Negro Cocaine Fiend Myth Alive in Zimmerman Trial

Trayvon MartinI haven’t been following the George Zimmerman trial. I don’t have strong opinions about the man. What I do have strong opinions about is the screwed up “stand your ground” laws that even make this trial necessary. But I heard something yesterday that really angered me. The judge in the case decided to allow the toxicology report that shows that Trayvon Martin had a small amount of THC in his system at the time of his death. This perpetuates the use of the myth of the scary black man on drugs.

The defense argues that this is relevant because on the 911 call, Zimmerman said, “It looks like he’s on drugs or something.” This was in reference to the fact that Martin seemed to just be wandering around. I never quite got that aspect of Zimmerman’s motivation for following the young man. After all, Zimmerman was supposedly looking for people who had broken into places and stole stuff. Someone wandering back from the store doesn’t fit the profile. I also think that saying he looks like he’s on drugs is more or less the same as, “He looks like a young black man.”

Unfortunately, we do not know how much THC was in Martin’s system. The defense has made a big deal of the fact that the medical examiner changed his opinion on the effect of this amount of THC from being “none” to “some.” THC stays in the body a very long time and the courts have ruled that the mere existence of chemicals in the body does not mean the person was intoxicated. Regardless of the effect, is cannabis known for for making people more violent? How does this make the murder of Martin more acceptable?

This whole thing is very creepy, but entirely typical of our judicial system. The defense wants to bring up cannabis use by Trayvon Martin for the same reason that a rapist’s defense wants to bring up how the victim was dressed. It is a way to prejudice the jury into thinking that the victim had it coming. So the defense creates a narrative. Martin was high on “drugs” and behaving very oddly. Of course, Zimmerman followed him. But then Zimmerman was going back to his car and Martin—all hopped up on Mary Jane—chased after him and beat poor Zimmerman savagely to the point where he had no choice but to put a bullet in Martin’s heart.

None of this is surprising. This is the kind of nonsense we get when we have laws that allow people to kill each other if they can justify feeling threatened. So now we watch as this trial descends into the murky waters of who Martin was and what he was doing. Note also how vague the “feeling threatened” defense is. A bigot might feel threatened anytime a young black man is within shouting distance. And a cowardly man might feel threatened anytime someone pushed back a little against his bullying.[1] So the big murder trial is all about the scary black man on drugs. We have not moved far from 1914, when the New York Times wrote, Negro Cocaine ‘Fiends’ Are a New Southern Menace.


[1] Yes, I am saying that Zimmerman is a bigot, coward, and bully.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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