As George Zimmerman’s trial for the murder of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin comes to a close, media outlets are scrambling to cover the case from all angles. And as lawyers complete their closing remarks and the jury begins deliberations, the web is heaving with emotions on both sides of the aisle.
With tensions running high, Gawker took a controversial step and posted an image of Trayvon Martin’s body as he lay dead on the grass with a gunshot wound to the chest.
The image shows the lanky teen laying face up, with his mouth and eyes wide open. Martin is wearing a black sweatshirt, cuffed khakis, and sneakers.
According to Adam Weinstein, he received the image from a reader who took a screen shot from a TV broadcast of the trial. Although controversial, Weinstein says what prompted him to post the graphic image, despite major news outlets refusing to do so, was good old-fashioned rage.
“To Trayvon’s parents, Sabrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, I’m sorry that I feel compelled to share this photograph. Were I a slave to journalistic norms, I would say that it’s somehow in the public interest to see him there. I would point out Florida’s sunshine laws, and the TV network’s incompetence, and argue the inevitability that this image would’ve gained a wider audience than it has already.
But those are rationalizations. They don’t explain my motive: Good old-fashioned rage that this kid is dead because my home state empowered a dullard aficionado of Van Damme and Seagal movie cliches to choose his own adventure. Florida literally gave George Zimmerman license to make up neighborhood threats and invite violent confrontations, confident in the knowledge that he carried more firepower jammed down his sweaty fat waistband than every army on earth beheld before 1415.
I wish I were a better person than that, but I’m not. People come up short all the time, after all. I suppose it’s a good thing I don’t have a gun.”
Many have chided Gawker for posting the image of Martin’s slain body, especially without a warning. They have accused the website of trolling for page views. Others, however, feel the image of Martin’s body further humanizes the teen and highlights what can happen in an overly armed society.
When I first read people discussing the image on Facebook, I wanted to be outraged.
“HOW DARE THEY?!” I thought. “Gawker is SO trolling for clicks with this.”
But then I saw it.
And I was once again reminded of the fragility of life. I was reminded, again, that Trayvon Martin is not a symbol of young black men in America. He is not the poster child for “scary thugs” who “get what they deserve.”
He was a young man on his way home from the store.
He was Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin’s son. He was Jahvaris Fulton’s little brother. He was 17 and he had his whole life ahead of him.
Trayvon Martin was walking home with skittles and iced tea, and he was murdered.
And murder is gruesome, and ugly, and heart wrenching. And it’s often glossed over, talked around, and sanitized to make us all feel more comfortable.
We see bodies under white sheets, crying parents, and chalk outlines. We don’t see cold, dead eyes staring toward heaven unless we were there.
Now, we are all here with Trayvon, gazing toward heaven.
While I understand the outrage, sometimes we need to bear witness to the ugly, gruesome, hard-to-watch parts to understand just what we lost.