Friday, March 30, 2012

Sitting this one out

Why I do not plan to march for Trayvon.
Let me answer the obvious question first. Don’t you care about this poor young man who was needlessly and tragically killed? First, for all those who thought this, thanks for starting out by imagining that I am a heartless piece of crap. Now to my answer. Yes, I am saddened by yet another tragic victim of gun violence on the streets of my country.
Now, I have a question for all of you. What about the little eleven year old girl who was shot in the face by a stray bullet in Asbury Park, NJ the week before Trayvon? (note: Her name was withheld by news reports because she was a minor. See link below) Why weren’t all of you at the march for her? Let me help you with this as I already know the answer. There was no march for little “Betty” (I will call her this so that she is humanized for this little rant. I feel it is the least we could do for her.) Why was there no protest or march? Who can say? Wasn’t her life as valuable? I can only say that for whatever reason, Americans decided not to get all spun-up about that particular victim of gun violence. One mention on the news and done. Should we be surprised? Not really. This is the most common way that we Americans respond to these crimes.
“Oh, my god! A little girl was shot in the face. That’s so sad.” Then we have a latte.
I will offer my fellow citizens more credit than many of you were willing to extend to me at the beginning of my rant. I do not think Americans are heartless or unsympathetic. All tolled, I find the people of this country to be mostly decent kind folks. They simply look about at their environment and feel a bit helpless and overwhelmed. I can scarcely blame them. The problems are immense. Even the smartest among us would have a difficult time finding an edge on which to begin chipping.
Back to the reason I don’t plan to march for Trayvon. Stated in the simplest terms, I don’t trust the “chain of events” to be pure. That is to say, I think something bad happened and people quickly jumped to exactly the scenario they wanted it to be about. For some folks in Florida, that means, young black male equals trouble. It was all probably justified. Notice I didn’t say, for some “white” folks in Florida. Can you guess why? Let me make this perfectly clear. For any number of well-to-do black people in Florida, a young black male (with a subtext of ‘poor’) is considered with the same suspicion as he is by many white folks. Ouch. But, seriously, you didn’t see that coming? The other side has no better claim to fame. Many immediately saw it as a white person basically executing a young black man on mere suspicion alone.
The other reason I don’t see myself marching for Trayvon is because I think there is a chance that all the protests will make it more difficult to arrive at a clear answer followed by clear justice. Prior to the point at which the Prosecutor was focused on the case, yes, there was some reason to press the system. Now, I think pressuring the system is more likely to induce error than justice.

Finally, I suspect that there is more than a small chance for more violence to result directly or indirectly from the protests. If you doubt this, google the whole Spike Lee/Trayvon fiasco. Then ask the folks whose address he mistakenly tweeted to his many followers as the address of Mr. Zimmerman. Oh, that's right you can't ask them because they felt a need to flee their home in mortal fear.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Race, Protests, and Justice.

I am so saddened by the death of Trayvon and all the victims of gun violence in our country. I wasn't there and I certainly was not in the mind of the shooter, so I can't say whether, or to what extent, prejudice factored into it. But here is a sobering thought, neither can any of the protesters!
What can I say with some surety? No matter what legal results come to pass, this young man’s life was tragically obliterated and nothing will fill the void in the hearts of his family. And, in my considered opinion, “race” (in the way Americans have come to envision it in our public discourse) muddles rather than clarifies the issues.
Gun violence and the proliferation of guns in our society are essential discussions. This can not be overstated. Here is the tricky bit. Beyond the guns, we need to have a national class on class. Anyone who doubts this should ask around in poor white or hispanic neighborhoods in Florida. Do you think those folks feel they are looked at or treated so much better than black people?
Most thinking people would agree that prejudice is a continuing factor in our society and especially in our criminal justice system. The problem is, sifting out the facts in a particular incident is rather trickier than invoking a sweeping societal judgment. And it should be.