I’ve been avoiding the news. It’s a new habit — a TV news-free life. It’s working pretty well. I read the news. And form my own opinions. As such, Trayvon Martin has been in my periphery. But today a friend called me up and asked, in all seriousness, “Do you think the case is about race? Because I think you’re a sane white person and I’ve been talking to reasonable white people all week and they keep telling me it isn’t about race and now I’m really starting to wonder if black people are just crazy. Are we tripping?”
Here’s the thing…the act was racial, the case became racial because the media and political punditry couldn’t let that juicy piece of meat go by without turning it into a racial political football, and the verdict was racial in the most insidious of ways. It was a case about an idiotic but genuine white guy who made all the wrong assumptions (based on racially motivated stereotypes), did all the wrong things, and ended up killing a kid. And it was a case where every white person on that jury decided to acquit, not because they think black people are bad and white people should go free for shooting them. They decided to acquit because they listened to George Zimmerman talk about seeing a black kid and being afraid, and they understood. They decided to acquit because if they convicted George Zimmerman, it would mean that kind of thinking is wrong — criminally so. It would mean he was a racist, and that they were racists. They decided to acquit because they’ve been afraid of a black kid. They decided not to punish someone who looked like them and thought like them because he did all the wrong things and made all the wrong assumptions. But a kid died. All that racially motivated fear and hate got a kid killed.
And that’s why it’s so frustrating. Because you only blow those stereotypes up and move past them if you admit they exist. We all know if George Zimmerman was black and Trayvon Martin was white, the outcome would have been very different. Hell, if George Zimmerman was stalking a woman, the outcome would have been very different. He shot a kid. He killed a kid. It shouldn’t matter what color Trayvon Martin’s skin was. It was wrong. Even if you think Zimmerman made a series of REALLY bad honest mistakes, it was wrong to stalk someone and pull a gun on them. If you feel threatened because a kid is black, that is not a good enough reason to shoot. And if you empathize with that, it’s not a good enough reason to acquit. You erode that kind of thinking by punishing it when it leads to murder. Period.
This case is racial. And it shouldn’t be. And that’s why it sucks.