Thug Life or Teen Life?: Justin Bieber vs Trayvon Martin
If I ever see Justin Bieber in my neighborhood wearing a hoodie, I’mma shoot him. Okay, no, not really. I don’t actually want to shoot Justin Bieber. You can put down the hatchets, Beliebers. I’m kidding! But, according to George Zimmerman’s defense team and supporters, I would be completely justified.
Zimmerman’s defense team has been working diligently all week to paint a picture of Travyon Martin as a violent thug. Key to their strategy is the image of a marijuana plant found on Martin’s phone along with a series of text messages that seem to indicate he smoked pot regularly. According to Zimmerman’s defense attorney Mark O’Mara, the levels of THC found in Martin’s system the night of the shooting has been shown to cause “aggression, particularly in teen age males.”
So, it’s only rational for me to be suspicious of Justin Bieber. Just a few months ago, TMZ released photos of him smoking what looks to be a big fat blunt. In April, the “strong smell of marijuana” prompted authorities in Stockholm to search Bieber’s tour bus. They found a small amount of marijuana and a stun gun (which requires a permit in Sweden). Now this week, neighbors have claimed that Biebs was riding around the neighborhood on a Segway while smoking a joint. In full view of children! He’s clearly a shameless and chronic marijuana user. And, thanks to O’Mara, we all know how elevated levels of THC can cause aggression … especially in teenage boys. Bieber’s already displayed violent tendencies this past March during a
reefer madness freak out confrontation with paparazzi in London.
This week, Zimmerman’s defense team also released several images of Trayvon Martin taken from his cell phone. The photos were described by CNN as Martin “Looking tough. Flaunting a fondness for marijuana. And guns. They paint a disturbing, even dangerous version of a troubled teen.”
The selfies Bieber has been posting on Instagram evoke an eerily similar image. Shirtless and tattooed. Riding around with his boys at night with his hat on and hoodie up. Flaunting a fondness for drinking.
The images paint a picture of a deeply disturbed, possibly dangerous, young man.
Either that, OR Justin Bieber is a teenager, doing teenager stuff. Like Trayvon Martin, Justin Bieber might get high. He might get drunk. He might swear and threaten people. He has tattoos and posts pictures of himself trying to look tough. Justin Bieber probably makes a lot of bad choices, because that is what teenagers do. This is not to be dismissive or to say that the choices teenagers make, especially in terms of substance abuse and violence, can’t have dire consequences. Some teens have serious problems that stretch far beyond rebellion and curiosity. But, it seems that a lot of what’s being said about Trayvon Martin could easily be said about the majority of teenagers in the U.S., who somehow don’t get characterized as pathological degenerates.
Some Zimmerman supporters might argue that the two images of a handgun found on Martin’s cell phone are evidence that his behavior had far surpassed normal teenage rebellion. But, I’m uncertain why the image of a gun is so damning. American citizens hold Second Amendment rights sacrosanct (above all else it seems). We’re a country that won’t implement even a basic universal background check law on firearm sales. We’re a county where gun manufactures cater to kindergarteners. As far as I can tell, the only major difference between the image taken from Trayvon Martin’s phone and this one, taken from the 2013 NRA Annual Meeting, is the color of the young hand holding the gun.
Trayvon Martin’s true transgression isn’t that he got into fights or got high or handled a gun. It’s that he did all of these things while being Black. It’s why he was murdered, and it’s why behaviors that could easily be signs of youthful experimentation rather than signs of true problems are being used to transform him from victim to monster. So until people start decrying Justin Bieber as a dangerous thug and villifying the NRA for allowing young people to handle guns, you can just miss me with the Trayvon slander.