The Conversation

One Vigilante? Or Two?

There is a stated presumption by many that George Zimmerman was acting as a sort of racial vigilante -- keeping on the lookout to make sure that "those who don't belong" (such as black kids wearing hoodies) were hassled and deterred from being present in his development.

But there's another sort of racial vigilantism that no one's talking about.

There seems to be a general dismissal of the idea among many -- among white liberals and some blacks --  that it doesn't matter if Trayvon threw the first punch, and it doesn't matter if Trayvon was pounding Zimmerman's head into the concrete.

I don't say they accept these premises as true -- they tend to deny them.  But they deny them so casually and thoughtlessly they must think that these possibilities are not possibilities at all, but impossibilities, or else they think it wouldn't matter to the case even if they were true.

The idea that it's impossible that Trayvon threw the first punch, or was pounding Zimmerman into the concrete, is so stupid and ignorant I can safely dismiss it as a not a genuine belief at all, but merely something claimed publicly for convenience. 

Which leads me to the other possibility -- that those who want Zimmerman thrown in jail, no matter what the evidence may say about the injuries he sustained in the encounter, believe that a violent attack is an appropriate response to a perceived racial slight or perceived case of racial profiling.

And that is, in itself, a form of vigilantism -- apparently there's a belief that if some "White Hispanic" is following around a black kid (just like grocers do in bodegas!), it's acceptable to administer a dose of Street Justice to that individual, to take care of it "off the books."

Again, this is just a different form of vigilantism -- an idea that it's permissible to break the laws against assault in order to achieve some putative good (such as punishing and thus deterring racial profiling).

This idea cannot stand scrutiny, which is why it's rarely stated explicitly.  But it bubbles beneath the surface, and the casual dismissal of any right Zimmerman may have had to defend himself certainly suggests that those who want him jailed believe that, if he was being beaten, he should have just taken his beating and accepted his lumps as a bit of well-deserved "Citizen Punishment" for the moral evil of profiling, that he was morally and legally obligated to accept Trayvon Martin's role as a racial vigilante.

One cannot speak about Zimmerman's putative vigilante impulses without also considering as well Martin's possible decision to go vigilante that night.  And one cannot possibly seriously suggest that White Hispanic Vigilantism is a moral evil punishable, on the spot, by a citizen vigilante's MMA beatdown, while Black Vigilantism is a social boon and a source of two-fisted moral instruction for the public.


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