I've been slow on this, mostly because I haven't been sure what to say. The question at hand is whether Zimmerman muttered "fucking coons" during the 911 call minutes before he killed Trayvon Martin. Several people whom I respect--all of them black actually--don't hear it. When I listened, I heard it immediately and in this CNN account, I hear it clear as day. I don't know what that means.
But we need to be clear about the importance of this. This is not merely a matter of "Is George Zimmerman racist?" The major barrier to a federal case is demonstrating racial animus. If Zimmerman actually did use a racial slur before he killed Martin, then you have the makings of a federal case.
So this isn't merely the old fun "Is it racist?" parlor game, as Jeffrey Toobin says below, this is extremely significant.
UPDATE: One of those people whom I respect, now hears it with the CNN audio.
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is a national correspondent for The Atlantic
, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of The Beautiful Struggle
, Between the World and Me,
and We Were Eight Years in Power