Spike Lee, Roseanne Barr, and the Vigilante Response to Trayvon Martin’s Death

It’s been tremendously disappointing to watch the kind of celebrities who could have used their influence for good in the wake of the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin target George Zimmerman and his family instead.

First, Spike Lee tweeted what he believed to be Zimmerman’s address. It turned out to be the address of an elderly couple who have a son whose middle name is George, but who have no relation whatsoever to the self-appointed vigilante who shot and killed Martin. The Zimmermans say they had to leave their home for fear that they would be targeted for retaliation, and Lee has since apologized to them personally and financially compensated them for the hardship and inconvenience he caused them.

As if that wasn’t enough, comedian Roseanne Barr, who happens to be a candidate for the Green Party nomination for president and is preparing for her return to network television with the NBC sitcom Downwardly Mobile this fall, last night tweeted George Zimmerman’s parents’ correct address. She subsequently deleted the address and tweeted “At first I thought it was good to let ppl know that no one can hide anymore,” a pretty disturbing statement from a long-term feminist who might want to consider what that means for abused women, “But vigilante-ism is what killed trayvon [sic]. I don’t support that.”

Whether the address was right or wrong doesn’t matter. It brings us no closer to justice for Trayvon Martin to terrorize or scold his parents. Holding out the possibility of revealing their address again if Zimmerman isn’t arrested, as Barr did, is utterly ineffective. They don’t have the power to arrest him, or to turn him in to a police department that’s failing to act. No matter how grieved or angered we are, the only way to honor Martin’s death is by demanding that the system work to punish his killer, rather than by joining Zimmerman in abandoning it.