As protests calling for the arrest of George Zimmerman continue to grow and new evidence in the case continues to be revealed, I am left shaking my head. I know it is sometimes hard for people to think calmly and rationally when an event the magnitude of Trayvon Martin’s killing occurs. But where do we draw the line between calls for justice and vigilantism?
A fresh injustice is being advocated. The New Black Panther Party* – a hate group according to the Souther Poverty Law Center – has offered a $10,000 bounty on George Zimmerman’s head. The leaders of this wretched group have not minced words over the intent of their proposition. “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, ” came the response of their leader, Mikhail Muhammad. They’ve also called for the mobilization of 10,000 men to catch him. They would see George Zimmerman lynched – strung up and burned in a nod to atrocities of the past.
It seems Mr. Zimmerman has already been convicted in the realm of public opinion. The voices supporting justice for this man have been drowned out by the angry melee of politicians, picketers and grieving family calling for prosecution. But we cannot let anger set us on a retreat to the days of race riots and dead cops.
This isn’t Rodney King. George Zimmerman is not a cop. He is a man who made a grave mistake. He is already paying for that mistake, and will probably end up defending himself in a court of law. But bounties and calls to violence serve nothing more than to delegitimize appeals for open dialogue about racial equality. The death of this promising (yet not angelic) young man has created an opportunity for Americans work together and help each other. We can’t let Trayvon Martin’s death set us back. We must move past demands for retribution if we are ever to find the truth.
*Please note: The New Black Panther Party – which advocates hate, violence against whites and Jewish people, and racism – is different from the original Black Panther Party which promoted black empowerment, education and black entrepreneurship.