The jury's verdict in the sad Trayvon Martin case seems to say it's OK for a Rambo-style white vigilante to arm himself with a pistol, follow an unarmed black teenager in the dark, get into a confrontation, shoot the teen to death and pay no penalty.
If the teen in this affair had been white, we doubt that George Zimmerman would have trailed him or shot him. We presume that Zimmerman, a self-appointed neighborhood amateur cop, told a police dispatcher that Martin was an "(expletive) punk" who "looks like he's up to no good" just because the boy was black. Even though the dispatcher told Zimmerman to desist, he continued stalking the youth until tragedy resulted. The exchange went like this:
Dispatcher: Are you following him?
Dispatcher: OK, we don't need you to do that.
Now that Zimmerman has been declared innocent, we hope it doesn't inspire gun-lovers everywhere to prowl with weapons at night, looking for other "suspicious" targets -- and shooting some of them under the brutal "stand your ground" principle. That's a grotesque prospect.
To deter this problem and obtain some degree of justice for Martin's family, we hope a wrongful death civil lawsuit is pursued against Zimmerman. Also, we hope the U.S. Justice Department explores the possibility of filing civil rights charges.
President Obama correctly called Martin's killing a "tragedy, not just for his family, or any one community, but for America." He added: "We should ask ourselves if we're doing all we can to stem the tide of gun violence that claims too many lives across this country on a daily basis."
USA Today called the Florida nightmare "a tragically familiar tale of snap judgments by strangers, racial profiling and a black teenager's needless death. ... The fact remains that Martin was doing nothing wrong; he was returning from a snack run at a convenience store, heading for the house of his father's girlfriend. And the fact remains that had Zimmerman stayed in his truck, as advised by the police, Martin would be alive today."
A Los Angeles Times column said the case "must send a chill down the spine of every parent of a black teenager in this country," because it shows that a white man with an automatic pistol can follow an unarmed black youth and wind up killing him -- and be given his gun back with no consequences.
Chris Smith, Democratic leader in Florida's state Senate, lamented:
"The fact that a child is dead and an armed man can now walk free without so much as a backward glance sends the wrong message to Florida and its citizens."
We agree with USA Today's conclusion:
"Despite all the nation's progress in burying its racist past, minorities are commonly stopped by authorities -- or viewed by strangers as 'up to no good' -- for no other reason than the color of their skin.... Trayvon Martin's death remains an avoidable American tragedy -- one that Zimmerman set in motion."