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Tarek Fatah Headshot

Trayvon Martin and the Red Herring of "Black on Black" Crime

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Although I am convinced today that the death of Trayvon Martin was not because of his race, and that the jury reached a correct verdict in declaring George Zimmerman "not guilty," I also feel the people raising the issue of "black on black" crime (and saying it is ignored in a way that white on black crime isn't) are being disingenuous.

The current outpouring of outrage on the streets of America by supporters of Trayvon Martin may not be justified in view of the lengthy judicial process that led to the verdict -- the process was fair, transparent, and revealed every aspect of the tragedy.

However, the protests must be seen through the lens of the racism and violence that young black men face as they grow up in America. To not recognize centuries of black deprivation and the challenge of growing up black in the U.S. as the backdrop to these scenes is at best to be naive and at worst to be hypocritically negligent.

On its face, the argument that most blacks are killed by fellow blacks appears perfectly valid. However, peel off the skin and there is no question: Beneath the surface you will discover that the people raising the issue are not saying this out of concern for the black population, but rather in an effort to paint the black community as a group that has no problem with crime, unless the alleged criminal is white or non-black.

The fact is, "black on black" crime is no more common than "white on white" crime and "Chinese on Chinese" crime or "Latino on Latino" crime. The statistics are there if you care -- most murders are intraracial. Did you know 86 per cent of white victims were killed by white offenders? Hard to believe, eh?

If Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton annoy me with their contrived despair, so do conservatives like Crystal Wright and Newt Gingrich. When the latter threw in the line about "What about black on black crime?" on CNN this Sunday, he did it convincingly, but failed to mention "white on white" crime.

The first time I heard about the murder of Trayvon Martin, I too was enraged. I thought of donning a hoodie and going out on my electric wheelchair to one of the many protests, but the cold and snow outside dampened my spirits.

At the time I was convinced, as are millions today, that Trayvon was a boy killed by an over-zealous bigoted vigilante. It was in this frame of mind that I followed every minute of the trial (one of the advantages of being semi-retired and working from home).

It did not take long for me to change my mind. In fact, it was the state's star witnesses who made me alter my opinion. It wasn't the arguments of the defence that convinced me Zimmerman was not guilty, it was the shenanigans of the state attorneys who helped me.

I was shocked to hear that it was not Zimmerman who was on the top with Trayvon yelling for help, but the other way around. The state's witnesses, one after the other, validated Zimmerman's version of events.

It was only during the trial that I realized that Zimmerman had been bloodied up pretty bad and that those pictures had not been released by the state leading up to the trial.

Then to discover that the picture of Trayvon Martin released by the state was of him when he was 12 years old, told me there was something fishy about their case. I would not be surprised if the six jurors too went through the same metamorphosis that I experienced.

As each day of the hearings passed, it became more than clear that George Zimmerman was not guilty of second-degree murder. We don't know the jurors, but I can see how all six of them who sat through the arduous wrangling in the court of the Honorable Debra Nelson would unanimously come to the decision that is today being rejected by those on the streets and unfortunately by the NAACP as well.

What the six jurors and most of us did not know, and were never told, was the fact Trayvon Martin was no angel. He was depicted as the teen with Skittles and iced tea, but the facts of who he was in real life speak of a youth flirting with trouble.

At the time he was shot, Martin had been suspended from school for lack of attendance and other issues. As early as October 2011, a Miami-Dade School Police Department officer found several pieces of women's jewelry in his backpack along with a screwdriver that was described by the school police investigator as a burglary tool.

Trayvon Martin's third suspension from school involved a marijuana pipe and an empty bag containing marijuana residue. Even the blood records taken at the time of the post-mortem revealed traces of substance.

Martin's cellphone records were also withheld by the State and led to the firing of the whistleblower in the State Attorney's Office who leaked them to the defence as an act of conscience. Martin's phone records show pictures and text messages that again portray a 6-foot tall youth on the precipice of trouble, not the iced-tea teen he was made out to be.

However, Judge Nelson ruled rightly these facts were not admissible as evidence during the trial and the jurors never heard of these issues.

Even today the media -- CNN, the Huffington Post, the Toronto Star -- use a picture of Martin taken when he was 12 years old, not when he was 16 and six feet tall.

White Guilt and Black Victimhood can combine to make us take a step back in time, not forward. The issues of anti-Black racism are alive and well, not just in the U.S.A., but across the world. In Pakistan where I was born and in the Arab World where Blacks are called 'Ya Abdi" (O my slave).

So it ain't easy being black. But being mad as hell at George Zimmerman isn't the answer either.

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