Why Trayvon Martin doesn't need to be squeaky clean

OPINION - Should we care if shooting death victim Trayvon Martin wasn't an angel, didn't have a squeaky clean record, and maybe even experimented with marijuana?

Should we care if shooting death victim Trayvon Martin wasn’t an angel, didn’t have a squeaky clean record, and maybe even experimented with marijuana?

Apparently someone in the Sanford, Florida Police Department leaked to the media that Martin was suspended for 10 days from Dr. Michael M. Krop Senior High School in North Miami-Dade for possession of an empty baggie with marijuana residue. A spokesperson for Trayvon Martin’s family confirmed to MSNBC producer Stephanie Cargill that Trayvon Martin was indeed suspended.

And so, the character assassination of a dead child begins.

In response to an article published in the Orlando Sentinel, the Sanford police maintained that the information on Martin was consistent with the information provided to prosecutors. However, the information was not provided to the media through an authorized source at the police department, and was possibly leaked from within the department.

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City Manager Norton Bonaparte, Jr. said that those who leaked the information could face disciplinary action, including possible termination. “We do not condone these unauthorized leaks of information,” Bonaparte said, “Acting Chief Scott will be doing an internal investigation within the Sanford Police Department as this type of action compromises the integrity of the law enforcement agency which has pledged to uphold the law.”

“Even in death, and Trayvon is gone and not returning to us, they are still disrespecting my son, and that’s a shame,” Tracy Martin said at a press conference yesterday. “The only comment that I have right now is that they’ve killed my son, now they are trying to kill his reputation,” said a tearful Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon’s mother.

According to law enforcement sources, Martin’s suspension would be irrelevant in a police investigation, unless it concerned the assailant’s background. Moreover, the only reason to run a background check on the victim here would be to dirty him up. For police and Zimmerman supporters, perhaps this new information was meant to be their bombshell, a smoking gun. But it’s more like a bust.

“Whatever Trayvon Martin was suspended for had absolutely no bearing on what happened on the night of February 26,” said Martin lawyer Ben Crump, “If he and his friends experimented with marijuana that was still completely irrelevant to George Zimmerman killing their son on the night of February 26. Once again, law enforcement is attempting to demonize and blame the victim by releasing bits and pieces of an ongoing investigation.”

No one has been arrested — although self-professed gunman George Zimmerman should, and likely will, be arrested — and already, someone wants to try this case in the court of public opinion. Part of that process is sullying the name of a child who was killed and cannot defend himself, while failing to scrutinize the background of the man who shot him dead.

“Trayvon was an average kid [who had] never, ever demonstrated any violence, had never even gotten in a fight,” Crump said. “Trayvon is dead and can’t defend himself. Had Zimmerman not disobeyed the police dispatcher and got out of his car and pursued Trayvon, Trayvon would still be living today.”

And the focus should be on the man who pursued Trayvon Martin and shot him to death. After all, Zimmerman had a violent background, including a charge of felony assault on a police officer and resisting arrest in 2005, and a history of domestic abuse against with his ex-fiancée. And why would the state of Florida allow someone such as dubious a past as Zimmerman buy a firearm?

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By all accounts, Trayvon Martin was a good kid. If he experimented with drugs, perhaps that means he was wasn’t perfect like a child of the Huxtable family of TV fiction. In other words, Martin was human, and humans experiment in their youth, with mistakes, missteps, and lessons learned along the way. So, Martin was not a “good black” in the eyes of those who would discredit him in death.

And yet, if marijuana possession and use and possession amounted to conduct worthy of an assassin’s bullet, this nation would be strewn with the bodies of dead young people — including young white people, those who attend elite prep schools, and the children of prominent politicians and civic and business leaders.

In an America where criminality is associated with blackness, black youth are burdened with a stereotype. And detractors would point to their clothing style — including the hoodie Martin wore the day he died — as evidence of criminality, if not justification for shooting the kids who sport hoodies.

“The danger of focusing on the hoodie is that he wasn’t killed because of the hoodie. He was killed because he was black,” Rev. Jesse Jackson said in a Sunday sermon at the Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church in Eatonville, Florida.

Jackson compared Martin’s death to Emmett Till in the 1950s, and linked his death to the fight against racial injustice. “The issue is not the hoodie — it’s race, registration and civil rights,” Jackson said.

“Let’s not play this double standard of trying to demonize who is dead and sanitize who was the cause of the death,” said Rev. Al Sharpton. Trayvon’s parents expected the information to come out at some point, and Sharpton warned them that their son would become a target.

“As much as it will hurt, they will try to make your son a junkie, a thief, assaulter, everything else before this is over,” he added, “If you want to discuss something relevant, discuss what Zimmerman might have had in his system. Discuss his past.”

Meanwhile, a new CNN/ORC International poll found that nearly three-quarters of Americans believe George Zimmerman should be arrested, and three-quarters say neighborhood watch groups should not be allowed to carry weapons.

Blaming Trayvon Martin for his death by pointing to his suspension for marijuana is an unseemly sideshow. Imperfection is not the standard for taking a boy’s life. Rather, the focus should be on the gunman and his own sketchy past. So move on, please, there’s nothing to see here.

Follow David A. Love on Twitter at @davidalove