Yesterday morning, CNN aired its highly-anticipated interview with George Zimmerman. During the conversation, Zimmerman admitted to CNN's Chris Cuomo that he wished he never left his Florida home on the evening of Feb. 26, 2012, saying his life would be much easier today. However, citing legal reasons, he struggled to give Cuomo a straight answer about whether he thought Trayvon Martin would still be alive today, as well as whether he genuinely regretted killing the 17-year-old. Furthermore, the interview came on the heels of Michael Dunn's conviction for attempted murder, yet puzzling mistrial on a first-degree murder charge for killing Jordan Davis, also 17, in the same state later that year.
After analyzing the interview, Complex Associate Editor Lauretta Charlton and writer Julian Kimble discussed Zimmerman's post-acquittal behavior, the ties to Dunn's trial and the burden placed upon the shoulders of young black men in America.
Lauretta: Okay. So, Zimmerman, defender of freedom. American hero. Misunderstood artist. Future lawyer. So much to talk about. That interview made my blood freeze, mostly because he was so calm.
Julian: He has this trademark blank stare. It's like there's nothing behind his eyes at all sometimes.
Lauretta: I know this is beside the point, and it shows you how childish I am, but I think his eyes are too close together. There, I said it, moving on.
In addition to the blank stare, he has perfected the way in which he is able to dodge questions and spin. He kept saying, “I would say to Martin's parents the same thing I said on the stand,” instead of answer the question about feeling remorse. WTF?
Julian: I wouldn't say he's perfected it as much as he just does it. He refuses to show any type of remorse.
Lauretta: Yes, and if the justice system says you're innocent, showing remorse undermines that verdict. He's been well coached, obviously.
Julian: Of course. You don't do a CNN interview without coaching. Especially considering what he's involved in.
Lauretta: What do you think of his art?
Julian: From an artistic standpoint, or in terms of his motive for "creating" it?
Lauretta: Motive? LOL, artistic standpoint. He's a talentless hack, from an artistic standpoint.
Julian: He's desperate and knows that his supporters are going to flock to it and he knew that they would create controversy. He's not as dumb as he seems.
Lauretta: Which brings us to another interesting point during the interview.
Julian: Let me guess, the fight?
Lauretta: No, when he said he's as disgusted with those who have made him a poster boy for racist causes as he is with those who have sent him death threats. I thought that was interesting simply because it's the crazy people who think that one more dead n**** makes the world a better place that have created this, I don't know, aura around Zimmerman. Do you think he was being genuine about that?
Julian: I'd like to think he was being honest. But I know this much—he has no problem taking their money.
Lauretta: LOL. But he still lives in that bunk-ass house in Florida. Looks real low rent to me.
Julian: He can say he's disgusted by them, but if he's destitute and they're helping him get out of debt [by buying his artwork], I don't think he minds them that much.
Lauretta: The fact that he was so poised during the interview made me think he has a God complex. If you kill someone and get off, I'm sure that helps one foster such a complex.
Julian: Seriously. There could be something to that notion.
Lauretta: You know who else suffers from such complexes? Doctors and lawyers and judges. Zimmerman said he wants to go to law school. LORD HAVE MERCY ON OUR SOULS!
Julian: I was going to get to that. No way he ends up practicing law. I just don't see it happening.
Lauretta: Do I smell a reality TV show? It's so outlandish, it's farce. Perfect for Bravo, IMHO.
Julian: There would be protests.
Lauretta: Really? Let's get to another topic because you bring up protest and from where I sit, I just don't see protests amounting to much. We can shake our fists as much as we want, but if we've learned anything, it's that SHIT is unfair and you can't bet on anything happening the way you think it should.
Julian: I think it would be a bad PR move on a network's behalf to green light a Zimmerman show.
Lauretta: Maybe, but would anyone have predicted the Dunn case? HOW did that happen? How did anyone think it was okay?
Julian: I'm still very confused about that.
Lauretta: After all of this, after Zimmerman and the protests and Obama and the hoodies and the solidarity, how can this happen again when the pain is still so fresh in the public’s mind? That's why, to my mind, a reality show isn't too far off the mark.
Julian: Not that I don't understand what happened, I just don't understand how anyone wouldn't consider Jordan Davis' completely avoidable death as murder. Michael Dunn aired out a gas station. He put everyone, even himself and his girlfriend, at risk.
Lauretta: Yo, shit in Florida is CRAZY SPACE. Outer limits.
Julian: I'm fully aware; I've been writing about it for like two years.
Lauretta: Okay, back to CNN. What do you think about the moment that Zimmerman accused the administration of using him as a political pawn? He basically said that he's being used as a token in the stand your ground debate (and that he'd rather not be.)
Julian: ...and that he's ignorant of it. As for the assertion that he's a scapegoat for the president and attorney general, I think that's ridiculous. You can tell that, in his mind, he still doesn't think he did anything wrong. As if the state of Florida ruined his life by trying him. Early in the interview he said he wishes he never left his house that night, not because a kid who would've turned 19 this month is dead, but because his life wouldn't be in shambles.
Lauretta: Yes, well, again, he doesn't really have any room to mince words here.
Julian: He even said that if he had stayed home, Trayvon Martin wouldn't have attacked him.
Lauretta: If he shows remorse, if he doesn't emphasize that he's a victim, he puts his freedom at risk. Like you said, he's no idiot.
Julian: I wouldn't say he's no idiot, just not as big of an idiot as people may think.
Lauretta: Hmmmm, but some may also say he's a genius. A criminal genius or just a cunning liar.
Julian: That's true; a smart person can play dumb, but a dumb person can’t play smart.
Julian: To this day, I still don't think he's this racist vigilante that went out looking to play cop and killed a 17-year-old because he has black heart.
Lauretta: What do you think, Julian? The world wants to know!
Julian: I just think he's someone who could've avoided the situation that he's in by minding his own business, honestly. He never needed to question Trayvon Martin's presence in that neighborhood.
Lauretta: Then the larger subject is: Black man as guilty. Black man as threat. Black man as dangerous. Perpetually.
Julian: Exactly, and I wrote about that after the verdict.
Lauretta: Black man as someone who will play music too loud and carry a weapon because: Black man.
Julian: It was Trayvon Martin on trial, not Goerge Zimmerman. Jordan Davis was on trial along with Michael Dunn.
Lauretta: Can I get personal for a second?
Julian: Of course.
Lauretta: You're a black man. Do you feel that you are often perceived as a threat? Do you think you are presumed guilty?
Lauretta: How do you deal with it? I feel like there are two options: you either play the 'massa' game, or you stand up to it and put yourself at risk. You can play the 'massa' game and then defeat the system or become the exception (this is something I am very interested in), but if you don't, you're sort of toast. Hence the # of black me in prison.
Julian: I wrote about this post-verdict: it's something your parents teach you at a young age, or you just have to learn. Everyone sees you as wrong simply for existing.
Lauretta: And then? Doesn't that crush your spirit?
Julian: Pull your pants up; turn your hat around; take off your hood when you walk into buildings—these are all things my parents told me.
Lauretta: I mean, having to prove that you are not a threat at every given moment seems tiring. WHY DO YOU HAVE TO DO THAT? Do you not deserve your freedom of expression just like everyone else?
Julian: You shouldn't, but if you don't—and honestly, even if you do—you run the risk of ending up dead and having society blame you for your death.
Lauretta: Interesting. That sounds pretty unfair to me. Not that I have rose-tinged goggles on, I'm just saying that that sounds like a throwback to plantation life....
Julian: Hell, I'm no conformist, and I certainly don't fit Don Lemon's picture of what a young black man should be, but I know how it is. Don't get me wrong though—I'm not saying you have to accept this treatment. You just have to be aware of it and prepared for it.
Lauretta: Okay, so the takeaway from the interview is that Zimmerman is a cunning dude who may or may not have a reality show that's modeled after a 90s courtroom drama? He also has a god complex. What else should we take away from Zimmerman on CNN and the Dunn case?
Julian: I think the takeaway is that he regrets killing Trayvon Martin, but it's self-serving. His life wouldn't suck if he hadn't killed Trayvon Martin, not Trayvon Martin would still be alive. The Dunn verdict and mistrial just showed that, even when the obvious answer is right in front of people's faces, they choose not to see it. Young black men—teenagers—have to be vetted just as much as grown men who act recklessly.
Lauretta: What do you think Zimmerman's next move is (assuming he doesn't get a reality show? So many people would watch his reality show.)
Julian: Even though Michael Dunn is going to die in jail and George Zimmerman will never be truly free despite his acquittal, the world is always going to consider the possibility that it's a black kid's fault that they got killed. As for Zimmerman, possibly more terrible "art" (I hope he doesn't steal anymore AP photographs), but he might be able to write a book one day.
Lauretta: So your thoughts on race in America is that we are fucked, amirite?
Lauretta: And Zimmerman is a perfect example?
Julian: My thoughts on race in America are as bleak as ever.
Lauretta: Well, I think you and I should continue to talk about it as things continue to shake out in 2014—stand your ground, midterm elections, stop-and-frisk. There’s much to discuss.
Lauretta: Anything more you want to add or talk about?
Julian: Let me just say this about the idea of being perceived as a threat: it can be even worse when people see that you aren't a mindless thug.
Lauretta: You mean token Negro?
Julian: Not even. If certain people see that you're intelligent, African-American, and not about the bullshit, they're intimidated. You can have multiple degrees and a spotless record, but you're still a threat. The odds are against us, and some don't help the situation, but they don't have the means to. We didn't all grow up the same way or have the same resources available to us. The reality, unfortunately, is that we're always going to be looked at as threats.
Lauretta: It's not necessarily about race. It's about class, the American promise and capitalism. The fact that an impoverished black child in New York probably has more in common with a poor white child living in the slums in Portland than they do with you or me says something about race in America. It's a money game, and that's pretty clear.
Julian: Just knowing that and growing up with that burden on your psyche makes life that much more of an uphill battle. Regardless of where you grew up.
Lauretta: You should read this.
Julian: I'm already intrigued from the title alone because it's true, Obama really couldn't "win," per se.
Lauretta: Precisely. I disagree with many of Steele’s points, MANY, but it's a good read and it addresses what we are discussing. Also: ZOMG Clarence Thomas. I can’t. Uuuuuugh.
Julian: Jesus Christ. That dude....
To be continued…
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