Why Some People Need to Believe George Zimmerman

by Paul Siciliano


The fascination with the shooting death of Trayvon Martinand the subsequent trial of his killer, George Zimmerman, is that it touches on the most difficult of legal, moral, cultural, and social issues.  There are so many different aspects that they all cannot be addressed in one entry.  Here, I'd like to address why there is this need, almost exclusively among FOX-watching whites, to believe George Zimmerman's account of what occurred that night. 

If you step back and push your emotions aside and really listen to George Zimmerman's account and use your common sense, you realize that Zimmerman is lying.  Many parts of his story make no sense, including the cliche dialogue Zimmerman claims Martin used during the altercation - "You got a problem, homie?" "You're gonna die tonight motherfucker"  Let's go over some of the lies.  Martin never circled Zimmerman's car.  Why would Martin run off and wait in hiding for Zimmerman to sucker punch him when there is no guarantee that Zimmerman would get out of his truck and follow him?  Zimmerman was never looking for an address.  Why would you give the police an address where your vehicle is not parked?  Why have the police call you when they arrive instead of meeting near the clubhouse that you are parked at?  The story of how Zimmerman is able to access and unholster his gun is physically impossible (and cliche).  How is the shot so perfect when you are lying on your back screaming for your life?  Where are Zimmerman's hands during this entire altercation?  They only appear when Martin allegedly sees a gun.  (A gun, by the way, you forgot you had even though you bring it with you everywhere except work.)  The list goes on. 

Why are people ignoring that the story is incredulous or dismiss such concerns as nothing more than semantics?  There is this strong need to believe Zimmerman despite the incredulous nature of his account.  I think you are dealing with two types of willfully blind individuals:  1.) supporters of gun rights who push self defense, and 2.) those wanting a respectable way to express racial animus. 

Gun rights advocates have this false belief that an armed society is a polite society.  An armed citizenry will lower crime (especially if the gun is concealed) because criminals will never know if the intended victim is packing heat and ready to stand his ground.  They love stand your ground and self defense without a duty to retreat.  The law abiding should never have to just take it from the criminally inclined.  Who cares if the assailant is killed?  Next time, do not commit a crime. 

There is definitely this frontier/self-reliance feel that is very much part of American culture.  The problem is that we end up with vigilantism and mistakes which run counter to our sense of justice and rule of law.  How is one to resolve this tension between self-reliance and justice?  Just pretend there are no bad outcomes when individuals use deadly force; just pretend deadly force is always justified. 

And, it is easier to justify deadly force when race plays a role.  That brings us to those individuals who believe Zimmerman unconditionally because they need to find a "respectable" way to express their fears and concerns of black people, particularly young black men, without being labelled a racist.  I like to call it a way of expressing their racial animus (or race obsession) in a politically correct manner. 

These are the people who fear black men, as a bunch of violent criminals.  These are the people who believe they are the victims of racism from blacks.  These are the people who want to express their dislike of black self-assertion and political power without appearing racist.  These people believe black men, not all, but most, are dangerous criminals who need to be controlled, through the threat of violence, within and outside of the criminal justice system.  These people feel that Zimmerman was only acting on what they feel.  To admit that Zimmerman was wrong is to admit to themselves that they are wrong, and that is not something they are willing to accept.

Most people do not like to accept that they are wrong, especially when it involves deeply held beliefs.  That is why Zimmerman is in the right, and if that requires characterizing Martin as a thug, so be it.  They would rather accept that Martin deserved to die than to accept that Zimmerman lied.  Martin's death is preferable to accepting Zimmerman's irrational behavior.  This is a way to express their distrust and fear of black people while appearing not to be racist.  Besides, those who politically forced this prosecution are the racists - just ask Zimmerman's father. 

It's also a way for these people to deny racism, particular the institutional racism that still exists in our criminal justice system.  Why can't some people acknowledge that racism taints our criminal justice system?  Because, that would challenge the belief that the United States is a just and fair society - and those who enjoy it cannot accept it does not apply to others.  These people cannot accept that our criminal justice is not color blind, or even concede that African Americans have a point.  So, they'd rather live with the fallacies that Zimmerman was right, that our legal system is just and that the real racists are "black agitators".  Who cares if an unarmed 17 year old is dead - he deserves it anyway.  Next time, don't be such a scary black man.