Imagine that you are attacked. Someone punches you, knocks you to the ground, and starts banging your head against the ground.
You are in fear for your life. You use deadly force to defend yourself. You call the police.
The police interview you, and you tell them your story. A witness corroborates your story. The police take pictures of your injuries, take your fingerprints, swab your hands for gunshot residue. “We’ll be in touch,” they tell you. “Don’t leave town.”
Your attacker’s parents call for your arrest, calling it “justice.” Their demand is multiplied a thousandfold as the ignorant masses, as well as officials from the NAACP, the Nation of Islam, and the ACLU demand your arrest.
Never mind that someone has offered a $10,000 reward for your kidnapping (calling kidnapping “capture”): when the ACLU calls for your arrest, you have a PR problem. (You might even consider taking rodeo clown / congresswoman Frederica Wilson up on her offer to arrest you for your own safety.)
The mob’s anger is understandable. Given the state of the US criminal justice system, if the black guy had shot the white guy, the black guy would be behind bars by now.
Sometimes it happens—often it happens—that the police arrest someone who didn’t commit a crime. Even if there is probable cause, it screws up the arrestee’s life, costs him lots of money, deprives him of his freedom for a time or forever. There’s generally nothing the innocent arrestee can do about it.
If that is what the mob calls “justice,” I’m against it.
Government should, as far as possible avoid arresting people if it’s not clear that they’ve committed a crime.
Encouraging the government to arrest Zimmerman doesn’t serve as a protest against the rushed arrest that a black man would likely have suffered in the same situation; instead, by seeking to make such treatment the norm, it validates it.
As well as asking ourselves how we would want George Zimmerman treated if he had killed our son, we should all be asking ourselves how we would want George Zimmerman treated if he were our son. Because Zimmerman probably doesn’t have another killing in him (most killers don’t), but what we let the government get away with doing—to say nothing of what we encourage them to do—is what they will do over and over again.
It’d be funny, if it weren’t so sad, seeing the NAACP and the Nation of Islam (not to mention the ACLU) encouraging the government to make snap judgments and arrest people without a full investigation. Having taken that position, next time, when it’s a black guy defending himself against a white guy, they won’t have a lot of room to complain.