G.L.Piggy [at] gmail.com
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The latest twist in the Trayvon Martin case is the 911 call made by George Zimmerman. The internet stumbled upon Zimmerman muttering something that was initially overlooked by police and media, and, as would be expected in a case like this, two camps are interpreting Zimmerman’s muttering differently. Jon Haidt just wrote a book that touches on this bifurcation – the adoption of an opinion and then the post hoc justification for it.
In the 911 call, Zimmerman either says “fucking coons” or “fucking punks” when describing Trayvon Martin. Just browsing comments, it seems to be the case that either side can’t understand why the other side can’t hear the words they hear. Very interesting insight into human psychology.
Here’s the recording and audio diagnostics:
This bit of audio is important in determining whether Zimmerman committed a hate crime. Though, as many will argue, if Zimmerman said “fucking punks”, that doesn’t deal with the so-called institutional racism that let Zimmerman off the hook after shooting a black kid.
My take: the beginning of the word in question sounds plosive – it sounds like he’s making a “p” sound. The rest of the word is a little jumbled and difficult to discern. Since the part that is most discernible is the beginning – which doesn’t sound like it begins in a hard “c” – I give a slight edge to “punks”. Of course, people who disagree with me would label me a racist. The next question would be, why would Zimmerman, even if he is racist as some say, utter those words on a call with a 911 operator? What types of words did Zimmerman use in the 50 calls he had made to 911 over the past year? If Zimmerman is overtly racist, there should be a pattern.
None of that addresses the deeper argument, that institutional racism compelled Zimmerman (who is half Hispanic, half Jewish) to assume that Martin was up to no good because he was black, and which also compelled the police to believe Zimmerman’s story that he had been attacked by Martin. That type of analysis becomes statistical. Zimmerman thinking that Martin was up to no good and the police believing Zimmerman must have been informed by their understanding that blacks are heavily represented among those who do commit crime. That becomes a chicken and egg argument – does the bias create the statistical artifact or does the artifact create the bias?
So we have Zimmerman – a guy who was hell-bent on being a cop – we’ve all seen this Ranger Rick syndrome – looking to do good in his neighborhood. I think the story is being looked at the wrong way. Race is background. The real story is that a man went to ridiculous and tragic lengths to prove himself useful and heroic to his community. This isn’t to grant him sympathy. He should be put in jail for some sort of manslaughter charge. If anything, Trayvon Martin had a right to protection under the “Stand Your Ground” statute in question in this case. Even if Martin did attack Zimmerman, the case can be made that Martin did so in self-defense against this seemingly self-appointed neighborhood watch captain. But it should be recognized that we are dealing with numerous moving parts and words like “racist” are too clunky for the discussion.