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Is Racial Profiling Ever Okay?

Richard Cohen, a fellow creepy-ass cracka pundit, wrote the other day [1]:

I don’t like what George Zimmerman did [2], and I hate that Trayvon Martin is dead [3]. But I also can understand why Zimmerman was suspicious and why he thought Martin was wearing a uniform we all recognize. I don’t know whether Zimmerman is a racist. But I’m tired of politicians and others who have donned hoodies [4] in solidarity with Martin and who essentially suggest that, for recognizing the reality of urban crime in the United States, I am a racist. The hoodie blinds them as much as it did Zimmerman.

Matt Yglesias responded: [5]

I think what Cohen really means to be arguing isn’t so much that neither he nor Zimmerman are racists, but that racism is the correct social and political posture. That white people have good reason to fear black men, and that therefore all black men should be put in a subordinate position. But as a logical argument, Cohen here is falling afoul of very poor statistical inference. For example, the vast majority of newspaper op-ed columnists in America are white men just like Richard Cohen. But that doesn’t mean it’s reasonable to see a white man walking down the street and assume he’s a newspaper columnist. If you look specifically at Jewish men, you’ll see the stereotype that we are disproportionately represented in the field of political commentary is absolutely accurate. And yet it is still not reasonable to assume that some randomly selected Jewish man is a professional political writer. Even right here on the mean streets of Washington, D.C.—a city that’s legendary for its high rate of punditry—a clear majority of Jewish men are not pundits. It’s just a very rare occupation.

By the same token, the fact that young black men are disproportionately likely to be involved in violent crime in no way licenses the inference that you should stop random black men on the street and begin treating them like criminals.

For example, since moving to a majority black city 10 years ago, it is the case that 100 percent of the people who randomly assaulted me on the street were African-American. And yet that was a single incident on one day out of thousands. The overwhelming preponderance of black men I walk past on the street on a day-to-day basis—even the young ones, even the ones wearing hoodies—aren’t committing any violent crimes. If I were to start questioning every single black male teenager I come across as a criminal suspect, I would very much be engaged in unreasonable behavior.

Well, yeah, but is that really what Cohen is asserting here? Isn’t it more reasonable to read his claim more narrowly?

Here’s what I mean. Yglesias was beaten by two black men on a DC street years ago. If you live in Washington DC, and you are the victim of violent crime, your assailants are overwhelmingly likely to be young black men. Yglesias is certainly right to point out that it is unreasonable (and uncharitable) to conclude that every young black man you come across in DC is a potential criminal. But it is reasonable to assume that if you are going to be a violent crime victim in DC — as most people in Washington are not, and never will be — then your assailant will almost certainly be a young black male.


How does this play out in real life? When I lived in DC back in the 1990s, if I was walking back to my apartment on Capitol Hill after dark — the Hill was not nearly as safe then as it is now — I would cross the street if I saw young black men dressed like street thugs coming at me. Those men could have been fine upstanding Christian gentlemen, but I wasn’t willing to take that chance. Had I passed them at high noon, I wouldn’t have given them a second thought. But at night, in that neighborhood, with them wearing those clothes, I made a choice. Had they been black men in office wear, I wouldn’t have given them a second look. The fact is, they fit the visual and demographic profile of the overwhelming majority of street criminals in Washington, DC, in those days. Chances are every time I did that, I was making an inaccurate negative judgment of those teenagers. But you know, given what was going on in DC at the time — e.g., a friend and co-worker was made to lie face down with his girlfriend in front of their Capitol Hill house while a black male thug held a pistol to their heads as he robbed them — I was willing to accept the risk of having committed thoughtcrime.

If a teenage white male chose to cut his hair and present himself like a skinhead on the streets of a city in which there had been lots of skinhead attacks on minorities, would you really say that a black, Hispanic, Asian or Jew would be wrong to cross the street at night when he saw white guys who fit the visual and demographic profile of skinheads coming? I wouldn’t.

Yglesias is correct to say that it is irrational — and it is racist — to assume that because black men are disproportionately involved in violent crime, therefore all black men ought to be regarded as criminal. But where do you draw the line? It is wrong to assume all men are rapists because all rapists are men, but if my daughter is walking home on a dark street at night, and she sees a man coming at her, I expect that she will cross the street to improve her chances at safety, no matter how much it hurts the man’s feelings.

Ta-Nehisi Coates writes [6] that the a problem with racial profiling is that it causes the “annihilation of the black individual.” He has a point. None of us like to be seen only as a member of a group, and certainly not when the stereotype is used to marginalize us as unworthy. Last year, in Paris, I met an American neurosurgeon traveling with his wife. He and his wife were disgusted by Paris because many Parisians mistook him for an Arab (he was Latin American), and treated him rudely. The man was really hurt and angry, and I didn’t blame him. I can imagine how French Arabs must feel. In fact, I don’t have to imagine it, because a white French friend of mine is married to an Arab — French-born, secular, well-educated, a business executive — and they both told me that the racism he has to put up with is terrible. At the same time, the Arab population in France has many of the same problems that the black population in the US does, in terms of a higher degree of crime, social dysfunction, and so forth. It’s hard to judge from the outside of French society.

I can’t pretend to know what it’s like for an American black man with regard to people viewing him with suspicion, but in trying to imagine what it feels like, I thought of two times I was made to feel not like a person, but like there was nothing more to me than my color — and it caused people to judge me negatively. The time that stands out to me was years ago, when I was applying for a newspaper job that I really wanted, and was told that I was perfect for it. Then the paper stopped returning my calls. Finally, an executive there told me that either the editor-in-chief or the publisher, can’t remember which, decreed that a minority or a woman must be hired for that job. It was humiliating and infuriating to me. All I was to that newsroom executive was a white male. The quality of my writing, my work ethic — nothing mattered. All they saw was race and gender. And the paper thought it was being progressive! I was insulted, hurt, and embittered by it. Fortunately, by the time they got around to calling me and saying that they couldn’t find a woman or a minority whose qualifications matched mine, so they’d be willing to talk to me about the job, I had another, better job, and could tell them to get stuffed. Still, throughout my journalism career I’ve worked in newsrooms in which racial profiling for the sake of hiring was not only done, it was positively embraced as a virtue, and called “diversity.”

Now, the deleterious racial profiling happened to me once, and it didn’t cost me in the end. If I were a black man, and I had to put up with that kind of thing all the time, it would make me hard and angry.

A more recent example came in some of the political arguments going on in my parish (county), over governmental reform. It turns out that the black community, at least to judge by those who have been speaking out, are being racially deterministic to a degree that’s shocking in this day and age. One black citizen who spoke at a meeting even argued that whites cannot represent blacks. It was straight-up racist. It is confounding and hurtful, and it is just flat-out wrong. All this woman sees is color, not individuality, and there are many like her. The bigotry on display is depressing as hell.

On the other hand, it must be conceded that because for almost the entire history of this parish, black people had to see all white people as the potential enemy, for their own survival. I heard a story a couple of years ago about a town in the next parish over. A wealthy white man with a terrible temper shot and killed a black man on the main street, in broad daylight, because the black man supposedly disrespected him. The white man never had to answer in court for the murder. That was something like 80 years ago, but within living memory, black people were being terrorized by the Klan and its allies. If you wanted to be safe, better to see all white people as potential threats. Now, I know for a fact not all black people did that, that many were able to discern good whites from ones who would likely harm them. But who could blame blacks for looking at whites not as individuals, but as an undifferentiated Other, given that to make a mistake on that front could cost them their lives? Times have changed, but you don’t erase that cultural memory so quickly.

On the other hand, the crime stats, etc. A young black woman in my town and I were talking last week about racism, and how much things have changed locally — and how they haven’t. She said that she sees a fair amount of casual anti-white racism in the black community, which is no surprise. She did surprise me, though, when she said that her mother profiles workmen when it comes to getting things repaired. The woman said her mother prefers to hire white repairmen because based on experience, she trusts them to do better work. Who am I to argue with this woman’s experience? Who are you? If it was your money at stake, would you profile in this way?

We all profile, in the sense that we make generalizations about people, often based on a lack of knowledge, fear, and prejudice. Even the best among us do it. I’ve read interviews with holy elders from Mount Athos, men who have reached a level of spiritual perfection I cannot imagine attaining, but who will come out with some outrageous anti-Semitic conspiracy statement that makes you just shake your head at their stupid bigotry. Last summer I invited a couple of French tourists over for tea. At some point in the conversation, they talked about Americans and our guns. When they asked me if I had a gun and I told them yes, several, they went white. They were visibly afraid — this, even though they were sitting in my comfortable living room, drinking a nice cup of tea with someone whose company they had been enjoying. They had this stereotype of crazy gun-toting Americans, and suddenly that’s all I was to them. It was bizarre. I wasn’t so much offended as I was amused, but still, there it was. When I’ve read some of you on this board talk about how freaked out you would be by the sight of someone displaying a Confederate flag, I think about how off that reaction is. I mean, it’s possible that a white person displaying that flag is a dangerous racist, but chances are they are harmless. But that’s something you’d only really know if you were part of the culture and the community. I’m sure that white people like me see black men displaying certain signs of thug culture in terms of dress and style, and make the same kind of fearful assumptions.

What I struggle with is knowing when “profiling” — racial, gender, sartorial, whatever — is common sense, and when it is unreasonable. Profiling is always prejudicial, in that you are making a judgment without having sufficient knowledge of a person’s individual character. But we cannot all know everything; we have to rely on prejudice to get through the day. What is the difference between commonsense, prudential pre-judgment, and flat-out bigotry? When is it okay to profile, by which I mean when is it morally right, or at least morally tolerable, to notice patterns and make pre-judgments based on them? Why is it right in college admissions and hiring to reduce individuals to their race or gender?

I’m not asking rhetorically. I really would like to hear what you have to say. If the questions make you feel indignant, one way or the other, don’t bother answering. I would like to read a civil discussion, not a display of moral preening or sermonizing from either side.

132 Comments (Open | Close)

132 Comments To "Is Racial Profiling Ever Okay?"

#1 Comment By Pete S On July 18, 2013 @ 2:35 pm

M_Young – your math may be completely right and for the point you make I will concede it. So your conclusion is that it is reasonable for an armed man to challenge someone he does not know, but is 80-90% likely to not be the type of criminal he is looking for? That is insane.

Profiling may be a useful tool at some level in solving crimes, epsecially when used with other behavioral clues. But racial profiling by itself it is no use at all in predicting who is going to commit a crime in the future – either you predict no crime, or you wind up with a lot of false positives.

#2 Comment By Chris On July 18, 2013 @ 2:50 pm

There are plenty of white people I stay away from in certain situations too.

I’d stay away aggressive amped-up fratty white dudes or poor drug dealer types. I have also met people who would appear to be both of these profiles and had great encounters.

Life is a crap shoot a lot of the time.

#3 Comment By M_Young On July 18, 2013 @ 2:51 pm

“Chris Rock has a bit about being terrified of teenage white boys because of the propensity of mass shootings to be carried out by teenage white boys.”

Actually, white males are slightly underrepresented among mass shooters, blacks slightly overrepresented. (Long Island Train Shooting, Connecticut Beer Distributorship Shooting, etc) Surprisingly, a mass shooter is more than twice as likely Asian as Asians’ numbers in the general population would suggest.

It could be the younger white males are overrepresented, as mass shooters of other races seem to be older.

#4 Comment By Thursday On July 18, 2013 @ 3:05 pm

Zimmerman was incorrect in his suspicion that Martin might be connected to the burglaries that had been common in his neighborhood.

Let me post this again. The commenter is stating categorically that Martin was not involved in the burglaries in the area. That is what I was responding to, and it seems unwarranted.

(Oh, and did I mention the jewelry found with the screwdriver.)

#5 Comment By Thursday On July 18, 2013 @ 3:10 pm

Now, having tools and jewelry in your bag and being in a neighbourhood where burglaries have taken place is not enough to convict someone. It’s not even enough to say that Martin was probably a burglar. But it does make it reasonable to keep an eye on him. Sheesh.

#6 Comment By Joe the Plutocrat On July 18, 2013 @ 3:24 pm

my post got gobbled up my a gremlin. the bottom line is; by definition racial profiling is not a good idea. a “profile” is just that, a superficial “sketch” or assessment. add to this the (ignorant) idea that because young black males in hoodies may or may not be members of gangs (or at the very least, be attempting to present a “thug” image – which of course may have more to do with MTV than reality) and there you have it. as I said, those who used “profiling” as a substitute for a thorough investigation are weak and lazy. we can debate the value of this practice in terms of law enforcement (4th amendment comes to mind); but when you have a private citizen pretending to “enforce” the law, and you combine this with the 2nd amendment and FL’s “stand your ground” nonsense; you tell me if “racial profiling is ever a good idea”. does it happen? of course. cops do it all the time (and any evidence collected as a result is liable to be thrown out of court).

#7 Comment By EliteCommInc. On July 18, 2013 @ 3:43 pm

“One of the primary roles of a Bayesian model is to allow the model creator to use commonsense and real-world knowledge to eliminate needless complexity in the model. For example, a model builder would be likely to know that the time of day would not normally directly influence a car’s oil leak. Any such influence would be based on other, more direct factors, such as temperature and driving conditions.”


Let’s for the sake of pandering to your rather strange notions of about predictability — and i do not think for a minute this is true. But say i grant out your suspicions that young Trayvon Martin was casing the complex — I am being very gracious here. He gets spotted stalked and evades his pursuer —

Do tell what is the probabilty on a common sense scale that having escaped he returns for the purpose of putting himself in the clutches of his pursuer?

ohh that might be one of the common sense considerations in my Bayesian model.

#8 Comment By EngineerScotty On July 18, 2013 @ 3:57 pm

You are right, black get better than equal treatment.

You’re too funny, M_young.

All this worrying over stereotyping is kind worthless. Black teenager boys know that by acting a certain way and dressing a certain way they will make people think they are thugs. They’re not stupid. Giving off a thuggish vibe is something they do on purpose because they think its cool. They think its funny when white ladies clutch their purses, cross to the other side of the street, etc.

Of course, some of us could make similar observations about a certain subset of right-wing white males and their fascination with Revolutionary War imagery (though modern weaponry) and prattling on about tyranny and such… does that mean I should cross the street in order avoid encounters with bearded Caucasians sporting NRA T-shirts or Confederate flags or similar insignia associated with rural white violence? 🙂

#9 Comment By Church Lady On July 18, 2013 @ 4:51 pm

If one car were 5 or 10-times more likely to roll over, or to explode on impact, wouldn’t any reasonable person regard that car as particularly dangerous?

See, this is just the kind of thinking that makes for racism. Black people aren’t mass-produced like cars, all the same, with the same pros and cons, and the same probabilities of being killers. If all one does is see race, one isn’t looking at the real risks that someone might be a violent criminal. In fact, the most important element to violent crime is the victim, not the criminal. Violent criminals don’t randomly target people based on race, they do so on the basis of reward, money being the most likely determinant. If you walk down the streets of a poor neighborhood looking like you have a lot of money, and seem like an easy mark, chances are much greater that you will get robbed.

I used to live in NYC, and you learn to walk a certain way there, and put out a certain vibe, that criminals will steer away from. If you don’t, as one time when I lapsed from that attitude, you get targeted (by white guys, in my case). You have to be aware and on your toes.

As for the much higher rates of crime and murder among black people, it’s largely due to the drug war and its casualties, not to some general predilection. WHere white people get heavily involved in the drug trade, there’s a lot of violence there also. Also, the southern white Irish-Scottish ethnic grouping has a much higher murder and violence rate than whites outside the south. That whole southern honor culture thing makes for high rates of violence. In fact, if you take away both the Irish-Scottish southerners and the urban blacks, our rates of violence and murder are on a par with Europe’s. So beware of those Irish-Scottish types when you’re walking down the street. They may have it in for you.

#10 Comment By Josh McGee On July 18, 2013 @ 5:05 pm

Thursday – I probably could have made that point better and more succinctly. Absolutely, the trajectory of Martin’s behavior over the last year of his life had moved him to the category of a suspicious, young, black male (the drugs, the school suspensions, the circumstantial evidence possibly connecting him to petty thievery, etc.). In other words, Zimmerman matching him to a profile was correct.

However, there is to this point nothing to actually connect him to any of the actual crimes going on in that neighborhood – I believe the bag with the screw driver and jewelry was related to one of the school suspensions. On the 911 call Zimmerman said something about ‘these assholes always get away’. My point was that Zimmerman was apparently wrong about Martin being one of ‘those assholes’ that had been committing crimes in the neighborhood, even though it appears he was absolutely right to regard him as suspicious – he nailed that profile (based on what is known about Martin’s last year or two: drug use, multiple suspensions, circumstantial evidence for petty thievery, having just bought two of the 3 main ingredients for a drug it is well documented by his own admissions he was using / making, etc.)

I just find that to be one of the more interesting elements to a somewhat odd case…..

#11 Comment By M_Young On July 18, 2013 @ 5:56 pm

“So your conclusion is that it is reasonable for an armed man to challenge someone he does not know, but is 80-90% likely to not be the type of criminal he is looking for? That is insane.”

I don’t see it as insane, because even at 9-1, a reasonable person would see the potential pay off as enormous compared to the risk of harm. That’s because it isn’t a normal reaction to start wailing on a guy who asks you what you are doing, walking around to some degree aimlessly, in a neighborhood that isn’t yours, after dark. So the ‘harm’ done by a false positive is miniscule,* at least it should have been and Zimmerman had a reasonable expectation that it should have been.

OTOH, had Zimmerman been correct in this instance, the potential payoff would be enormous. A break in prevented, or likely several break-ins. But not only that, but a beginning of getting a handle on the situation. Do read that article I linked to before, about the community being on edge.

“”It was terrible,” said Bertalan, who moved from the neighborhood last month after about half a year, because of this and other burglaries. “I’m sure he could hear me in there because my son was crying, and I was crying. … Who knows what would have happened if the police hadn’t been there.” [my emphasis — and not conincidentally Bertalan was a defense witness]

This kind of drip drip drip of property crime, crime which always has the potential of violence, literally kills neighborhoods, towns, and — as the Detroit situation shows — cities. Zimmerman, in general, was trying to stop that from happening.

BTW, I’ve been ‘profiled’ three times, once by the London Met in my long hair and shaggy beard days, once by the German border guards (on a train well within Germany but on a line from Southeast Europe), and once by a homeowner in a really nice area of Monterey, CA after I had been sitting in my parked car for a while. With the authorities I, of course, complied with their requests for ID swiftly and with a smile. When the homeowner what I was doing, I simply told her it was a public street and (politely) to mind her own business. I didn’t open up a can of whoop ass on her, even when she made a big show of writing down my license plate number.

#12 Comment By mm On July 18, 2013 @ 6:28 pm

engineer scotty- except that the tea party has only engaged in violence in the imagination of the left- unless you count Kenneth Gladney, who assaulted the SEIU thugs by striking them on their fists with his head.

#13 Comment By JonF On July 18, 2013 @ 6:29 pm

Rod, your Chinese food example is no more “racial profiling” than it would be for someone learning Chinese to seek out native speakers for practice. There’s not one gram of stereotyping involved when you assume that members of a culture likely know the culture (file under “Duh”), be it the language, cuisine, whatever.

#14 Comment By M_Young On July 18, 2013 @ 7:43 pm

Food and race in one go


#15 Comment By John B On July 18, 2013 @ 7:59 pm

It may be true that it is reasonable to cross the street to avoid young black men, and I would never criticize anyone for doing so.

But it seems to me that it is a sin. It is the sort of lazy, self-coddling sin we are called on to rise above in the name of God and humanity.

Lots of reasonable choices are still wrong.

#16 Comment By Chris 1 On July 18, 2013 @ 8:14 pm

Apropos Rod’s “profiling” restaurants by the people in them:


Imagine walking into a Chinese restaurant full of Asian-looking people from Hoboken…


#17 Comment By Art Deco On July 18, 2013 @ 8:23 pm

If one wished to be utilitarian about it, one might note that there is a marginal benefit and a marginal cost to collecting information about people in making decisions about how you interact with them. At what point are costs and benefits in equilibrium? (I think something along these lines has been Walter Williams’ point with regard to decision-making in social relations).

Or is the application of a principle of utility unjust? Or could it not be truly implemented?

#18 Comment By AliceAN On July 19, 2013 @ 12:09 am

I think it’s natural to have prejudice. The enlightened recognizes this prejudice in themselves and makes to effort to look beyond the stereotype to the individual in front of you. The banality of evil is to excuse it, or justify it and perpetuate it.

I’m black, and if I’m walking up to an ATM and four black men are walking towards me, I’ll head back to my car. That’s a choice informed by prejudice, but in that instance my safety warrants such a reaction. Such prejudice is natural and immutable. In a similar manner, I won’t enter the home of any person brandishing a confederate flag, or let my children sleep over at some gun totting person’s home. Yes, you may be a lovely confederate who is not racist, and yes you may be a responsible gun nut, but I rather not find out otherwise on my own skin.

#19 Comment By EliteCommInc. On July 19, 2013 @ 8:40 am

“When the homeowner what I was doing, I simply told her it was a public street and (politely) to mind her own business. I didn’t open up a can of whoop ass on her, even when she made a big show of writing down my license plate number.”

Well, that’s the point, isn’t it. She engaged you. Mr. Zimmerman did no such theng. His behavior was all too provacative. And if you are silly enough to believe his story that this teen got away and came back for a tussel.

Had he as most adults would have said, “I am the watch guy.” Had he done anything so prudent. As I read, I am becoming more convinced by the young black men I have spoken to — that in this issue of black and white, perhaps I have not grasped just how thicka wall of arrogance and priviledge whites believe they live in and think they deserve.

Perhaps, Martin Luter King’s final observation is more accurate than I could imagine, that this is an evil in our society so deep so as to be insurmountable by reason.

It is a dark pixture I read.

#20 Comment By Tyro On July 19, 2013 @ 1:28 pm

Statistically speaking, you are most likely to be killed by a friend, relative, or acquaintance. Just avoid those three groups, and you will be safe.

I have had a very poor experience growing up with upper middle class whites. I don’t avoid them in general since every time I hear something politically and morally odious come out of someone’s mouth, that tends to be who says it… most of my friends fit this profile and are great people.

#21 Comment By mm On July 19, 2013 @ 3:01 pm

E Scotty- how do you know that Z confronted Martin & not the other way around? The fact is you are projecting your wishes on the situation-since you have no evidence. Z stated Martin confronted him- although you do not want to believe him, you have no contradictory evidence.

#22 Comment By j. r. mc Faul On July 19, 2013 @ 4:55 pm

“I’m black, and if I’m walking up to an ATM and four black men are walking towards me, I’ll head back to my car.”

Thank you, Alice.

I’m white and male. And if I see four white men near as I approach the ATM, I leave, too.

#23 Comment By Art Deco On July 19, 2013 @ 8:04 pm

She engaged you. Mr. Zimmerman did no such theng. His behavior was all too provacative.

I am waiting at this point for someone to chime in and say Zimmerman was reckless to get out of his vehicle. Maybe the two of you can then address each other directly on the subject of whether Trayvon Martin was perfectly benign or blatantly dangerous (and leave those of of who think Zimmerman’s conduct reasonable out of it).

#24 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On July 20, 2013 @ 9:39 am

I am waiting at this point for someone to chime in and say Zimmerman was reckless to get out of his vehicle.

I’ve said that many times over the past few weeks. Zimmerman was reckless to get out of his vehicle. Zimmerman was in fact reckless to start stalking Martin in the first place. If someone was following me like Zimmerman was following Martin, I would take immediate evasive action, and have my cell phone ready to call the police. Whose testimony do I base that on? I base it on the video of Zimmerman’s trip around the neighborhood with police tracing what happened where, the next day.

Sadly, Zimmerman doesn’t even consider what impact his behavior might have on a person who is really just minding his own business, because Zimmerman was intoxicated with the notion that he was following one of them burglars.

It’s not unlike the case of the police attempting to execute a no-knock warrant, who got the address wrong, and went to the home of an 87-year-old woman, who responded in a very rational way: she shot through the door at the nasty thugs trying to break into her house at night, killing one of the officers.

Then there was the case of the police executing a no-knock warrant on a home where some pornography dealers had lived four months earlier, ordering a perfectly innocent married couple who had bought the house in the meantime to get out of bed (naked as it happened) so the cops could see they didn’t have any weapons.

In short, although these are in many ways more extreme examples (involving as they do incompetence by people who WERE real police officers), there is a common threat that when you assume you know what you are dealing with, and you don’t, it can have all kinds of undesirable real life consequences, some of them fatal.

Zimmerman was reckless. The law should discourage such recklessness.

#25 Comment By mm On July 20, 2013 @ 3:45 pm

SJ- where did you find that Z started talking to Martin? That is in direct contradiction to the only evidence presented in court. Again- so many project their desires on to this case- we do not know for “sure” who started the talking/confrontation- the only evidence that has been presented is Z’s statement & that was that Martin started the talking/confrontation. You may not believe it- but that is all we have- presenting as fact your wishes/projections/profiling doesn’t change that. You should say that “Z was reckless in that I believe Z started…”. Those who believe Z was guilty of a crime PRESUME he started the confrontation and work from there- and that a jury cannot do. It is at least as likely the Martin started it- hence the acquittal- reasonable doubt (in fact that is Z’s statement & best fits the description of the only eyewitness-John Good & forensic evidence. That fact that it is tragic that a young man died doesn’t make it convincing evidence of a crime by itself.

#26 Comment By The Wet One On July 20, 2013 @ 9:06 pm


Just throwing this out there…

#27 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On July 20, 2013 @ 9:58 pm

SJ- where did you find that Z started talking to Martin?

mm: where did you get the idea that I said Z started talking to Martin?

#28 Comment By EliteCommI nc. On July 21, 2013 @ 10:01 am

“I am waiting at this point for someone to chime in and say Zimmerman was reckless to get out of his vehicle.”

I am going to remain where I began on this matter. I don’t care if it was Jack the Ripper. There was no way for Mr. Zimmerman to know who it was or why and it is not the profiling. It was his provicative behavior.

It was deliberately careless for for Mr. Zimmerman to have done any of the behaviors he did that night.

I don’t believe for one minute young Trayvon Martin was engaged in any criminal activity. the decription by Mr. Zimmerman does not even suggest that. It is Mr. Zimmerman’s assumptions — based on rather innocent behavior. But I don’t think it mattered that night. I think for a quite some time Mr. Zimmerman was bent on getting someone, he believed was aleays getting away with it —- incorrectly as it turns out.
As for the conversation between the two. According to Mr. Zimmerman, Trayvon Martin started talking first. But they were questions, to which mr. Zimmerman’s responses made no sense.

As for comments about Mr. Zimmerman having to stage the scene. Maybe. laughing. It is more likely that young Trayvon Martin was heaaded to the street where there was light and Mr. Zimmerman circled back around to confront him. Keep him from ‘getting away’.

Unless you are someome who actually believes a frightened kid after avoiding returns to pick a fight with the person he is afraid of — which makes no sense. The only manner in which this makes any sense is if he was cornered — which of course makes Mr. Zimmerman a tall teller in either direction one chooses to go on the matter.

#29 Comment By mm On July 21, 2013 @ 10:11 am

b/c you assume Z started “it”- walking behind someone is not a crime & is no justification for striking someone. Since walking(or stalking as you prefer) cannot justify the fight you must assume Z did something more culpable to justify a guilty verdict- ie he, at least, aggressively confronted Martin. Of that there is no evidence. The trial was not over wether Z acted wisely or as we would wish someone would-it is wether he was guilty of murder vs self defense. The evidence that he acted in self defense was fairly strong- his statement (Martin “cold cocked” him & began to beat him), the eyewitness (Martin on top) & forensic evidence (bullet went thru shirt as if Martin was leaning forward) all fit together in a convincing enough manner that there was reasonable doubt. If you start without a presumption of guilt it is not difficult to acquit- but many start with a presumption of guilt SINCE a tragedy ensued (actually a common practice-as well shown in studies of medical peer review of malpractice cases).

#30 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On July 22, 2013 @ 2:58 pm

b/c you assume Z started “it”- walking behind someone is not a crime & is no justification for striking someone. Since walking(or stalking as you prefer) cannot justify the fight you must assume Z did something more culpable to justify a guilty verdict

mm, your paragraph is waxing incoherent, so it took a while to find a thread of thought to respond to. I didn’t assume anything. The actions Zimmerman took, as he described them to the police, are actions that would prompt caution, fear, and even hostility in any observant, rational person who found themselves the subject of this persistent pursuit and surveillance. People who are concerned for the safety of their neighborhood would, if they felt they could safely do so, walk up to the errant stranger (Zimmerman) and ask, is there a problem, are you lost, what are you doing here. Or, if the subject of the stalking felt that would be unsafe, they might call the police, on Zimmerman, or run the other way. Martin, for whatever reasons, thought it necessary to belligerently confront Zimmerman over it, and was probably quite keyed up, a mix of fear and aggression, when he did so.

Rod has pointed out that the whole sequence of events is a sad case of two individuals making false assumptions out of fear and misapprehension. No doubt Martin could have handled it better, e.g., by running home as fast as he could — that is, IF Zimmerman is telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Almost nobody involved in a serious confrontation would do so — we all shade our ex post facto account in our own favor, consciously or unconsciously.

But the bottom line is, Zimmerman started this whole sad sequence of events, and as a result, someone is dead who, if Zimmerman had minded his own business, or called the police and waited for them to arrive, wouldn’t have even been disturbed in the course of daily events.

You are wrong that “walking behind someone is not a crime.” In and of itself its not, but a pattern that shows someone is not merely walking in the same direction minding their own business, but is actively threatening the person followed becomes actionable. Now me, I don’t have such confidence in my own fists, I would have dialed 911 and reported Zimmerman’s license plate and described his car.

#31 Comment By Quizman On July 23, 2013 @ 2:09 pm

If drug use, falling grades and anti-social behavior were used to profile & kill teenagers, then we should be grateful that Mr. Steve Jobs and Mr. Barack Obama lived to tell their tales. They, after all, were representative of that profile during their teenage years. Jobs, in fact, fit that profile for many more years – drug use, not taking showers, wearing shoddy clothes, anger issues etc.

As a matter of fact, the last three Presidents have been drug users in one form or the other during their post-adolescent years.

#32 Comment By mm On July 27, 2013 @ 10:21 am

sj- again, even if everything you assume is true you must acquit as a jury member- that is the point. I guess you find our constitutional rights incoherent.