“Boxing isn’t new to me," said George Zimmerman. "It’s something I had picked up well before the incident," says the man who killed unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, "and it’s something that I liked." And thus, in announcing his "celebrity" boxing match for charity, Zimmerman, posing with his fists in the air and a smile on his face, destroyed what little credibility he had left.
Yes, he downplayed his killing of Trayvon Martin as "the incident." Yes, he knew how to fight on the night of Feb. 26, 2012, when he profiled and pursued Trayvon. Yes, his defense team was lying when they argued he was too weak to defend himself against a 158-pound unarmed teen. Yes, he thinks he's a celebrity. And yes, he thinks we're dumb enough to support him financially by tuning in to a pay-per-view fight for a "charity" he refuses to identify.
But here's the rub. Despite the talk of negotiations for a match, George Zimmerman will never fight DMX, Kanye West, The Game, or anyone else for that matter, unless, of course, it's another defenseless girlfriend, spouse, or unarmed teen. Zimmerman is a coward, just as he was the night he approached Trayvon Martin with his gun and the day he declined to testify in his own murder trial.
But Zimmerman is also a con artist. He knew his idea for a boxing match would draw attention. The civil rights group ColorOfChange has launched a campaign to stop the fight and a separate online petition to cancel the fight has drawn thousands of signatures. Actor Nic Few, who sponsored the petition, warns that Zimmerman "should not profit" from the shooting.
It's too late. Zimmerman has already cashed in on his notoriety, and the controversy surrounding this fight scam is exactly what he wanted. The man who once complained he had lost his privacy has now become a shameless attention whore who would make Donald Trump and Sarah Palin look camera shy in comparison.
Zimmerman's experience is not just a reminder of the inequities in the criminal justice system; it is a metaphor for the system itself. Every segment of the saga, from the shooting to the trial to the proposed boxing match, represents a flawed component of our broken justice system.
Black men in our system are targeted, demonized, killed, disparately convicted of drug offenses, disproportionately incarcerated, disenfranchised from the political process, and then exploited for profit. That's precisely what happened in the Zimmerman case.
The demonizing occurred when Zimmerman labeled his victim an "a--hole," a conclusion that was supported by an army of right-wing commentators who never met the young Trayvon but quickly rushed to judge him as a "thug."
The killing took place not by the standard means of official police brutality but when Zimmerman appointed himself unofficial constable and executioner on behalf of the neighborhood and the state.
The conviction for drug offenses took place three times. First when Zimmerman decided Trayvon was "on drugs." Next when the judge determined Trayvon’s toxicology report was admissible in court even though the killer himself was never tested. And finally when commentators decided that faint traces of marijuana in the young man's system were somehow evidence of his guilt of an offense that rarely results in arrest, much less execution, for young white boys.
The disproportionate incarceration followed when Zimmerman, the non-Black killer of the unarmed Black kid, was released from police custody hours after the shooting and never charged with a crime until six weeks of protest forced the hands of the authorities.
The disenfranchisement from the political process came quickly as the Republican-controlled Florida state legislature voted down any possible changes to the very Stand Your Ground law that empowered and enabled Zimmerman to kill Trayvon without consequences.
After all that, the profit was inevitable. Just as our school-to-prison pipeline pushes Black kids into a criminal justice system for the financial benefit of the prison industry and its shareholders, so too would George Zimmerman seek new ways to benefit from his trial.
But instead of spending our energy trying to find an opponent to pummel Zimmerman to a pulp, we should remember he's not alone. Just this week, the same Florida prosecutors who tried to convict Zimmerman returned to court for a trial against Michael Dunn, a white man who shot and killed unarmed 17-year-old Jordan Davis in November 2012.
And so, in this same week when Trayvon Martin's parents remember what would have been their son's 19th birthday, we honor his legacy not by feeding into the killer's desperate ploy for attention but by turning our attention to the real issues that caused this tragedy.
George Zimmerman did not kill Trayvon Martin alone. He acted with accomplices, including a racially-polarized criminal justice system and a complicit media willing to spin their tales. While the system constructs dangerously overhyped images of young Black "thugs" terrorizing shopping malls and sucker punching innocent bystanders, we've enabled non-Black thugs like Zimmerman and Dunn to sucker punch young Black men with impunity.
George Zimmerman the boxer is just the latest media-packaged distraction from George Zimmerman the killer. It's far easier to focus on his multiple arrests and unseemly publicity stunts than to fix our systemic problems. But let's not focus all our attention on Zimmerman. His day will come. Let's change the system that created him.
Keith Boykin is a New York Times best-selling author and former White House aide to President Clinton. He attended Harvard Law School with President Barack Obama and currently serves as a TV political commentator. He writes commentary for BET.com each week.
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
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