Trayvon Martin was killed by George Zimmerman on February 26, 2012–exactly one month ago. Yet outrage over the tragedy is just hitting its peak in the news cycle. Why didn’t the media, public officials, and the FBI care about this issue sooner?
CNN took up that question over the weekend. According to CNN’s Howard Kurtz, “it took a few days for the major Florida papers to cover that news. And it wasn’t until 10 days later that the killings drew a bit of national media attention from the A.P. and Reuters, The Huffington Post, and CBS This Morning. Then a bit more coverage, BET, HLN, CNN, Good Morning America. And then nearly three weeks had passed before the first article in New York Times.”
According to Kurtz’s guests, there were various factors that led to the delay: the fact that the homicide happened in a small city in Florida, instead of a major news hub like New York City; the sparsity of in-depth news coverage of killings, especially of young Black men; and the fact that the local police, at least at first, backed up Zimmerman’s claims of self defense.
When family members started speaking to the press, giving an alternative perspective on what happened, things started to blow up and the story became huge. The story’s spread to a national outrage was no doubt assisted by social media and inflamed by some national figures’ callous responses to the tragedy.
What’s important to watch now is where these conversations go. One of the most interesting takes on the incident I’ve read is at Women in Crime Ink, a blog run by female law enforcement. There, criminal profiler Pat Brown offers an interesting take on Zimmerman’s psyche:
From what I have read, he is a wannabe cop, the neighborhood ninja, the overzealous protector of the community. My guess is he might qualify for a personality disorder and be more into his role as superhero than he is into being concerned about the welfare of the local citizens or being a racist of any sort… I think George Zimmerman was “gunning” to be a hero and Trayvon ended up being the unsuspecting victim of Zimmerman’s overactive zealous power trip.
Brown’s conclusion is that this one man’s racist attitudes, whether Black men should wear hoodies, and the whole massive conversation about race that the tragedy provoked is beside a bigger point. A better conversation may be about why the community–and particularly the police and district attorney–tolerated such vigilantism.