[…] The most nauseatingly overheated rhetoric has been the comparisons of Martin to Emmett Till. Till was a 14-year-old black kid from Chicago who, in the summer of 1955, went to visit relatives in a tiny Mississippi Delta town called Money. He either whistled at or flirted with (accounts vary) a white woman at the counter of a grocery store.
A few nights later, her husband and brother-in-law (and perhaps some of their neighbors, though that’s uncertain) dragged Till from his home, beat him to an unholy pulp, shot him in the head, tied a 70-pount weight to him with barbed wire and dumped him in a river.
When his body was fished out of the water three days later, the photos — published in Ebony magazine — made America vomit. Well, that part of America outside Money, Mississippi, where the men who killed Till were acquitted by jurors who deliberated just over an hour and confessed it wouldn’t have taken that long if they hadn’t paused to have a soda.
The murderers, once they were safely protected by the constitutional sanction against double jeopardy, boasted of their own guilt. And several jurors admitted they voted for acquittal because they didn’t believe killing black people was a jailable offense.
In what conceivable way does that story resemble the Trayvon Martin case? Zimmerman didn’t know Martin, has no history of racism and, when he called police to report what he thought was a suspicious character in his neighborhood, wasn’t even sure the person was black. Martin wasn’t dragged from his home by a mob but was killed during an altercation in which Zimmerman says he feared for his life and there was little evidence to contradict him.
And in post-verdict interviews, the Zimmerman jurors have come across not as flippant racists but thoughtful citizens who were agonized by their decision but did their best to enforce the law as they understood it. You may think they got it wrong. But that doesn’t mean they were a lynch mob, or that 2013 America is 1955 Mississippi.