No motive for shooting unarmed man is appropriate
Published: Thursday, April 5, 2012
Updated: Friday, August 23, 2013 17:08
In the ABC crime-drama “Life on Mars,” New York City police detective Sam Tyler is hit by a car in 2008 and wakes up as a detective in 1973. In one episode, Tyler is investigating the murder of a Ugandan immigrant. Tyler tells one of his fellow detectives that he feels this is “a hate crime.” This as-of-yet nonexistent terminology puzzles the officer, who asks if that is the opposite of “one of those I really really like you murders.”
Compare this to the present-day “hate crime” in which George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin, supposedly for racist reasons. Yes, Zimmerman may have killed Martin out of hate, but would he shoot him if he liked him? If a man comes home to find his wife in bed with the gardener and shoots them both, didn’t he kill them out of hate? If this is a murder, then it is wrong, but all murders are “hate” crimes. While they are all completely reprehensible, none should be treated as any worse than another due to motive.
If all races are truly equal in this country, then Martin’s life should be just as valuable as a white teenager’s. It is no more valuable, nor is it any less valuable. However, had Zimmerman killed a white teenager he thought was a hooligan, he would be put on trial for the murder (if the facts justified it) and the case would not attract such an incredibly strong national following. That seems to be implying that killing a white person is somehow different than killing a black person. That does not promote racial equality. It does the opposite.
Of course, there are motivations to kill someone besides race. For instance, one could murder someone who has previously wronged them. Generally this happens out of hate, and it happens all the time. It could also accurately be described as a “hate crime.” Indeed, there is truly no such thing as an “I really-really like you crime”. Almost all violent crimes could be described as some form of “hate crime.” By selectively declaring some of these “hateful” and others not, we are implying that some life is more valuable than others.
Consider what happened at the baseball game between the San Francisco Giants and the Los Angeles Dodgers last year in Los Angeles. Brian Stow, a Giants fan wearing Giants gear, was brutally assaulted and nearly killed by Dodgers fans. By all accounts, the Dodgers fans “hated” the Giants, and that is why they attacked Stow. However, nobody considers that a hate crime. Killing someone because he is from San Francisco and wearing a Giants cap is no less “hateful” than killing someone because he is black and wearing a hoodie. They are both murder. All murder is wrong because all life is valuable. More importantly, all life is equally valuable, so no motivation is “worse” than any other.
Trayvon Martin’s family has every right to be upset if the shooting was indeed racially motivated. However, the black community at large has no more of a case against George Zimmerman than the National Union of Bank Tellers had against Jesse James. If Zimmerman did in fact kill Martin because of his race, then he is a murderer and should be treated as such. However, claiming that this is any different because Martin is black just furthers the race divide in this country. We are saying that a black life is more valuable than a white life. If we were to say the opposite, then the African-American community would be justifiably outraged. So, it should not be any more acceptable to make this argument.
We do not have all the facts yet, but suffice it to say it may have been wrong for Zimmerman to kill Martin out of racist motivations. However, this would be just as true if Martin were white, female, gay, or Muslim. It would also be just as wrong of Zimmerman to walk up to some random person and kill him for the sole purpose of killing. There are many motivations for murder. All of them are wrong. But none of them should be treated as any more wrong than the others. We should treat all life as equally valuable, not say some victims are different than others. If we wish to promote true equality, we must treat all life as equal and not have selective “hate crimes” for certain victims.