Not that we’re keeping score, but since George Zimmerman’s acquittal on second degree murder and manslaughter charges in the killing of Trayvon Martin, he has done an exceptional job of proving to so many of us why we believed he was guilty, despite the verdict.
First, shortly after the trial ended, there was the so-called rescue of a family from a car accident. The family in question declined making any public statements substantiating Zimmerman’s role as a “rescue hero.”
Zimmerman apparently likes to drive fast. Two traffic stops for speeding wouldn’t mean much in and of themselves, but in this case, they suggest a propensity to flout the law. In the first of the two incidents, Zimmerman revealed that he had a handgun in the glove box
Then, in an incredibly insensitive act which attracted lots of publicity, Zimmerman toured a gun factory — the same one that made the Kel Tec 9mm weapon he used to shoot Trayvon Martin in the heart.
Yesterday, Shellie Zimmerman, who recently separated from her husband and is seeking a divorce, called 911 to report a domestic incident in which Shelli Zimmerman said her estranged husband smashed her iPad, cutting it with a pocket knife and punched her father in the face. The incident took place inside the home of Shelli’s Zimmerman’s parents and was reportedly recorded on that iPad. A transcript of the 911 call shows her claiming to the 911 operator that she was afraid and “did not know what he was capable of.”
Actually, some of us feel we do know what he is capable of.
That searing look across the collective faces of those of us who doubted the Zimmerman verdict – as expressed by gawker forum comments – was a righteous “we told you so!” And that was aimed directly in the face of America’s criminal justice system; a system of laws, law officers, courts and lawyers that together demonized a dead, black teenager rather than obtaining justice in his killing.
That look is directed right at all of the people who snapped pictures of themselves “Trayvoning”; right at Geraldo Rivera for suggesting that we stop wearing hoodies; at Fox News and political pundits on the right who rallied around Zimmerman before, during and after the trial; right at all of the gun nuts who seized upon the killing of an unarmed teenager to further politicize their unyielding desire to sell fear and guns – usually in that order.
That “we-told-you-so” look is staring juror B37 in the face. She went on record saying she believed George Zimmerman’s “heart was in the right place” and that she would want him to be a part of her neighborhood watch. What does she think of “George” now that all of these incidents following the trial have surfaced?
Although many comparisons will be made between post-trial Zimmerman and post-trial Simpson, as Salamishah Tillet astutely points out in her piece in The Nation, the significant trait in common between O.J. Simpson and George Zimmerman is that they both had allegations of domestic violence lodged against them prior to their murder trials. In Zimmerman’s case, a domestic incident in 2005 with his former fiancée resulted in dueling protective orders. The racial alignment in cases like these illustrates the ways in which too many of us are willing to ignore violence against women.
Most of us will never know why Shellie Zimmerman and her father decided not to pursue domestic violence charges or why law enforcement officers decided not to get warrants to search further for the handgun Shelli Zimmerman claimed was brandished by her estranged husband. Many of us remain suspicious of those officers who work in the jurisdiction that declined to arrest Zimmerman after the shooting of Trayvon Martin, or after his speeding incident in Lake Mary.
In the opinion of some of us, particularly African-Americans, whatever the verdict, George Zimmerman literally got away with murder. His estranged wife and father-in-law might have concerns about Zimmerman’s behavior this week, but we have come to our own judgments about this man’s character. The symmetry of his pre- and post-trial behavior should not surprise us, but Zimmerman supporters can no longer pretend that George Zimmerman is some kind of all-American good neighbor who only acts in self-defense.
James Braxton Peterson is the Director of Africana Studies and Associate Professor of English at Lehigh University and an MSNBC contributor. Follow him on Twitter @DrJamesPeterson