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George Zimmerman needs to just shut up and go away

One day, George Zimmerman will run out of ways to pimp off killing an unarmed black kid in 2012.

Against the advice of a police dispatcher, Zimmerman confronted Trayvon Martin, as he walked through Zimmerman’s gated community in Sanford, Florida. Martin, from Miami Gardens, Florida, had been visiting Sanford with his dad, who had a friend who lived there.

Following an exchange of words, Martin and Zimmerman ended up struggling on the ground. According to Zimmerman, he shot Martin before the teenager could shoot him with the older male’s gun.

In 2013, after being acquitted of second-degree murder and manslaughter in the Trayvon Martin case, Zimmerman sold his paintings, at least one for six figures, to help defray a debt he placed at more than $2.5 million.

Earlier this month, he auctioned off the gun he used to kill Martin, and apparently someone agreed to pay more than $120,000 for it. In addition to using the celebrity he gained from killing Martin to line his pockets, Zimmerman has scolded the dead child’s parents. In an interview with the Daily Beast, he said that Martin’s parents didn’t raise him right — that his father treated him like a “dog without a leash.” Zimmerman’s stark and callous language reminds me of the words he used in the moments after Martin’s death. Instead of referring to the dead 17-year-old as a boy, a man, a black male or even a n—–, he called him “the suspect.”

For Zimmerman, no stranger to dustups with the law before and after confronting Martin, the mere presence of an unfamiliar black kid, dressed in a hoodie, walking through his gated community, presented a crime or the threat of a crime.

Indeed, long before Zimmerman won his court case, he and his allies succeeded in trying Martin, who’d been suspended from school and had smoked marijuana, in the court of public opinion, finding the young man guilty of embodying their fears of wilding young black and brown men and rendering his death a justifiable defense against chaos, a justifiable homicide.

After all, Zimmerman didn’t confront Martin, who liked math and hoped to fly airplanes, because of who he was or any criminal act he had seen the young man commit; he confronted the teenager because of who and what he feared the young man was, what he feared he might do.

Looking at Martin and other black and brown males across the country as criminals or potential criminals results from the relentless character assassination of men of color in our history books, in the media, in the arts and in our popular culture.

That assault has been so complete that even Zimmerman feels free to castigate Martin and his parents. At 32, the most significant thing Zimmerman has ever done is kill a child. Through the years, he’s failed in business, failed in love and failed to keep himself out of trouble, including once pushing an undercover alcohol control agent, an action that might have gotten him killed in West Philly or East Oakland.

But the son of a retired magistrate kept getting a second chance, a privilege he never gave Martin.

It would be emotionally satisfying to assail Zimmerman, to lay his transgressions and shortcomings at the feet of his parents; to judge Zimmerman by the harsh standards that he used to judge Martin; to find Zimmerman guilty of being a moral degenerate and sentence him to a lifetime slithering under a rock of our collective indignation.

But that will do nothing for Martin or his legacy: His death sparked the Black Lives Matter movement, a vigorous response to anti-black racism in our nation.

Furthermore, assailing Zimmerman will do nothing to enhance the futures of countless other men and women of color, particularly young African-Americans. We must show our young people that their lives matter all the time, from sea to shinning sea, in an America they help make beautiful.

We must show our young people that we see their brilliance and promise, especially because so many others refuse to do so. We must teach our young people about the triumphs of the past. Otherwise, those stories will remain untold, squandering their power to enlighten and inspire. We must show our young people that the world of success is not a gated community.

A graduate of Hampton University, Jeff Rivers worked for Ebony, HBO and three daily newspapers, winning multiple awards for his columns. Jeff and his wife live in New Jersey and have two children, a son Marc and a daughter Lauren.