How To Talk To Young White Boys About Travvon Martin, Part 2
Well, hell. Everyone knows by know that George Zimmerman was acquitted of the murder of Travvon Martin. More than a day later, media personages are still dishing up all kinds of legal analysis of the verdict in the Zimmerman trail and prognostication about what to expect in the wake of his acquittal.
I wasn’t in the courtroom so I can’t claim any special insight into what happened in the last moments of Travvon Martin’s life. All I have is the certainty that my white sons are generally safer out there on the streets of America than black boys of their age and class and for no reason other than their white skin. It’s not fair, and it’s because of racism.
So following up on my initial post about this topic, which was inspired by Toure’s Time Magazine post, “How To Talk To Young Black Boys About Travvon Martin,” here are my thoughts about how to talk to young white boys about the Zimmerman acquittal.
1. Please don’t start explaining the concepts of “acquittal” or trial by jury to other people unless they have specifically requested your legal opinion. You should assume that your interlocutors are starting from the same level of general knowledge and intelligence as you are unless they are small children. If you find yourself wanting to explain the rule of law to black people of your own age, stop for a second and consider the reasons why they might be frustrated by the verdict other than lack of familiarity with American criminal court procedure.
2. Remember that “legal” and “fair” are not synonyms. The fact that Zimmerman has been found not guilty in this specific case does not mean that what happened is fair. The law has been and still can be used to justify and perpetuate racial discrimination. Think about why you believe that law is the source of justice – and remember that laws are only as fair as the people applying them.
3. This is not the time to bring up black-on-black crime. Most violent crimes are perpetrated against members of the criminal’s own race. Consider what exactly it is that motivates you to raise the topic in a discussion about the Zimmerman case.
4. Lots of (white) people will tell you that Travvon Martin wasn’t shot for being black in the wrong place at the wrong time but for
seeming threatening to beating up a (white-ish) dude with a vigilante complex and a gun who was following him against the instructions of law enforcement. Lots of (white) people will tell you that racism isn’t a problem in this day and age, too. Take a second and ask why it is that, if we’re all equally endowed by our creator with innate intelligence and moral sense, such a radical cleavage persists between white people and black people in how we perceive racism in our society? Only God knows what is in each human heart, but it is good sense to assume that the objects of historical discrimination are better to able to recognize discrimination when they see it than you are.