The verdict is in on the Trayvon Martin – George Zimmerman trial, so it is time to try and understand where we are. The pundits seems almost universally committed to saying the trial was not about race. In the narrow I can see where that is true, and as a white man it is easy even to feel it so. And given the law in Florida (which is maybe the biggest part of the problem in the case–thank you ALEC), the verdict was perhaps the only one the jurors could have reached. In the larger Zeitgeist of the country, however, it was clearly and primarily about race. I conclude that from watching the coverage by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now among other reporting. Goodman had on actual African-Americans to get their reaction. One woman, a mother, told how each day she pays special attention to what her son is wearing in case she has to identify him later. That is her reality. It is not one I am familiar with or ever had to deal with. And now, this mother says, she knows that a white man could follow and shoot her son to death with impunity. And sadly, we cannot tell her she is wrong in that belief. In that way, in how the verdict affects real people across the country, it was most certainly about race. I cannot say it is or is not about race as it doesn’t affect me in a racial way. So I thank those who are affected by it in a racial way for speaking out. (I’m not saying every white man’s opinion about the racial aspect of the case is wrong or irrelevant; I am saying that for me personally, that is how I see it).
It seems in the initial aftermath the protests were largely peaceful with a few small exceptions (mainly in LA, the ones they featured on the NBC nightly news; thank you Brian Williams! You’re not helping), and we can be thankful for that. I don’t think anyone could possibly demonstrate the white disconnect more than George Zimmerman’s brother Robert. He told Piers Morgan he was concerned about people “who would want to take the law into their own hands” in light of the verdict. And that his brother George may have been acquitted in the eyes of the law but that “he’s gonna be looking around his shoulder for the rest of his life.” Well, if so, perhaps he is getting the punishment he deserves, for he will now live with the same fear that every African-American kid like Trayvon Martin has to live with every day. Has to live with because race is still a huge factor in American life.
And in our journey towards getting to a place where we can truly say we are in a post-racial America (won’t happen in any of our lifetimes, and we have and are making progress in fits and starts), we can thank John Roberts and the Supreme Court for putting the brakes on progress. Sure, we can say that congress has been lazy and should have updated the Voting Rights Act long ago. True enough, even if for the last couple decades that was politically impossible. That is still no excuse for the SC overturning a key part of the Voting Rights Act. Need proof we still needed the law? It only took Texas two hours to provide that proof, acting in the immediate aftermath of the decision to restrict the voting rights of African-Americans. You can always count on Texas. It was perhaps as close as we’ll ever get to an outright admission from the Republicans that they can only win elections if they get to choose who gets to vote. Long live democracy!