Win tickets to see the smash hit musical Mamma Mia at the Roanoke Civic Center. Two winners will each receive four tickets!
Wednesday, July 31, 2013
I approached Cal Thomas’ recent column (“Tragedy and race were not on trial,” July 17) on the George Zimmerman trial with some trepidation. (This is, after all, the columnist who once used the Virginia Tech massacre as a prop by which to illuminate absolutely nothing about abortion (“Carnage at Tech and in the womb” April 25, 2007, column).
Naïve optimism eventually beat out my sense of caution; however, to paraphrase Thomas’ closing line, there were no winners.
Thomas continues in the reactionary-conservative tradition of trafficking in the realm of false equivalence rather than that of fact, calling for “One standard. One national identity. One America.” As if these were the same concepts in practice as they are in theory. But Thomas doesn’t stop there, pushing clean through false equivalence to arrive at faux-innocent befuddlement — most notably in his hand-wringing over our country’s “never-ending racial double standard.”
Thomas presents not only the scant media attention given to a recent assault allegedly committed by four young men in Georgia, but none other than O.J. Simpson — the acquittal of a wealthy (black) celebrity somehow equated with the acquittal of an overzealous (non-black) neighborhood watchman.
Never mind that the four young men in Georgia are several times more likely than four white men convicted of the same crime not only to face conviction, but life in prison, if not the death penalty.
In fact, never mind any statistics, facts and evidence regarding the disproportionate incarceration of blacks, the lengthier sentencing of black convicts (as in the recent case of Marissa Alexander, sentenced to 20 years for firing warning shots in her home against her allegedly abusive husband), racial profiling among the police, etc.
The empirical is of little to no interest to Thomas and his ilk, who seem to prefer the ongoing bemusement of a worldview rarely squared with reality.
So, perhaps a mental exercise is in order: I would ask Thomas to reflect on what his response might have been had he, as a teenager, been stalked at night by an adult. Perhaps he would have dialed 911. Perhaps he would have run.
A young Thomas might have confronted his stalker, demanding to know why he was being followed out of indignation over his rights being infringed upon.
And herein lies the rub: I have accepted, after many years of pondering the issue, that I can never know the reality of being young and black in America. I don’t know what it’s like to distrust the police, let alone the justice system, if not the entire enterprise of American democracy, because I’ve seen time and again the ways in which these systems and these people have failed me and those around me.
But I do know that the double standard in our society so vexing to Thomas is experienced on the other side as brutal inequality, baseless prejudice and paranoiac profiling, regardless of the exceptions Thomas purports to have dug up.
The tacit thesis of Thomas’ argument is the same as that of all who willfully turn a blind eye to racism in our country. It’s the dubious notion that equality can be achieved simply by acting as if everyone were already treated equally, no matter the evidence to the contrary.
Where Thomas sees a “never-ending racial double standard,” I see a never-ending racial disparity. The equivalent crimes held up as examples by Thomas rarely, if ever, result in equivalent outcomes for the accused, particularly the black accused.
I believe Zimmerman is sincere in maintaining his own innocence, and that is precisely the problem: His initial response to a young black man in a hoodie is the kind of pervading and insidious racism so ingrained in the American psyche that we routinely mistake it for natural instinct.
If the Zimmerman trial achieves anything, perhaps it will be to cause all of us to ask: What was Trayvon Martin supposed to do? And what would you do, as a 17-year-old walking home with a pack of Skittles, when an armed adult mistaking predatory for protective behavior decides to save the neighborhood from a menace you do not present?
Weather JournalStorm track isn't very snowy for us