The backlash has begun … or continues, maybe. In response to the Trayvon Martin shooting and all the ruckus that has ensued in the media, conservatives and White supremacists are showing their wounds — or perceived wounds. The Huffington Post reports this morning that some conservative columnist wrote a response to the idea that Black parents have to talk to their kids about how to behave so as not to get shot by saying what he “has to” tell his (White) kids about not getting shot by Blacks. In addition to this, some White supremacist organization is “patrolling” the streets of Sanford, Florida to “prevent” race riots from happening. Their stated reason is something like “Al Sharpton gets to do it. Why can’t we?”.
Also, this week, NBC has fired the man who seemingly edited the original 911 call and seemingly started the whole thing.The person who covered the editorial for the Huffington Post responded by explaining why the article is “racist” and saying that the man’s experience isn’t enough to have him ranting like this.
So let’s get down to facts — or at least my opinion of them.
1) Trayvon’s name is apparently spelled with a “Y”. I have spelled it without one since this whole thing began. I checked it in a couple of sources when I first wrote about it. I’ve seen it spelled both ways, but it seems to be spelled with a “y”. I was wrong, I guess. Still, if that’s the biggest mistake I make here, I’m ok with that. Should his parents ever read this and be upset because I mis-spelled their son’s same, I apologize. Having seen my name mis-spelled since forever I know that it’s kind of depressing. To those who say that I shouldn’t claim to speak for someone whose name I can’t even spell correctly, there might be some merit to that statement, but I have come down on the side of trying to understand the whole scenario, and that’s where I hope my post is different.
2) Yes, NBC’s editor caused a furor with his (or her) decision to put out the tape edited this way. He (or she) deserved to be fired.
3) Based on the article the conservative man wrote, there are apparently times when his life was threatened by Black folk at an amusement park. This is real, and for the reviewer to discount it is to say he shouldn’t complain because his “near-death experience” wasn’t scary enough or bad enough or difficult enough. Assuming that’s true, blaming him for being a victim on that day is wrong. Blaming the victim is always wrong. It just is. The reviewer had no right to discount the conservative man’s experience. It is in discounting people’s experience that we keep hate alive. By telling people they shouldn’t feel that way, we traumatize them, and it explodes later — in this case, on the internet.
3) Apparently, both Travon and Zimmerman felt afraid of the other and one of them is dead, the other injured. Irrational fear is not our friend. Rational fear might be good for us, but if we fight others because of it, there’s the chance that people will die.
4) I would be happy to arrest Trayvon for assault and Zimmerman for murder, and let the legal authorities sort this whole thing out, but that apparently isn’t going to happen — and can’t now, at least in part.
5) Young Mr. Martin’s injuries seem worse than the older Mr. Zimmerman in that he’s dead. Martin didn’t carry a weapon, let alone a gun, but Mr. Zimmerman didn’t know that, and didn’t bother to find out. He assumed that he was in danger, when he apparently wasn’t. If the legal test of danger is “feeling unsafe”, we might have a problem here. If the legal test of danger is “actually is dangerous” or “reasonably perceived to be dangerous”, then we have less of one, and Mr. Zimmerman should be in jail. Martin was not — by any reasonable standard — a danger to Mr. Zimmerman, at least originally. Zimmerman was, by reason of having a gun and perceiving threats where there weren’t any, a danger to Martin.
6) The White supremacist group that is protecting against race riots is also perceiving a threat where there apparently isn’t any. In all of the marches, all of the comments, all of the youth movements about this case, I haven’t heard of one race riot. There are no burning cities. There are no calls for military to comb the streets at night by the government. In short, people with a real history of violence are saying they’re afraid of people with no call for violence. We call that “projection” in the clinical setting — I hate you, so I fear that you hate me. In the political world, we call it “posturing” or “bullying”. It’s the same logic that has Wall Street feeling scared when people say — in some non-violent way — that it hurt to have their house taken away from them. The people who took their house say “they hate us, “they are violent”, “they should be put in jail” and “they are being unfair to us“. Yes, there’s violence. Yes, there’s hate. Yes, somebody should be put in jail. Yes, somebody is being unfair. It’s not, however, the person sitting in the park or marching in the street. Deep down, everybody knows this. The Wall Street people know this consciously or unconsciously. The people in the park know this consciously.
During the period from Good Friday to Easter we see what happens when this trend is taken to it’s logical extreme. People arrest and kill an innocent man while all-the-time claiming he’s the scary one. And, in fact, I’m sure Jesus was scary to the powers-that-be. That doesn’t mean there was anything to be afraid of. The most violent thing the gospels record Jesus doing is wrecking the selling area of the Temple. I’m sure that was a pretty scary thing if you were at the Temple. Once, he also killed a fig tree by staring at it. Thirty three years of life, and he has one bad day and one mean moment. Where does he end up? Jesus is whipped, beaten, stripped, jabbed in the side with a spear, and given vinegar on a stick.
On the other side of the coin, there are people who live a lot longer, make their money by stealing from the poor, keeping widows at bay with the laws they set up, trample on people’s lives, let alone their freedom. They have a bad day once at Temple or are anguished by the things they do during the day for the Roman military and they put up a public fuss because they feel threatened by a man who says he’s the king of the Jews but has no army. Should Jesus have destroyed the money-changer’s business place? Probably not. Was it scary to be there when he did? Yup. probably.
In the long run, looking back on it, maybe the wrong people won on the Good Friday. Maybe the “victims” of the day weren’t the real victim. Maybe they were just bullies. In any case, next time Jesus visits, who do you think he’s going to understand best and sympathize with? And who is he going to have the harder time forgiving?
Are there people in the park who bought houses they couldn’t afford? Possibly. If there are, they know this as well, but they are loudly protesting that the banks hate them. Are they wrong to be complaining? Yes. Do they know this? Yes. The more they feel guilty, the louder they yell. The inverse of that is not necessarily true. Just because someone’s yelling loudly doesn’t mean they’re guilty of something. They could just be in a lot of pain. Guilty people who yell, though, yell loudly.
7) Guilty people yelling loudly. Bullies yell loudly, to squash their victim’s voice. They do so because it works… for a while. Then it really doesn’t. Buried pain comes back louder than it did before it was suppressed. The fact of the matter is that the KKK- type people are right — there could be race riots. People have the right to be really mad about their hurts and having your son be dead is a pretty major hurt. But they haven’t rioted because they only want justice. They don’t want revenge. If Trayvon’s parents — and the whole African-American community — doesn’t get justice, if it festers and they keep quiet about the loss of this child — this thing will take on a life of its own for everybody. White Racists will worry more about The Truth coming out. Victims will want The Truth to come out and will act in ridiculous ways to make sure it does.
So here’s the thing: People are hurt on both sides of this issue. Let everyone have the justice they deserve in the measure that they deserve it, not based on volume, not based on irrational fear, but based on truth. Then let’s see who the real victims are. We’ll see if the system works, we’ll see if racism exists. We’ll see if life’s consequences get unjustly applied. But let’s get real justice for all.