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Face Off—George Zimmerman Versus Trayvon Martin

Photographs from AbcNews.go.comWhen I first saw the March 23rd article describing former neighbors’ accounts of George Zimmerman’s strict religious upbringing and details about his employment, I wasn’t surprised. However, when I saw the accompanying photo of a clean-cut, smiling George Zimmerman in a suit and tie—an image much different from the familiar scruffy-faced mug shot shown over the past few weeks—the alarm bells went off. I immediately thought, the games are about to begin.

Within a few days, it was being widely reported that Trayvon Martin was suspended from school for 10-days because a plastic bag with traces of marijuana was found in his bookbag. One of the articles featured an alleged photo of Trayvon staring into the camera with gold fronts on his teeth (they have since replaced that photo with another). If the photo is legitimate, it's not quite the same as the baby-faced smiling young boy that we've grown accustomed to seeing. The story also mentioned a tweet sent to Trayvon’s Twitter account which alludes to a supposed incident that occurred between Trayvon and a bus driver.

The details highlighted in these stories have no bearing on what occurred on February 26, 2012, the day Trayvon Martin was killed; what we’re seeing in the focus on these details is an attempt to sanitize the image of George Zimmerman and sully the image of Trayvon. The Sanford Police Department acknowledged that there may have been information leaked from within the department, and the city manager said there would be an investigation. Releasing information to smear the victim happens time and time again—so, this isn’t much of a shock. Unfortunately, knowing that a smear campaign is bound to happen doesn’t make it any less disturbing.

Trayvon Martin wasn’t required to lead a perfect life in order to have the wheels of justice work properly on his behalf and on behalf of his family, and he shouldn’t have been deemed suspicious and followed by George Zimmerman for “just walking around looking about.” In a news conference held earlier this week in response to the reports about Trayvon’s suspension, his mother simply stated, “The only comment that I have right now is that they've killed my son, now they are trying to kill his reputation.” She’s absolutely right. That’s what they’re trying to do, and it may work. Sadly, justice has often failed to turn a blind eye toward negative depictions of African-American males who were followed, stopped, searched, chased—even killed—simply because they were viewed as suspicious.

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