Op-Ed: Was Trayvon Martin a Gangsta?

Posted Jul 21, 2013 by John Dewar Gleissner
Trayvon Martin claimed in a text message to be a gangsta. We should take him at his word and see if that had any role in his death.
Demonstrators seeking justice for Trayvon Martin
Demonstrators seeking justice for Trayvon Martin
Illustration by Digital Journal
Was Trayvon Martin a Gangsta?
Trayvon Martin was a gangsta. How do we know? That’s a title he claimed for himself in a text message. Trayvon Martin fit the profile of a gangsta fairly well. A “gangsta” or perhaps “wannabe gangsta” in the case of Trayvon Martin is variously defined by the following factors, characteristics or criteria:
Wannabe thug : Trayvon Martin talked about fighting in some of his last text messages and according to the evidence at the Zimmerman trial was acting like a thug on the night of his death, because he attacked George Zimmerman after Zimmerman lost sight of Trayvon Martin.
Age : At age 17, Martin had entered the age and gender cohort, with high testosterone levels, that commits a disproportionate share of the violent, theft and drug crimes in America. Zimmerman had reached age 28, the age at which the human brain on the average reaches maximum development, at the end of that same crime-prevalent cohort.
Male Gender : Gangstas are young men. 93% of incarcerated prisoners in America are male. George Zimmerman was male, of course, and had demonstrated some of the same aggressive tendencies that ended up getting them both in trouble.
Less Education : Martin had disciplinary problems in high school, was not an enthusiastic student, and was well on his way to being a high school dropout. At the time of his death, Trayvon Martin was serving his third school suspension, because they found a marijuana pipe and a bag with marijuana residue in it. Statistically, an African American male who drops out of high school has a 60% chance of winding up in prison.
Anti-Social : A screwdriver and ladies jewelry were found in Trayvon Martin’s back-pack by school authorities, suggesting he was involved in theft or burglary offenses. One of the most significant factors correlated with a lower crime rate is being married. Zimmerman was married and had a job; Trayvon Martin was unmarried, did not have a job and was suspended from school. Zimmerman was in communication with the police; previous to his death, Trayvon Martin complained about the police.
Gangs : Hangs around gangs. We do not know if Trayvon Martin was in a gang, but he had tattoos. Immediately before his death, Trayvon Martin’s mother kicked him out of her house and made him go live with his father. Neither parent was sure where he was the night of the shooting, nor did they file any missing person reports. They found out the next day.
African-American subculture : Trayvon Martin was an African American aspiring to or reaching the gangsta subculture.
Places graffiti on buildings : This is one reason why Trayvon Martin was suspended from school on one occasion.
Uses and/or sells drugs : His text messages praised marijuana smoking and THC metabolites were found in his body during the autopsy. Two of the items he purchased at the grocery store the night of his death were considered ingredients for Purple Drank, a dangerous concoction made with cough syrup, Arizona Tea and Skittles (or other candy). He was interested in codeine. Trace elements of other drugs were also found in the toxicological analysis. A photo of a small potted marijuana plant was found on Trayvon Martin’s cell phone. Trayvon Martin may or may not have been smoking marijuana in his posted photographs. As stated above, one of his school suspensions was for having a marijuana pipe and a bag with marijuana residue in it.
Macho & “Bad” Image : Trayvon Martin referred to women by the “b” word and otherwise demonstrated a gangsta image. His Facebook and other internet photos showed someone shooting birds at the camera, not smiling, with his shirt off, smoking, and otherwise posing in the macho-man bad-ass role. Trayvon Martin appears to have acted in response to the status challenge of Zimmerman, a typical scenario for shootings and deaths involving young men.
Violent : Trayvon Martin’s cell phone texts revealed a history of fighting and a propensity for violence. The prosecution objected to the text messages and they were excluded. Martin admitted in a text message that he’s a “gangsta.” Martin’s older half-brother wanted Trayvon Martin to teach him, the older half-brother, how to fight. All the physical evidence shows that Martin was the aggressor, as does the account of George Zimmerman. Martin did not retreat to his father’s residence as he could have, but instead went back to look for trouble. Zimmerman of course should have stayed in his car. George Zimmerman’s nose and head showed signs of being struck by an enraged, physically developed Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman was diagnosed with a closed fracture of his nose, two black eyes, lacerations to the back of his head, a minor back injury, and bruising in his upper lip and cheek. Other than the bullet hole, Martin’s corpse only had a small abrasion on his left ring finger below the knuckle, the exact place where an injury would be on a fighting fist. By all accounts, there was fighting before the gunshot that killed Trayvon Martin. An escalating series of events characterizes most fist-fights and assaults and many homicides.
Absence of Religion : This absence runs like a thread through gangsta rap, gangsta culture and gangsta behavior. This is something the ministers who praise his character ought to consider.
Owns or admires weapons : Trayvon Martin articulated an interest in obtaining a gun. A picture of a gun was found on Trayvon Martin’s cell phone. According to Zimmerman, Trayvon Martin said he would use Zimmerman’s gun on Zimmerman. In one text message, when Trayvon Martin said he was a gangsta, his friend advised him not to take a bullet in his chest – and of course that’s exactly what ended up happening to Trayvon Martin.
Trayvon Martin did not have every characteristic of a gangsta, but he was well on his way at the time of his death. These gangsta leanings help explain his death, as do the actions of George Zimmerman. The escalating series of events on the night of this death, involving two aggressive young men, was unfortunately more typical of shooting deaths than Trayvon Martin’s cause celebre status suggests. The Zimmerman Trial generates debate about the social ills of our country. One thing is clear: The death of Trayvon Martin was about much more than mere skin color. The protestations of racism conceal deeper social problems we see clearly in the gangsta culture.