I’ve received quite a few emails, Tweets, and comments asking why I haven’t yet written on the Trayvon Martin case. These have ranged from polite inquiries as to what I think about the case, to not-so-subtle implications about what my “conspicuous silence” says about me, to demands that I drop everything and investigate, to a weird rush of emails a couple days ago screaming (as much as an email can scream) that I haven’t covered the case because Martin is black and I only care about the civil liberties of white people. Given the narrow time window in which that last batch of emails arrived, I’m fairly sure they all came from the same blog post or discussion board, though I wasn’t able (and didn’t put up much of an effort) to track down the source.
All of this rings similar to the accusations I started getting from people who didn’t think I was sufficiently angry about and/or devoted to covering the police abuses at the Occupy protests. The implication was that I simply don’t care when lefists get beaten by police. Which, if you’ll look through my archive, is just as absurd as suggesting I only care about white people.
I guess in one sense it’s flattering that I’m expected to weigh in on every criminal justice-related story to make the news, and that my motives are questioned when I don’t. On the other hand, it can be a little frustrating. So here are the main reasons I haven’t delved into the case. You can probably refer back to this list on any future civil liberties story making national headlines about which I have remained (conspicuously!) silent.
(1) I’m working on a number of other projects that I can’t just drop in order to jump into another story, particularly since we have reason (4).
(2) I’m writing a book. This will leave considerably less time for me to opine, investigate, weigh in on crime stories in the news.
(3) Given points (1) and (2), I also do occasionally enjoy doing things that aren’t work-related.
(4) Lots of other people are doing a great job covering the story, including my HuffPost colleague Trymaine Lee, the guy responsible for bringing it to national attention.
(5) I don’t feel compelled to offer an opinion on every big story connected to my beat unless I have something useful to add to the conversation. Because I haven’t been doing any reporting on the Martin case, and because it doesn’t appear to involve any issues about which I have some specific expertise, I haven’t yet felt I’ve had anything useful to add.
(6) Somewhat related to the other points: I don’t like to comment on a story until I’m read up on it. There’s a hell of a lot of reading to stay on top of in this case. More every day. And again, I have other things going on. There are times when it’s just not possible to get caught up with a case in time to comment about it immediately.
For those of you demanding a reaction: Yes, I think the story is an outrage. I think the police who did such a sloppy/indifferent investigation of Zimmerman ought to be fired. I think Zimmerman should be charged, though I don’t know that we have enough solid details for me to have an opinion on whether it ought to be second-degree murder or something more like manslaughter. I may now have some opinions on the Martin story that might add to the conversation, but I’m still hashing them out in my head. And they’re likely to be more related to the coverage of the case than the case itself. I’ll get to those when I can. And if they congeal into something coherent.
But in the meantime, let’s turn the tables a bit. I’ll leave you to chew on another email I received yesterday from a longtime reader:
Why do you think people are up in arms about Trayvon Martin? You’ve posted on a number of deaths that equal or excel the Martin affair in outrageousness. What’s different about this case?
Off the top of my head, in Florida alone we could consider the cases of Rachel Hoffman, Isaac Singletary, Nick Christie, Tyler Spann, and Anthony Diotaiuto. I’m sure if I dug through the archives, I could find others. Why didn’t those cases attract the attention Martin’s has? I have my own opinions, but I’m interested in hearing yours.