Here’s why: Trayvon Martin was a kid. He didn’t have a criminal record—his killer did. Martin had a legitimate reason for being in that neighborhood that night and he had the right to defend himself when, after he ran away to avoid confrontation, Zimmerman admittedly chased him down. When you reflexively call a young black kid a “thug” you seem racist. There’s no other reasonable explanation for gloating about an unnecessary killing.
If you see Trayvon Martin’s life as having equal value to any other person who chooses to walk down the street, there’s no need to dislike him. He was a hapless victim.
And saying, “this is not a race issue”—doesn’t make it not a race issue. Just as being offended by being called racist doesn’t make you less racist.
That’s not color blindness; that’s tone deafness.
The numbers tell us African Americans endure inequities, both legal and circumstantial. They are disproportionately targeted, disproportionately incarcerated, and disproportionately poor. Saying “nu-huh” doesn’t make that untrue.
Also saying, “But Obama is president!” makes you seem racist. There have been 43 white presidents, out of 44. Really, don’t bring up Obama—whom you irrationally hate—as proof racism is over. Just don’t.
Zimmerman defense attorney Mark O’Mara, in the wake of the not guilty verdict, said: “If George Zimmerman were black he’d never have been charged with a crime.” Former RNC chairman Michael Steele (fired by Republicans on Martin Luther King Jr. weekend, by the way, months after winning the House for his party) replied on Twitter: “Is he high?”
Because with few exceptions, black people who kill white people (or black people for that matter) will not be found to be justified in our legal system. Ever. This is according to data compiled by the FBI in their Supplemental Homicide Report. Sarah Childress at Frontline writes, “Whites who kill blacks in Stand Your Ground states are far more likely to be found justified in their killings. In non-Stand Your Ground states, whites are 250 percent more likely to be found justified in killing a black person than a white person who kills another white person; in Stand Your Ground states, that number jumps to 354 percent.” For black shooters? There’s a negative 60 percent chance their actions will be found justified in court.
The most widely cited example of this is the case of Marissa Alexander. In 2010, she fired a warning shot to ward off her husband, against whom she had an order of protection. She tried to use Florida’s Stand Your Ground law in court. The judge rejected her bid and sentenced her to 20 years in jail.
She didn’t kill anyone. She’s the mother of three. But she’s African American.
White people who feel they are the real victims of racial prejudice—their evidence consisting of them saying so out loud and on camera—seem racist. To proclaim you’re the one who really suffers seems unempathetic to people who have been systematically oppressed by the law.
That’s why you sound racist, O’Mara.
“I’m sure there were some fabrications, enhancements, but I think pretty much it happened the way George said it happened,” Juror B37 told CNN’s Anderson Cooper in her first interview. If self-serving lies don’t make you dismiss the credibility of someone who’s gunned down an unarmed black kid—you seem racist. You seem to sympathize a little too strongly with the killer who arguably would not have gotten out of his car in the first place had it not been for his loaded gun.
If you feel like Martin is responsible for his own death because he wasn’t docile and apologetic; that simply running away from a guy stalking him wasn’t good enough; or, that he should have known better than to wear those clothes in that neighborhood on that night, you seem racist.
And if your opinion would be different if he had blond hair and blue eyes…
Taking Eternal Vigilance Too Far
Thursday, 17 July 2013