Saturday, July 20, 2013

Zimmerman-Martin Case Reflections, Part 2

I sometimes wish I didn't even watch the news or read it on the Internet.  We know we are being lied to and yet we keep sucking at the teet of CNN, Fox, MSNBC, AP, CBS, and ABC.  Or worse, we get our news from Facebook or Jon Stewart.  That is a really harsh comment but I see no other alternative to that opinion.

President Obama spent 17 minutes yesterday at a press briefing talking about the case.  I have mixed feelings about this.  First, I do not doubt, at all, what he said about his own experience.  I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that young black men get treated like that.  I even wrote a novel about it, actually three.  When I chose to have a young biracial man in my books, I knew I had to address him being "profiled" although I didn't use those words because in the time when I set the books, that word was not used.  I have him thinking about how he is watched and followed, and I have a scene where he is hassled and arrested by a white policeman (although he had run a stop sign he didn't see, so there was a reason).  So when the president said that 35 years ago he could have been Trayvon Martin, I actually appreciated that he was so honest.  Regardless of the fact that he was raised in a multicultural place (Hawaii) by white grandparents, his skin color and facial features would have marked him as someone to be "watched out for."    I am sure he felt that keenly.  I know it meant a lot to black people that he said it.

On the other hand, the argument is that his comments were racially divisive.  I don't think so.  I rarely agree with anything President Obama does or says--at all, really, we are polar opposites ideologically and politically--but I don't think they were divisive.  They were just honest, for a change. What they were, however, is enough.  He should now butt out of the matter.  He should call off Holder and this witch hunt.  There is no evidence that Zimmerman was had racial animus.  The idea that the federal government should insert itself into a state and local matter is frightening.  What next?  The disregard for the constitution in this administration is stupefying.

The other big argument that one hears is why doesn't he, or the Sharptons, etc. talk about black violence toward other blacks and black violence toward whites.   The case of the little boy in Brunswick, GA, is invoked--terribly sad story.  And this is, I think, valid.  If he's going to interject into this situation, why not others?  And why not others where a white person may have killed another black person, or a black another black?  Why this one?  Because it's media-driven.  He is the president elected by the media, so he has to kiss up to it.

The end result:  The facts are being hidden from us.  We cannot know the whole picture, so we get the limited framing the media chooses to give us.  So let's stop talking like we know something.  Let's stop talking about racism as a national problem.  Instead, let's think about how we view and treat and interact with that individual black or white or Latino or Asian person we know.  I can't change what someone in Florida or California does.  I can change how I treat my black and Latino students, how I view them.  Do I expect less from them (a reverse racism) or more from them (because they should be the token on their ethnic group).  I can change how I treat the black people who come to my church--by befriending them honestly.  I can be open, direct, real.  It's only when we change at an individual level that we can affect the whole, even if the whole is just my little part of the world.

I know, I know, we should all march for more civil rights.  But what laws are not justly administered?  If a cop profiles intentionally or unintentionally, what can I do about it?  And if a white person dies from a stand your ground law, do the protesters care?  Part of the problem with activism about civil rights is that most people only care about their own group.  Do gays march for Latinos?  Not so much. 

Be the change you want to see in the world.  Think globally and act locally.  Bloom where you are planted.  Nice cliches, but I am taking them seriously where I live, not where I don't live.


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