Whenever I write here, I try to add value. Say something a little new. Maybe the story itself is something most folks haven’t heard, like the kosher sex in Israel. When Osama bin Laden was killed I was horrified at the jubilation of his murder. Hadn’t seen that angle before, though have since.
What can there possibly be new to say about the Trayvon Martin case?
There’s sorrow and outrage and every other intensity of emotion aplenty. Comments sections of articles are aflame. Protesters in the street. People who have no idea what they mean toss around legal terms like, “jury nullification.” (It means that the jury can decide, as its conscience dictates, not that the verdict can be nullified.)
This is, at heart, a hugely personal case, for anyone paying attention.
What if it were ME, or my kids, walking home with Skittles and iced tea?
My kids would be fine. Attractive young white women, well groomed, are no threat, or perceived threat, to anyone.
I think about that a lot. My sister’s sons, both young African-American college graduates, are stopped by the cops all the time. “Where are you headed this evening?” “To the library to study for finals.” The problem of course, is “driving while black.”
I’ve been in the passenger seat twice lately when the car was stopped for speeding. Super unpleasant experiences, even though they were mere speeding tickets. How much worse if I was stopped all the time. For doing nothing?
If it was dark and I was being stalked by a guy with a gun? That might not bring out the best in me.
My brother-in-law is both very large and very dark skinned. He’s lived in the same neighborhood for over 10 years. And yet he feels the need to be careful so as not to “make people nervous” when he goes for a walk. Taking the Golden Retriever along makes him less threatening, but the dog’s hips are going bad. A former NYT editor of mine, 6’4” and African American, always whistles when he walks at night for the same reason.
Too many people don’t believe how differently people of color are dealt with by society at large, but it’s absolutely true.
If a Cheerios commercial, for heaven’s sake, can get people riled up over the issue of race, it’s a sure bet that the shooting of a young black man, and the acquittal of his shooter, is something to give us all pause.
“If I had a son,” said President Obama, “he’d look like Trayvon.”
Sadly it’s not. But it is worth saying again.