Based on what I've read about Trayvon Martin, he was a loving 17-year-old who cared for his quadriplegic uncle and played with his 7-year-old cousin.
Based also on what I've read, Trayvon got in trouble at school, used vulgarities and liked gangster rap.
Rarely, however, have I read those things in the same place.
There's a reason for that: the competing narratives at work in this tragedy.
One has Trayvon an innocent victim of a racist murderer.
The other has George Zimmerman as a well-intentioned victim.
Rarely are shades of gray or complexities allowed in.
It's part of the culture of picking sides we have in this country … facts be damned.
In modern discourse, you're either with us or against us. Nuances will not be tolerated.
Even worse in this case, because many of those screaming the loudest don't yet have all the facts about what went down that night — the only facts that actually matter — they have resorted to red herrings, distractions and false equivalents.
Sean Hannity screams about the Black Panthers. NAACP leader Ben Jealous talks about the Ku Klux Klan.
Neither of things has a thing to do with what happened in Sanford on Feb. 26.
Instead it's about narrative. These guys want you to pick sides.
You don't really want to question law enforcement's decision not to arrest Zimmerman, do you? If you do, you're on the same side as the Black Panthers and Al Sharpton.
You don't really want Zimmerman to go uncharged, do you? If so, you're aligned with the KKK.
Yet it's not just the radicals trying to create these fictional narratives.
In a "Today" show segment, NBC broadcast recordings from Zimmerman's 911 calls that had Zimmerman saying: "This guy looks like he's up to no good. ... He looks black."
Sounds racist, right?
Less so if NBC had broadcast the full exchange, in which Zimmerman said: "This guy looks like he's up to no good. Or he's on drugs or something. It's raining and he's just walking around, looking about."
At which point the dispatcher asked: "OK, and this guy — is he black, white or Hispanic?"
Said Zimmerman in response: "He looks black."
That version had more context. It was more complex. It didn't feet neatly into the narrative.
Then there is the side hellbent on disparaging and demonizing the dead guy.
"Was Trayvon Martin a Drug Dealer?"
That inflammatory and unsupported question wasn't posed by some fringy blog. It was a question WDBO encouraged listeners to consider with a link on its Facebook page.
WDBO also posted a picture of an angry-looking young black man, flipping the camera the bird with his underwear exposed. Asked the station: Is that really Trayvon?
Um, no. It wasn't. In fact the conservative website that first leaked the picture had to do a retraction admitting as much.
But the radio station didn't bother trifling in such details. Instead, it noted there were "conflicting reports" and then moved on to the next story.
Those "conflicting reports," after all, didn't fit neatly into the anti-Trayvon narrative.
Then there is the increasingly troubling act of posing inflammatory false equivalents to try to win people over to your side.
Right-leaning pundits rattle off a litany of crimes committed by black people — and then ask why black leaders never fuss about them.
First of all, they do. Black leaders have organized marches, rallies and prayer gatherings to address that very point.
Second of all, the comparisons they cite almost always ended in arrests.
Most important, though: What are you talking about? You need to think about your case if we're talking about the need for answers the Trayvon case, and the best response you've got is: "Well, I know a black kid who killed someone in Oklahoma!"
You need to rethink your narrative.
What we need are answers, not hype.
Personally, I feel comfortable with the independent investigation playing out now.
But let me be clear: I wasn't at first.
I understand why Trayvon's family was screaming for justice — and why the Sharptons of the world were calling for independent eyes.
The state attorney in Seminole County has a checkered past. He has a proven track record of being wrong and refusing to admit his mistakes — refusing to even investigate them until science later proved him wrong.
Independent eyes were needed. And Gov. Rick Scott was right to call for them.
It wasn't because Sharpton or the New Black Panthers said so. (I doubt the governor cares much for Sharpton or the Panthers. I certainly don't.) It was because it was the right thing to do.
Thinking people look beyond the rhetoric and aren't foolish enough to make decisions based on the personalities rooting for each team.
I am amazed at the number of people who want to pin a medal on George Zimmerman simply because they hate Al Sharpton.
Sharpton, the Panthers, Hannity, the KKK, Trayvon's school records — they are all distractions, facts irrelevant to what happened that night.
They are used by people trying to get you buy their version of what happened … even though they don't really know.
Right now, if anyone is screaming for anything other than the full story, you should tune him out.
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