Such emotion after the George Zimmerman verdict. I found Obama’s impromptu and unscripted remarks at a press briefing a couple of weeks ago to be most illuminating. He was obviously very saddened by the reality that young African-American men are still having to through the profiling and bias that he used to endure: the nervous stares, the sudden clutching of the handbag, the clicks of car doors locking… all just because a young African-American man is walking by.
I don’t want to exaggerate this, but those sets of experiences inform how the African-American community interprets what happened one night in Florida. And it’s inescapable for people to bring those experiences to bear
And I applaud his comments about how the outcome of this trial doesn’t warrant a national strategy or a five-point plan that needs to be debated. Instead, he asked all Americans to search their souls and to talk within their communities:
And then finally, I think it’s going to be important for all of us to do some soul-searching. You know, there have been talk about should we convene a conversation on race. I haven’t seen that be particularly productive when politicians try to organize conversations. They end up being stilted and politicized, and folks are locked into the positions they already have.
On the other hand, in families and churches and workplaces, there’s a possibility that people are a little bit more honest, and at least you ask yourself your own questions about, am I wringing as much bias out of myself as I can; am I judging people, as much as I can, based on not the color of their skin but the content of their character? That would, I think, be an appropriate exercise in the wake of this tragedy.
I watched an Anderson Cooper town hall show where one of the guests (sorry, I did not capture his name) made a very poignant point: nobody ever thinks they themselves are racist, but he argues that virtually every encounter we have is through the lens of racial prejudice. As Cooper pointed out, he’s interviewed members of the KKK who do not believe they are racist, “they just love white people!”. So even while the jurors – all white – did not feel that racism played any role in this tragedy, there seemed to be concensus among various “experts” that these jurors could not see themselves (or their son’s selves, if they had a son) in Trayvon’s situation. They just could not relate. And yet, how is it that all these white panelists speaking to Anderson Cooper could relate, could feel empathy for Trayvon? And what about all the white people who protested the verdict? Would all these white people have come to a different verdict?
It seemed to be agreed that the jurors came to the best possible verdict based on the instructions that were given to them by the judge. It seemed to be agreed that the problem was not with the verdict or the way this trial played out. The problem is with Stand Your Ground. As long as Stand Your Ground laws are in effect, every trial of this nature will end in the same, disappointing way. It seems to always take a tragedy to draw attention to flawed legislation.