Dating, Relationships, & Sex, Race & Politics, Theory & Essay

What If We Were Wrong About Trayvon?

Aside from finding an answer to the always awkward “So…who gets to “keep” the mutual friends?” question every newly uncoupled duo needs to ask themselves, the most difficult part of making the transition to “single” for me has been figuring out how to categorize memories. More specifically, are the great times you spent with your ex remembered in the same way once the relationship ends? Does that trip you took together to Rome or that unbelievable birthday he threw for you still get filed under “great” in your memory banks, do you create an entirely different category to archive those memories, or do you just try your best to expel them completely?

It seems as if the answer depends on the nature of the break-up. I imagine that people who ended relationships because of serious betrayal have a tougher time thinking positively of anything that happened in the time they were in that relationship. And, even if they do have a fondness for those things, how do they deal with the fact that a fond memory was eventually found to be a complete fabrication? (An example: You found out that your trip to Rome was only possible because his mistress works for Delta and hooked him up with free plane tickets)

While I understand the sentiment behind allowing a present experience affect how you remember the past, I think doing so cheats yourself out of one of the best parts of living. Learning that the relationship itself may not have been everything you thought it was doesn’t negate the authentic feeling felt when those memories were created. Your joy and happiness wasn’t inauthentic; it was your genuine reaction to something good happening. And, since most relationships, even good ones, eventually end, re-categorizing all good things that happened in relationships that eventually ended from “good” to “f*ck that shit” would ultimately leave most of us with no good memories at all.

Anyway, a couple weeks ago I wrote about the fact that the Trayvon Martin case has galvanized us in a way that, to be honest, I can’t remember happening at any other point in my lifetime. Seeing us collectively committed to righting this wrong almost makes me feel as good as the event causing us to come together makes me feel bad, and many seem to share this sentiment.

Still, despite our steadfast commitment to making damn sure our outrage is felt and our demands are heeded, the fact remains that there are still only three relevant facts regarding this case:

1. Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teen, was killed by neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman.

2. George Zimmerman is still free

3. Aside from Zimmerman, Martin, (maybe) a few witnesses, and God, no one knows exactly what happened that night.

Now, I’m not here today to speculate on what I think happened¹ or even what anyone else thinks happened. Instead, I want to play hypothetical for a moment and ask “What if?”²

What if the reckless shit some are spewing about Trayvon being the aggressor and beating Zimmerman to a pulp happens to be true? What if the gun accidentally went off after a struggle? What if he really was a problem child who, to paraphrase the words of a dozen or so dangerously contrarian conservative columnists, “had it coming?” What if Zimmerman’s life was in real danger?

I’m asking because I wonder if would it change how we’ve felt about the last few weeks of walk-outs, petition-signing, rally-attending, hoodie-wearing, and protest-marching if any of this was found to be true. Would the outrage still be as white hot if we found out that our perception of what happened that night was completely off? Would the collective galvanization still feel as real? Would the strides we’ve made in proving to ourselves that “yes we can actually unite behind a cause” prove to be inauthentic? Would we continue to, to quote Slim Charles, “fight on that lie“?

I want to believe everything I want to believe about Trayvon, and I want to believe that even if those beliefs aren’t true, my feelings about this collective effort wouldn’t change. I’d like to think I’d follow my own advice about how not to let context cloud memories, but l desperately hope I never have to answer any of those questions.

¹I think that Zimmerman stalked, followed, and confronted Martin and shot him in a scared panic. Cold-blooded murder? No. But, his fear speaks to the latent feeling many have towards Black males, and since this fear resulted in the death of an unarmed kid, he deserves to be behind bars.
²Just wanted to remind everybody that writing a hypothetical “what if” doesn’t mean that I personally believe what’s stated in the hypothetical. It’s just a hypothetical, nothing more. 

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

Damon Young

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB. He is also a columnist for and EBONY Magazine. And a founding editor for 1839. And he's working on a book of essays to be published by Ecco (HarperCollins). Damon is busy. He lives in Pittsburgh, and he really likes pancakes. Reach him at Or don't. Whatever.

  • 1) The real problem with this case is that George Zimmerman wasn’t arrested. It’s not even about whether or not you think he’s ‘guilty’ – if he shot someone to death AFTER the 911 operator told him not to pursue, he should have been arrested.

    2) I’m mad that Toure’ and Piers Morgan used this case for their own self-aggrandizement.

  • Iamnotakata

    I agree with your sentiments expressed in red…this whole ordeal is sad and unfortunate, I watched the BET special about Trayvon earlier this evening really sad to watch his father speak about the situation..

  • Joy

    The only thing I have to say to this is Trayvon Martin would still be alive today to walk to the store MINDING HIS OWN DAMN BUSINESS to buy the Arizona Tea and Skittles he had in his hand—if not for George Zimmerman.

    This must be an April Fools post.

  • naturalista88

    The only “What if?” I ponder is: “What if Zimmerman would’ve listened to the 911 dispatcher and not followed Martin?” Cause really, that’s the only “What if?” I even care about. If he was an aggressive teen, we shouldn’t have found that out in the manner that we did, meaning Zimmerman should have stayed his dumb ass in the car & not followed Martin; he wouldn’t have gotten his ass whooped, and he wouldn’t have felt the need to shoot Martin.

  • That Ugly Kid

    Honestly, no. None of those things you mentioned would’ve changed my opinion on the matter. Why? Because I still look at thing logically.

    1. Even if Trayvon was the aggressor, guess what? Zimmy still stalked and confronted the kid. Had he not does so, he wouldn’t have been in that situation in the first place.

    2. Say the gun did go off on accident. Why not admit to it then? Why lie about getting beat up when security tapes show you uninjured and a mortician stating Trayvon’s knickles had no bruising?

    3. Let’s say Trayvon was on school suspension and did post pictures online of him throwing up middle fingers. That warrants the death penalty now? Might as well kill off 80% of then teenage population then. Yes, that includes the “innocent” blonde haired, blue eyes white girls this country loves so much.

    4. Again, he put himself in that position by not listening to the dispatcher’s advice. If I catch a robber in my crib, he just got himself f*cked up. Period.

  • Iceprincess

    We’re not wrong about trayvon martin. Champ please please please dont get brainwashed by the media. Theyre trying to flip the script on trayvon & frankly its disgusting. The 911 tape is clear. Zimmerman stalked & killed him. Zimmerman is lying about trayvon beating his azz. The tapes of him at the police station minutes after the murder show no blood or signs of a struggle. Not a scratch on him. “They” are attemting to drag this kids reputation thru the mud saying he got suspended from school for weed, blah blah. So what? Its totally irrelevant to the events of that nite. Im so over it. Zimmerman was a paranoid biggoted moron that night & he needs to be held responsible for his actions. Period.

  • mena

    What if the reckless shit some are spewing about Trayvon being the aggressor and beating Zimmerman to a pulp happens to be true? How is it aggressive when 911 records show that Zimmerman confronted Trayvon?

    What if the gun accidentally went off after a struggle? Why was he carrying a gun in the first place? Is this neighborhood watch policy?

    What if he really was a problem child who, to paraphrase the words of a dozen or so dangerously contrarian conservative columnists, “had it coming?” Having it come to you is when you put yourself in a situation where you finally get the punishment you deserve. Trayvon didnt place himself in this situation.

    What if Zimmerman’s life was in real danger? He was still the aggressor by confronting the kid but if that were the case, sane people run, they don’t place themselves in dangerous situations to begin with. This is looking for trouble.

    Would the strides we’ve made in proving to ourselves that “yes we can actually unite behind a cause” prove to be inauthentic? Would we continue to, to quote Slim Charles, “fight on that lie“? My problem lies in not that Trayvon was murdered (even though that sounds harsh) but in how the police handled the situation. Say that Trayvon was the aggressor and attacked Zimmerman who shot him in self defense. Does this still make it right for the police to just let Zimmerman go without a full investigation? Does it make it right that Zimmerman wasn’t tested for drugs and alcohol but yet Trayvon was? Does it make it right that the parents had to go above and beyond to listen to the 911 tapes and see the video tape of Zimmerman being brought into a police station? What about the precedent this sets for the Florida law that as long as you claim self defense without adequate evidence, the cops will just let you go? This isn’t the wild west where people can carry out the punishments they deem fit. This is why we have laws, a judicial system, and congress.

    I have asked myself these same questions but continue coming back to the start that Zimmerman confronted Trayvon.

    Maybe the whole purpose of this is to have the Florida law overturned. Meeting force with force, outside of your home or property, just seems like a recipe for disaster.

  • elle

    The entire situation is sad. Actually it’s not even just sad, it’s disgusting.

    Zimmerman was told NOT to follow him. Zimmerman was the one with the gun. And since when does a neighborhood watch person CARRY A GUN? Even IF Trayvon said/did something, in what world do we live in where it is logical reasoning to SHOOT AND KILL an unarmed kid? And screw Florida with that ridiculous azz law of theirs.

  • Speaking of being wrong about Trayvon – Geraldo apologized to his parents about the ‘hoodie’ comment on his show.


    The first part of this post was interesting, but after I read the “what if we were wrong about Trayvon Martin?” part, the whole thing went from “good” to “f*ck that sh t.”

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