July 15, 2013
On Saturday night, Beth and I watched the Zimmerman verdict and the press conferences that followed. It took me a while to sort out my thoughts and put them in some sort of order. I eventually posted something to Facebook. I've cleaned it up a little, added some things I forgot, but it went a little something like this:
Is it wrong for a vigilante, cop wannabe to pack heat and kill a kid? Absolutely. But we can't convict the jury - or indict the system - for the verdict unless it was loaded with white, male, hood-wearing NRA members*. Which it wasn't. If you want to be angry, make sure the anger is directed in the right places.
Let's forget about the second amendment for a minute and look at how black kids are treated in this country. Let's look at the expectations - and experiences - they have about the justice systems. Let's look at the strength of the gun lobby and the NRA. Let's look at the education system. Let's look at hundreds of years of unequal rights.
Let's look in the mirror. Lots of us Americans are fond of saying that we're the best country on earth. When you say you're the best at something, it can, objectively, be true. But when we say we're the best country in the world, it makes it sound like we've got everything figured out and, worse, nothing upon which to improve. And that sends the wrong message to the high school graduates who've gotten high school diplomas while remaining illiterate, the kids who go to bed hungry every night, the people who work three jobs and remain below the poverty line and, yes, the kids who get shot for no reason whatsoever. Yes, we're fucking awesome, don't get me wrong. But that doesn't mean we don't have work to do.
One of the 67,983,299 reasons I love my kids is that when they see other kids, race doesn't enter their thought process. It's simply not a factor that influences any of their perceptions. I hope the majority of their generation fails to see race, religion and sexual orientation as qualities that make one different and, instead, sees them as admirable qualities that contribute to who they are, not who they aren't.
Be outraged. Be pissed. Light torches. March on city hall. But do it for the right reasons. And try to do it with the understanding that we, as a country, aren't perfect. As Trayvon Martin reminds us, we have work to do.
Posted by Chris at July 15, 2013 8:32 AM
* Before anyone gets the wrong idea and thinks I'm crusading against the NRA, I'm not trying to tie NRA membership to racism. I don't really think NRA members are any more likely to be racist though I would point out that, despite never releasing demographic membership data, the NRA is considered to be highly white and highly male and, in my opinion, members of a demographic more likely to harbor some potentially racist ideals. Instead, I think members of the NRA would be predisposed to see this as a second amendment issue, not merely a tragic homicide. Now, do I think white men are the most likely demographic to look at a 17 year old black kid with a hoodie and think the worst? Absolutely. There are a couple hundred years of history that seem to support that.