I have been reluctant to comment on the Trayvon Martin case -- the 17-year-old high school student who was shot and killed by George Zimmerman, a self-appointed neighborhood watch captain in Sanford Florida that has captured national attention.
It is a high profile story that practically presents new information daily -- most of it unofficial. I felt restraint was the best course of action versus succumbing to the strong currents of public discourse, which ultimately are designed to titillate more than inform.
Some have compared Martin's death with that of Emmett Till. Till was a 14-year-old Negro, who was brutally murdered in Mississippi in 1955. His death marked a key moment, spawning the civil rights movement.
While I understand the comparison in a macro context, it ultimately does a disservice to both. Though Martin and Till were both black, is the comparison to suggest that nothing has changed for African Americans since Till was murdered 57-years ago?
This latest tragedy is not an reenactment of Till, but rather the premiere of Martin; and must be understood in this context.
There is still much about this case that remains unknown, and the 911 tapes that have been released may lead to a conviction in the court of public opinion but is largely irrelevant until the grand jury hearing scheduled for April 10.
But there is one area where the Till and Martin cases are similar: They both are crimes of absurdity.
Till was murdered for allegedly flirting with a white woman. He was beaten, had his eyes gouged out, shot in head, and had a 70lb. cotton gin fan tied around his neck with barbed wire. His body was then tossed in the Tallahatchie River.
The absurdity in Martin's case began in the exchange between Zimmerman and 911 dispatch that includes the following:
Dispatch: "Are you following him?"
Dispatch: "We don't need you to do that"
"We don't need you to do that" may prove to be the most haunting words of this ludicrous affair. Everything that happened after that point is officially under the jurisdiction of absurdity.
What are unclear are the chain events that occurred after Zimmerman's phone call to the police. Did Martin suddenly become the perpetrator as Zimmerman's side now claims?
From the death of Martin to police missteps that led to a no confidence vote by Sanford city commissioners against police chief Bill Lee Jr. to a deeply flawed "stand your ground" law that Zimmerman must rely to justify his actions is rooted in absurdity.
The race angle that serves as the underpinnings for the high profile nature of the case has it own form of absurdity as it calls us to make hasty and reactionary decisions before the facts are presented.
Moreover, race has a rather insidious a way of involving itself within our public discourse. Many of the urban cities that recently held rallies for Martin have grown immune to the consistent chorus of black on black violence within their respective communities.
But from the beating of Rodney King by Los Angeles police, to the shooting of Amadou Diallo by the New York police, or Abner Louima who was forcibly sodomized by New York police, to the murder of James Byrd, who was drug behind a pickup truck, Martin is now primed to be added to the dubious list of high profile absurdity that appears primarily reserved for black males.
Beyond the absurdity of a death that should not have occurred, demands of "Justice for Trayvon Martin" though well intentioned are equally absurd. A desire that Zimmerman be brought to trial should not be conflated with justice for a 17-year-old who has taken his last breath.