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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Debate Worth Having

Earlier this week, George Zimmerman was acquitted for murdering Trayvon Martin in Florida.  In the time between then and now I've run the gamut of emotional responses, starting with anger and outrage, and coming to a point of depression and disappointment.  I realized that I could not be a reporter in this case, as the very personal nature of it would color my writing.  So a week's gone by and now I'm in a clearer head space.  While it may not be as newsworthy as it was a week ago, it's time to weigh in on this subject.

The question, however, is which take is the right way to go?

I could rant on (and on and on) about the fact every argument in the American judicial system is based on precedent, and the fact that Mr. Zimmerman decided to profile an unarmed Black kid, initiate a confrontation, pick a fight, lose the fight and shoot the kid makes that sequence of events okay legally.  When this happens again (and make no mistake, as Americans we are nothing if not repetitive of our mistakes), defense can now point to this as legal precedent.  There has been somewhat paranoid talk of it being open season on young Black males, but with this legal precedent the argument seems a bit less irrational.  This is concerning to me because, well, I'm told I'm huge and there seems to be an overabundance of dark alleyways in this country.

But that's not the tack I'm taking.

I can comment on how unevenly the "Stand Your Ground" law has been applied in Florida as a Black woman fending off her abusive husband and didn't hurt or kill anyone in the act has been sentenced to 20 years in prison while Mr. Zimmerman goes free.  The best case scenario in any personal defense legislation is that the conflict is defused with minimal injury and no loss of life, and yet Marissa Thompson is going to spend the next 20 years in prison.  George Zimmerman will not see another day behind bars.

But I'm not going there either.

In the week since the Trayvon Martin verdict, protests and rallies have sparked bot pro and anti George Zimmerman.  The thing I'm going to say is that George Zimmerman is not a cause.  Neither is Trayvon Martin.  They are people.  One a terribly misguided individual who felt empowered by a stupid law, another a terribly unfortunate young man who died for what amounted to a questionable wardrobe choice in a strange neighborhood.  They are not causes.  They are not to be supported or decried.  They are the obvious representation of a very broken system in which we categorize and classify based solely on preconceived notions on what a criminal looks like.  The real debate worth having is about the concept of a fair and impartial jury, especially when jury for a big case has been inundated with media information by the time they are called that they have opinions already formed.  The debate worth having is  in how we grant the 15 minutes of fame on someone who has to remain anonymous for talking about why she made a decision on the value of one man's life over another.

But like you, I'm tired.  This whole thing has been exhausting.  And all I want to do is turn the page, change the channel and get some rest.

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