Had Trayvon Martin Been White…

Mediaite says it all:

The most glaring figure comes from a USA Today/Gallup poll in which people were asked “Would George Zimmerman have been arrested if the person he shot was white, or do you think (Trayvon) Martin’s race did not make a difference?”

While 73% of black people said Zimmerman would have been arrested had his victim been white, only 33% of white people thought so. The story in that bit of info isn’t “There’s a racial divide,” it’s “67% of white people are wrong.” If George Zimmerman gunned down a Skittle-wielding white kid, he’d be charged faster than a flux capacitor in a lightning storm. If you don’t instinctively know that, the consistent racial disparities in our criminal justice system, particularly with regard to the race of the victim, ought to seal the deal.

Your Thoughts?

About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • Pierce R. Butler

    If Trayvon Martin had been white, and George Zimmerman black, Zimmerman would not have been arrested.

    He’d have been blown away.

  • jws1

    Ooh, I love these “finish the sentence” opportunities. “Had Trayvon Martin been white…”

    “…he’d still be alive.”

    Any word on the “sciencey” portion of this story? Was the gunshot wound on the victim entering from the front or rear, for instance? Any proof that the shot was from very close range, as the suspect claims? How about some x-rays of the suspect’s head to see if he is suffering from a recently broken nose? I’d like to know this stuff.

    • http://www.facebook.com/gregm766 gregorymarshall

      ““…he’d still be alive.”

      Oooh, I think you hit the nail right on the head with that.

      I was going to post that I agreed that 67% of white people were wrong but this is even more true. Zimmerman would have never followed the white kid around in the first place.

  • http://aceofsevens.wordpress.com Ace of Sevens

    Some kinds of white are okay to shoot, but if he looked like Justin Bieber, people would have been way more suspicious of the “thug” story and looked into it more. Zimmerman seems to have escape punishment through family connections, but those only get you so far.

  • Alverant

    If Trayvon had been white, Zimmerman would not have been arrested for one simple reason. Zimmerman wouldn’t have gotten out of his car with a gun then chased and shot him. Zimmerman would have kept on driving becuase he saw no problem with a white kid in a rich neighborhood and Trayvon would never know how lucky he was to still be alive.

  • New England Bob

    Exactly right Alverant and jws1.

  • Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    The story in that bit of info isn’t “There’s a racial divide,” it’s “67% of white people are wrong.”

    QFFT

  • ausqb

    I think you’re assuming a lot. The facts of the case are disputed, yet you seem to somehow know exactly who is at fault.

    It may well be the case that the police did the right thing in not arresting Zimmerman because he acted lawfully. The most enlightened opinion I have heard is that this sort of outcome is inevitible with Florida’s “stand your ground” law, and that what people are really upset about, whether they realize it or not, is that they disagree with the law in this instance.

    • http://aceofsevens.wordpress.com Ace of Sevens

      The police aren’t supposed to arrest people who have definitely committed crimes. They’re supposed to arrest people who they have probable cause committed a crime and let them go if they post bail or it turns out there’s not enough evidence to charge them. THey basically declared him not guilty with investigating first. See Ta-Nehisi Coates here:

      http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/04/focusing-on-whats-important-in-the-trayvon-martin-case/255629/

    • jws1

      One of the politicians who authored the law says that it is being used incorrectly. You can’t go looking for confrontation, especially after the police dispatcher tells you not to.

    • jws1

      Oh, and how many white people did Zimmerman find suspicious enough to call the cops?

    • gwen

      9/10 of my problem with the case is the complete clusterf**k of an investigation the Sanford police department did..or more correctly did NOT do. Even if not arresting Zimmerman, in the course of the investigation, they should have confiscated his clothing, tested him for gunpowder residue, drug/alcohol tested him, checked Trayvon’s cell phone information, taken the gun for testing….The department was so incompetent, I could probably fill a column with things NOT done. Every police officer I have spoken to in the matter, whether or not they believe Zimmerman’s story, agree the investigation was grossly incompetent.

    • cactusren

      Zimmerman admitted that he killed Martin. The fact that he claims self defense is a legal matter, to be decided by a jury. The proper procedure for the police in this situation is to arrest Zimmerman and turn the case over to the courts. Now, a prosecutor might look at the evidence and decide that the case is weak, or simply that a jury would probably acquit Zimmerman, and therefore drop the case. That’s a separate matter, though, and has no bearing on what the police should have done. (Mind you, I don’t think that prosecutors should drop this case, I’m simply pointing out that the choice is theirs, not the cops’.)

  • Francisco Bacopa

    Trayvon probably wouldn’t have been noticed if he were white. But supposing things happened as they did but with a white Trayvon, I really doubt we’d see Fox news and conservative websites getting involved.

    And I would like to point out that the police actually at the scene fully expected Zimmerman to me formally arrested after they detained him. The problem here is higher up than the rank and file cops.

  • Angela

    According to the logic in this article, If 67% of white people are wrong, doesn’t that mean that 23% of black people are wrong, too?

    It’s not so clear to me that the 23% (or 67% for that matter) are flat out wrong. We don’t know enough about the story to assume that race was the only factor in Zimmerman’s arrest. All that these statistics show is that mob-justice has not ruled in Zimmerman’s favor. And I think history has shown that mob-justice is no justice at all.

    Cactursen seems to have a misunderstanding of the law in this case. The law states that if a person is acting in self-defense, they are not subject to immediate arrest. This is the whole point of the law, to tilt the justice system in the favor of a person acting in self-defense. What if Trayvon had killed Zimmerman? He would have been protected by this law, too.

    I’m not saying that Zimmerman was correct in invoking this law. But it is up to the prosecution to build a case against him.

    • Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

      According to the logic in this article, If 67% of white people are wrong, doesn’t that mean that 23% of black people are wrong, too?

      It’s not so clear to me that the 23% (or 67% for that matter) are flat out wrong. We don’t know enough about the story to assume that race was the only factor in Zimmerman’s arrest.

      a) yes, 23% of black folk are also wrong. …unless they said, “I don’t know,” which would be factual for them though entire lacking in any probative value.

      b) How carefully did you read the article? The question wasn’t whether race was the “only factor” in what happened. If Trayvon had been 50 years old, wearing a business suit and walking in daylight, things would also have been different even if his skin color had been exactly the same. If zimmerman was on vacation and nnot present things would have been different. The question instead is whether race is of **sufficient** import that

      No shooting, no arrest. It’s possible that some folk went this direction with the question. To that extent also I would walk back the number who were “wrong”. It is possible to assume that the question allows these things and equally possible to assume that the question implies that a killing occurred and that everything played out exactly the same – even to the tone of voice and words spoken by the hypothetical white Trayvon and shooter Zimmerman. Different people will interpret the question differently, which is part of why people doing surveys of popular opinion should try very hard to write exactly the question to which they want an answer.

      I don’t think it’s as easy as, “Oh, the vic is white, let’s arrest!” Instead the race of the victim affects the extent to which cops identify with the person who died and thus affects the diligence with which they investigate. Further, they might have thought for a minute that an affirmative defense is a factual matter for a trier of fact to decide, not a reason to let zimmerman go. But when you don’t identify with the victim, you don’t think about quite a number of things and both your investigation and logic suffer.

      More about how the race of a victim affects outcomes at the link in the OP.

    • Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

      sufficient import that

      …the response of officers would have included a formal arrest.

      sorry about the loss of that sentence. Html fail, I think.

    • cactusren

      The law states that if a person is acting in self-defense, they are not subject to immediate arrest.

      Right, but it also says the police may arrest someone if they have probable cause that the individual used unlawful force. In this case, it’s clear that Zimmerman killed Martin, the only question is whether that was unlawful or not (that is, was it self defense?). While Zimmerman claims self defense, his previous call to 911 and Martin’s call to his girlfriend both make it clear that Zimmerman was following Martin. The details are less clear after that, but that fact alone makes the self defense claim suspect. That means there is probable cause for an arrest.

      The problem isn’t so much that the police didn’t arrest Zimmerman immediately, but that it didn’t appear they were going to arrest him or continue the investigation. That’s what this survey asking what would happen if Martin were white was about: would the police have given the case higher priority, and investigated more vigorously had Martin been white? While there is certainly variation among individual officers and among police departments, the statistics clearly say that the answer to this question is yes.

  • Drivebyposter

    If I remember correctly, Zimmerman has some hispanic ancestry.
    If Martin had been white, Zimmerman would have been a dangerous immigrant. He would be pointed to as a reason to build a fence and prevent hispanics from voting.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      If I remember correctly, Zimmerman has some hispanic ancestry.
      If Martin had been white, Zimmerman would have been a dangerous immigrant. He would be pointed to as a reason to build a fence and prevent hispanics from voting.

      I’ve thought of that.

  • CT

    Yeah, not so much. Try living in a poor area. Doesn’t much matter if you’re black, white, or brown, if you don’t have money nobody much gives a sh#t. It’s lucky that Trayvon was black at least his people could try to get justice using that avenue.

    • http://strangesally.wordpress.com/ SallyStrange: bottom-feeding, work-shy peasant

      Have you heard of this thing called “intersectionality”? I admit it’s a bit of a sociological term of art, but here’s how it works: There are multiple ways in which a person can be oppressed. Yes, being poor sucks and makes it less likely that the cops or justice system will give a shit if you are murdered. That’s called classism. However, if you think that being white and poor doesn’t grant you certain advantages that poor black people just don’t have, I submit that you’re a blinkered idiot. Racism ensures that people–everyone, not just white people–stereotype young black men as likely criminals, which predisposes them to look the other way when innocent black men are gunned down by misguided, incompetent police or soi-disant “neighborhood watch captains.” Ceteris paribus, if you are black, you’re less likely than a white person to have the cops/justice system take injustices committed against you seriously. If you are poor and black then you have intersecting oppressions and that makes it even harder on you.

      It’s worth pointing out that Trayvon’s family is actually kind of middle class. Do you really think the cops would hesitate to arrest the murderer of a middle class white teenager?

      I also think it’s kind of shitty that you are basically saying that you’re envious of blacks because they have a social structure of civil rights activists in their communities. Guess why whites don’t have that infrastructure? It’s because they haven’t had their civil rights systematically denied for centuries.

  • josh

    “The story in that bit of info isn’t “There’s a racial divide,” it’s “67% of white people are wrong.” ”

    No, the story is: roughly 100% of people are wrong because you can’t apply statistics to an individual hypothetical. Moreover we don’t even seem to have very relevant statistics to this case because no one has come out with “arrest/charge rates for alleged self-defense related deaths in states with ‘stand your ground’ laws where no solid evidence contradicts the shooter’s story, broken down by race.”

    Alternatively, the story is: Journalists ask stupid polling questions.

    • josh

      Scratch the “roughly 100%”. If you click through to the actual poll, 16% of non-blacks and 8% of blacks responded with ‘no opinion’. So “roughly 85%” would be more accurate.

  • Zugswang

    I had just about completely forgotten about this story from a few years ago.

    Though I didn’t realize this guy had been given a life sentence, as well. Kind of reinforces your point, doesn’t it?


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X