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Monday, July 29, 2013

Trayvon Martin's death not a hate crime - and Attorney General Eric Holder should say so soon

As more people dissect President Barack Obama's words about the George Zimmerman case - The profiling of Obama - they need to not ignore a pretty clear fact:

Zimmerman did not kill Trayvon Martin because Martin was black, even though race played a significant role in Zimmerman's pursuit of Martin. It's the kind of important nuance many people miss during discussions of race, and this one has been no different.

Zimmerman may have spent the months before the shooting calling the cops on suspicious people, almost all of whom happened to be young black men - including one as young as 7 years old.

He may have found Martin suspicious during the night in question in part because Martin was black - which Zimmerman's lead attorney, Mark O'Mara has acknowledged.

But he did not set out that night to specifically kill a black person, or at least there is no evidence he did. That's the standard that has to be met if it is to be considered a true federal hate crime.

The evidence strongly suggests that Zimmerman set out to protect his community in the way he thought best, and unfortunately, the buried racial bias many of us - blacks and whites - have when it comes to young black men and crime was triggered. But even that alone did not kill Martin. Had Zimmerman simply done what he had been doing for months - calling the cops on allegedly suspicious young black men - and left it there, there would have been no killing.

Given that reality, there is no basis for a federal case. I'm hoping Attorney General Eric Holder announces that soon, and explains why. Pushing such a case against Zimmerman would be a travesty of justice, and there's no need to return an injustice with another one.

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