In the aftermath of the Zimmerman trial (which Tom and Myself have covered already), I was ready to move on. It was a tragic situation made all the worse by the entitled perpetrator walking away scot-free while a young man’s life was lost. Dwelling on it only made me angrier, so I decided not to. Besides, focusing on this case, and race in general, had begun to consume me to the point that I was forgetting the important things.
Unfortunately, some people have made it much harder to do that. They insist that this verdict was sound, that this young man should never have attacked Zimmerman. They blame the victim – or worse, they bring up crap like this.
If you read that article, you have seen the case of Roderick Scott, a man who, in 2009, caught a group of teenagers trying to break into his car at 3 in the morning. As they rifled through the neighbor’s car, he came out and tried to stop them. One of them, Christopher Cervini, a 17-year old white male, yelled out, “I’ll get you!” or “I’ll get him!” and rushed Scott, at which point he fired two shots, fatally injuring the young man. He was arrested and charged with murder, and found not guilty by reason of self defense.
On the surface, this case is incredibly similar to the Trayvon Martin case. Both of these were young men, unarmed, gunned down by men who had no reason to fear their skinny assailants. Scott, after all, is a large black man who is built like a linebacker.
At least, that’s the narrative for those who love false equivalency. If you scratch the surface, however, the differences could not be more clear.
First, I’ll start with the differences between the two victims: Unlike Christopher Cervini,
TRAYVON MARTIN WAS NOT A BURGLAR.
He was not breaking in to anyone’s home, car or anything else. He was a kid on his way back home from the store when a man assumed he was up to no good – something that could easily have been resolved had he waited for police, or even said something to Trayvon instead of following him, then chasing him. Mr Cervini, on the other hand, was both drunk and high on methamphetamine, according to toxicology reports, and was rifling through cars in the neighborhood with two other guys.
That brings me to my second point of fact about the cases:
CHRISTOPHER CERVINI WAS OUT STEALING WITH TWO OTHER GUYS.
Cervini was not alone as he stole things from his neighbors, he had two people with him: His friend, Brian Hopkins, and his cousin, James, a 15 year old who was on probation for assisting in a burglary and for holding a knife to the throat of a ten year old. (How the hell did he just get probation for that?)
Now, the fact that Roderick Scott was built like LT is irrelevant – three to one is three to one. If you are outnumbered, you don’t go out after criminals unarmed by yourself at 3am – that would be foolhardy and irresponsible. Also, there was no way for Scott to know if the young man who tried to rush him was armed. The false equivalency crowd would have you believe a man who was defending his home and property is the same as a self appointed vigilante who spent his free time reporting black men to the police, then decided to pick on the most nonthreatening one he could find.
Which brings me to my final difference between the cases:
RODERICK SCOTT WAS IMMEDIATELY PROSECUTED.
The Monroe County District Attorney knew the facts in the case. There was no need for speculation about what happened: The two boys were witnesses, Scott immediately called 911 to report the situation, and none of the facts about the assault were in dispute. Nevertheless, the DA did the prudent thing when a life was lost – she prosecuted the man who took it. Scott was immediately arrested, and charged with manslaughter.
There was genuine interest on the part of the police in getting to the bottom of what happened. The cops didn’t just accept Scott’s version of the events, then send him home while the corpse was still fresh on the street. This is a dramatic contrast to the Sanford police, who, well… did.
Of all the aspects of the Trayvon Martin case that infuriated the African American community, this one was the most egregious, even more so than the actual murder itself. There was a complete lack of interest by Sanford police and prosecutors in even a cursory investigation of this crime. Martin’s lifeless body lay on the ground, and they didn’t even bother to find out who he was, even though it would have been easy to identify him (He had a cell phone, and the number could be easily traced – we’ve all seen The First 48). It took marches, protests, widespread media attention and a federal probe into the case just so that the police down there would do their jobs.
It’s not hard to figure out why the case against Zimmerman was so weak – they never wanted to prosecute in the first place.
It’s also not hard to figure out why the Champions of False Equivalency have dredged up the Roderick Scott story. No one wants to look the hard truth of modern racism in the face, to be reminded of a time when the horror of racism and cruelty against another person, simply because of the color of their skin, was en vogue.
It’s hard for people to fathom, after they have clutched their purses or locked their car doors at the site of suspicious youths, after they laughed a bit too hard at a joke by an edgy comedian, or after they have felt a little uncomfortable after being hit on by an overzealous, slightly ugly dude that there is still prejudice out there, and maybe those guys didn’t deserve to be immediately judged as a threat simply because of the color of their skin. It’s that part that stings these people people the most – that racism is an incurable disease, spreading through society’s undercurrent like the T-Virus, and maybe it will never go away, and maybe, just maybe, they have been infected, too.
Or maybe they’re just racists. Who’s to say.
There is, however, one thing these boys have in common: they were young men who had their whole lives ahead of them, and while they may have made a few mistakes, we will never know what they could have become.
That’s the part that should really make you mad.