David Simon spent years as a cops reporter in Baltimore, watching and chronicling the messy intersection of poverty, drugs, corruption, racism and violence. He then channeled those experiences and insights into a book, which inspired the TV show Homicide: Life on the Street and then finally, he created one of the most heralded TV series of all time: The Wire.
Simon has a particular insight into the way the legal system intertwines with racism and weapons, and he's also quite outspoken, a frequent commenter on civil justice and rights and the plethora of complicated issues that fall under those domains. On Saturday, after George Zimmerman was found not guilty of murdering Trayvon Martin, Simon took to his blog to express his outrage.
"You can stand your ground if you're white, and you can use a gun to do it. But if you stand your ground with your fists and you're black, you're dead," he wrote. "In the state of Florida, the season on African-Americans now runs year round. Come one, come all. And bring a handgun. The legislators are fine with this blood on their hands. The governor, too."
Simon added in his short essay that, in an alternate universe in which he was a black Floridian, he would be unable to subdue his angry urge to seek violent retribution for the verdict.
"If I were a person of color in Florida, I would pick up a brick and start walking toward that courthouse in Sanford," Simon declared. "Those that do not, those that hold the pain and betrayal inside and somehow manage to resist violence — these citizens are testament to a stoic tolerance that is more than the rest of us deserve. I confess, their patience and patriotism is well beyond my own."
More remarkable than his initial post was the time he spent addressing each and every commenter that questioned his assertions or championed the jury's decision. For the most part, the debate focused on the "Stand Your Ground" law that enabled Zimmerman to confidently patrol his neighborhood with a loaded firearm, which led to the encounter that left Martin shot dead.
The first commenter on the story asked Simon to explain what evidence he had to suggest that Zimmerman's targeting of Martin was racially motivated. Simon replied not with testimony or quotes from Zimmerman's past, but instead by simply re-stating what happened on the night of the killing.
"Have you asked yourself why a young black male pedestrian eating candy and talking on a cellphone, absent no other probable cause, would be of any particular interest and passion to an armed vigilante who had just finished telling a police dispatcher about the young punks who always get away with their crimes?" he asked. "Are you so obtuse that you will not accept that basic construct as racial profiling?"
Later, a commenter pointed out that Zimmerman's defense did not technically use "Stand Your Ground" as a defense, a point that Simon said irrelevant; it may not have been formed the basis for the argument made by legal team, but the law created the culture that permitted Zimmerman to confront Martin in the first place.
"It used to be a legal standard in this country that those who claim the right to use lethal force to take a human life were required to offer corroborative evidence not merely that they were involved in a physical altercation, but that they feared for their own safety or those of others," he observed. "Otherwise, anyone could pull a gun at a fistfight and fire away with impunity. That was the standard for a self-defense argument. Protecting one's real estate, responding to property crimes, thrown punches, the presence of strange black kids, previous crimes in the neighborhood, one's expressed frustration that these punks always get away — all of this does not constitute corroboration for a circumstance by which — before stand-your-ground — a citizen could produce a lethal weapon and use it with lethal intent."
Read more at David Simon's blog.