I voted for President Obama twice. But having done so, and having grown up in a community (Evanston, Illinois) where I interacted with African-Americans daily and with whom I shared fields of athletic play for many years, having the President tell us in his message that the Martin not-guilty ruling caused pain among African-Americans, particularly young black men, takes us in a direction that is not defined well, if at all.
It is claimed all over the country that there was a modicum of suspicion that led to the tragic death of the Martin lad in a gated Florida community. Some say it was racial profiling. As if to place an exclamation point on this, Obama provided three examples of humiliations borne by young black males in the U.S.: (1) being followed while shopping in a department store; (2) hearing the click of car doors locking as they cross a street; and (3) watching women clutch their purses anxiously when they step into an elevator. Obama said the first two occurred with him. I feel for what he said and for those who have experienced his examples. But, what about every other ethnic or racial group who have been the butt end of bias or prejudice? What about the great Hank Greenberg, the Jewish slugger and top MLB baseball player who played for the Detroit Tigers many decades ago? He not only received anti-Semitic taunting from the public, but even from the ballplayers with the opposing clubs. This is but one example, but one used as if in microcosm to what the President was telling us from the WH press room yesterday. And need we not forget what Jackie Robinson had to go through?
But where is Obama intending to take us? There is no means to the goal because we do not know the goal and he did not give us one. Surely, the end point will not be to take away self-defense as a legal way to a not-guilty verdict. Surely, it will not either be taking guns off the street. The NRA will see to that, if, by way of example, the congressional inaction that stemmed from the Sandy Hook massacre. As for Stand Your Ground laws, it was never even part of the Zimmerman case, not all states have them, and the federal government is not going to tell states what laws they have to enact or not enact.
Now we have the civil rights groups marching and protesting the Zimmerman verdict all over the country. What for? To say Zimmerman was a racist and out to get the Martin boy? Hardly, since there was never any proof of that. Or, so that the next time any of us feels threatened in our person or property, we just have to think of the president's words and feel comforted that all will be okay? We see Trayvon's parents (divorced with a step-mom having raised Trayvon) appear on every network and cable news show. Again, why? To get 15 minutes of Andy Warhol fame or to work up a book deal or even a movie contract?
Yes, African-Americans have suffered going all the way back to pre-Civil War days and long before that. But until a message with purpose defined by an end goal is set forth with conviction, speaking one's mind that the First Amendment provides will take us nowhere other than from where we have come and to which we presently are at. Without this, the life of Trayvon Martin becomes no more than a statistic and adds one to the number of black males who have died at the end of a gun's muzzle.
Let me close by saying, in an unfortunate way, that bias and prejudice is part of the human condition. If for no other example, look to what Israelis face on a daily basis with their geographic neighbors. Surely, we have learned to control it, even created laws to outlaw and ban it. But it remains. We can talk about it all we want, and that is beneficial. Yet, what occurred with Zimmerman and Martin was a "perfect storm" (coining the title of a movie with the same name) of events that resulted in a finding of innocence, and to which all Americans must understand and abide. However, the next time anyone -- black, white, Hispanic, Asian or whomever, feels insecure in person or property, there will always be those who will click the locks on their doors or hold tightly to their valuables. This is the human condition.
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