike Brown, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland, and Laquan McDonald.
Martin’s likeness became a target for firearm-training sessions. Zimmerman, on the other hand, received more than $200,000 in crowdfunding. How much would you pay to memorialize this shameful piece of American history?
Zimmerman set the opening bid at $5,000.