There was a poll in the papers yesterday: 80% of African Americans were troubled by the Zimmerman verdict, while only 30% of white people were.
That is a vast gap, and expresses the vast gap in perception between the races. And it represents an alarming lack of comprehension among whites of the experience of black Americans.
And I have seen this incomprehension here, in the comboxes, and in friends’ blogs.
The common view is something like this: George Zimmerman, because of some break-ins in his neighborhood, apparently by young black men, was perfectly reasonable to be suspicious and call the police when he saw young Trayvon, wearing a hooded sweatshirt (on a rainy night) walking through his neighborhood. It was reasonable to follow Treyvon, somehow reasonable, even though he had called the police, to get out of his vehicle and approach him, and reasonable to shoot him in the heart when Trayvon (allegedly) responded to Zimmerman with violence.
And the whole thing is being exploited by “race baiters”.
I disagree with every line of this reasoning.
It would have been reasonable to keep an eye on Trayvon, following from a distance. It would have been reasonable to call the police if Trayvon was witnessed committing a crime; to do so merely because of his appearance was racial profiling. It was crazy for Zimmerman to get out of his vehicle and crazy to approach Martin, let alone to shoot him. Reasonable doubt dictates that George Zimmerman, at the moment of Trayvon’s killing, may have been in fear for his life. What is certain is that if this is so he brought the situation on himself: Trayvon Martin did not instigate this tragedy.
And why do those who take Zimmerman’s account at face value not realize that there is reasonable doubt about its veracity?
While I of course cannot view this case from the perspective of the parent of a black teenager, I do view it from the perspective of the father of teens.
Much is made by some of Trayvon Martin appearing to be “heading down the wrong path”, as a friend blogged. I suppose this is an allusion to the trace amounts of THC in Trayvon’s system at the time of his death, and to (unsubstantiated) allegations of other minor infractions.
Let me remind you that we live in a country where three successive presidents have confessed to marijuana use. Traces of THC are not signs of grave evil. And as the father of teens, I can only say that my two oldest sons have had run-ins with the law themselves, and more serious ones than Trayvon is alleged to have had (there are also unsubstantiated allegations that he was an honor student, and had a scholarship to a university; even getting to the basic facts is difficult in this case).
And as the father of a teen, one who wears hoodies and whose pants sometimes droop, I can say that if someone was following my 16 year old in the dark, and then got out of his car and approached him with hostility (Zimmerman referred to Trayvon as a “fucking punk” in the 911 call) that Patric, scared, would probably have reacted the same way that Trayvon is alleged to have reacted: he would have decked the guy.
What none of Zimmerman’s defenders seems to realize is that Trayvon Martin was standing his ground.
And it most emphatically doesn’t take “race-baters” for his killing to spark outrage among average African Americans.