Trayvon Martin went to store to buy Skittles and an iced tea. Trayvon Martin was shot dead by a civilian who had no authority to stop him. Trayvon Martin's killer wasn't arrested for weeks until after the horrible incident. Those are facts. And facts cannot be denied no matter how they may be twisted or spun.
I have a feeling that I'm not the only white guy who experiences these thoughts that I sure don't want to have in my head. But I desperately want to unlearn these instincts because if I feel unsafe around someone else because they're black, I am part of the reason that the world becomes unsafe for them.
This week began with the nation processing the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial. It ended with President Obama interrupting a press conference to give a remarkable and heartfelt talk about the verdict, and the history of race and violence in America. "Trayvon Martin could have been me," the president said. Having a president who can personalize and voice the frustration African-Americans feel about the verdict is an amazing moment in our history. And while the jury's decision can't be reversed, laws that encourage violence and more gun deaths can. As can other policies and practices -- like the drug war and stop-and-frisk -- whose effects fall disproportionately on minorities. Indeed, given that the president has admitted to past drug use, he might look at the hundreds of thousands languishing in prison on non-violent drug offenses and also say, they "could have been me."
This case and how people feel about racism is not the cause of these issues but rather a symptom of them. Moreover, whether it is a drunken altercation in NYC where a racist term is used and a fight ensues or the quick crumbling of the Paula Deen Empire, these issues are increasingly permeating the public sphere.