Stop Oversimplifying the Trayvon Tragedy

We're making the same mistakes that led to his death: William Saletan

By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff

Posted Jul 16, 2013 12:50 PM CDT

(Newser) – In the outrage over George Zimmerman's acquittal in the killing of Trayvon Martin, people are calling for action: We need to fight Stand Your Ground laws. We need to fight racism in the criminal justice system. We need to prosecute Zimmerman again. But the truth is, all these people are making assumptions and overreacting—and those two things are exactly what led to Martin's death in the first place, writes William Saletan in a Slate piece titled, "You Are Not Trayvon Martin." Zimmerman assumed Martin was a burglar and followed him; Martin assumed Zimmerman was a pervert and confronted him. Both were wrong, fatally.

Now, people are "oversimplifying a tragedy that was caused by oversimplification," Saletan writes. Yes, Zimmerman made many mistakes; he was "a reckless fool" and it led to an innocent teen's death. But the tragedy "happened because two people—their minds clouded by stereotypes that went well beyond race—assumed the worst about one another and acted in haste," and the only way to prevent similar tragedies in the future is to learn from this one. "Don’t paint the world in black and white. Don’t declare the whole justice system racist, or blame every gun death on guns, or confuse acquittal with vindication. And the next time you see somebody who looks like a punk or a pervert, hold your fire." Click for Saletan's full piece.

Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts, center, stands near protesters during a demonstration after the acquittal of George Zimmerman Monday, July 15, 2013, in Baltimore.
Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts, center, stands near protesters during a demonstration after the acquittal of George Zimmerman Monday, July 15, 2013, in Baltimore.   (AP Photo/Steve Ruark)
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