THE PUBLIC SLIMING of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed Florida teen slain last month after buying candy and ice tea at a convenience store, is under way.
A month after Trayvon's tragic death, now comes word that the 17-year-old had been visiting his dad while on a 10-day suspension from school for having a baggie containing marijuana residue in his book bag and, according to the Miami Herald, a marijuana pipe.
That's not cool.
But what does that have to do with what went down the night Trayvon was killed?
He had been returning to his dad's fiancee's home in a gated community in Sanford, Fla., after purchasing Skittles and a can of Arizona Iced Tea from a nearby 7-Eleven. George Zimmerman, a self-appointed neighborhood-watch volunteer, noticed him walking through the neighborhood and dialed 9-1-1. A police dispatcher told Zimmerman not to follow Trayvon, but Zimmerman did anyway. Some sort of confrontation ensued and Martin wound up dead of a gunshot wound. Zimmerman, who wasn't arrested, had grass stains on his back and a broken nose.
According to the Orlando Sentinel, Zimmerman told police that Trayvon approached him from behind and that the two exchanged words. Zimmerman said that Trayvon punched him in the face and got on top of him and slammed his head onto the ground.
We also have learned that Trayvon had been suspended from school at the time of the shooting and that he also had a spotty school-attendance record. According to the Herald, he had been suspended two other times, once after he reportedly defaced school property with graffiti - he reportedly wrote the acronym "WTF" on school property. When school officials searched his bag looking for the marker he used, they discovered 12 pieces of women's jewelry and a flat-head screwdriver. The Miami paper reported that he was suspended for the graffiti but was not disciplined for possessing the women's jewelry.
None of that looks good.
If the reports are true, Trayvon wasn't as innocent as that baby-faced photo of him in the red Hollister T-shirt makes him look. But if he had had troubles with the law - which he hadn't - that doesn't excuse any of what happened in February. The fact that these stories are surfacing now reminds me of what rape victims go through when their sexual histories get dragged into court.
On Facebook and elsewhere, people also are circulating a photo of Zimmerman looking upscale and respectable, and an image of a young black man they claim is Trayvon appearing thugged out in a gangster pose. I stared at it really hard and couldn't tell if it really was Trayvon or not. But Facebook is full of photos of young men trying to out-thug each other in their photos with their gangster poses and grimacing faces. They do it to stave off bullies and also to emulate their favorite rappers. That makes them young, silly boys - not bullet fodder.
At Monday night's hoodie rally in LOVE Park in support of Trayvon, protesters with whom I spoke dismissed reports of Trayvon's school suspension, saying it was irrelevant.
"That doesn't matter at all," said Percy Thompson, 41, of North Philly. "The boy was killed for something that wasn't necessary."
Trayvon's mother, of course, is in damage mode, trying to save what's left of her dead son's name.
"They killed my son, and now they are trying to kill his reputation," Sybrina Fulton told reporters in Florida. I suspect she'll be repeating that a lot in the days ahead.