The Trayvon Martin Tragedy
Update: Keith Plummer’s take expresses my current thoughts—a week out—better than I could. I think I jumped on this on too quickly. Mea culpa.
If you’re unaware of the situation, Mike Cosper provides a good summary:
The tragic shooting of Trayvon Martin is simmering with racial tension. The 17-year-old African American had been visiting friends at a home in a gated, Orlando-area community when he was pursued by a neighborhood watchman, got into a physical altercation, and was shot. As New York Times columnist Charles Blow describes the incident, “Trayvon had a bag of Skittles and a can of iced tea. Zimmerman [the shooter] had a 9 millimeter handgun.”
Moments before, Zimmerman had called the police about the young man, describing him as “real suspicious.” The police had told him not to pursue. Zimmerman did anyway. Yesterday, Martin’s 16-year-old girlfriend came forward to say that she’d been on the phone with Martin when the confrontation began. “Someone’s following me,” he said. She told him to run, and he said he was just going to “walk fast.”
By all appearances, the shooting appears unprovoked, and yet the shooter is free and uncharged with any crime, protected by Florida’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ law. As the Justice Department opens a query into the case, it appears that a national conversation about race is about to start yet again.
For more details of the alleged crime [JT: I should have used "alleged" from the beginning], this is a good summary of the facts known so far.
Mike goes on to look at some of the broader cultural stereotypes at play.
Bob Bixby reflects on some of the dynamics at play regarding being black in America, and how our snap judgments reveal the true impulses of our heart. I get nervous when I read sweeping statements about “whites believe _____” or “blacks feel _______” as if our respective skin colors gives us monolithic reactions and perspectives, but I still think Bob’s piece is worth reading and reflecting upon.
Here is an excerpt:
It is too easy and not honest for whites to dismiss the charges of racial profiling from Trayvon’s family as political opportunism by disgruntled blacks. While most whites are also grieved by the death of Trayvon Martin and would not be at all unhappy if his killer were incarcerated for life as soon as it can be proven that he is guilty, they still cannot sympathize with the community rage among blacks. They are almost condescending in the way they remind the grieving black community about “due process.” The assumption, of course, is that “due process” will not fail to deliver justice (an assumption not readily shared by many blacks), so with clinical and dispassionate reservation they calmly call for a thorough investigation and fail to see how biases ingrained in their psyche have bled them of sympathy.
It is unfair to the white community to think that they want a murderer to go free. And most thoughtful blacks are not prepared to accuse whites of deliberately preferring the murderer to the innocent. However, they do suspect whites of letting the murderer go free at the expense of justice because they are unable to be just. I share this suspicion. Whites are often unable to react justly in the blink of an eye because of their latent prejudices. And this is what should scandalize all of us.
You can read the whole thing here.