Why did we Care?

As most folks know, George Zimmermann has been found not guilty. The usual recriminations about institutional racism and the like have already begun to fly, and vigorously.

My question was why on earth this thing became such a massive deal. As near as I can tell, two men saw each other, made assumptions, committed acts of terminal stupidity and ended up in a brawl that neither one was equipped to handle, at which point one of them shot the other.

That’s it. Nothing else.

So why did this become such a massive deal? Because it was election year, and the occurrence could be made to fit anyone’s narrative by twisting facts. Want to prove that America’s racist? Trayvon Martin was killed for being black in a white neighborhood. That gun laws are too lax? Zimmermann was a hothead vigilante wannabe. Want to prove that guns are necessary? Martin would have killed Zimmermann if the latter hadn’t had a gun. Want to prove that liberals don’t really care about minorities? Point to the outrage at this death as opposed to all the black-on-black violence.

Very few of the people pontificating on this case really cared whether justice was done. What they wanted was their own ideological preconceptions about America proven, and no matter who watched this thing, their preconceptions were proven.

So, in other words, what was the point of all this nonsense and pontificating and speculating and blathering? Answer: Nothing. The only thing that was really learned was that lawyers will lie and twist the truth however they can to win their case–and, since we already knew that, what was the point?

My point is this: while the news networks and papers were focusing on this case, we weren’t hearing about the civil war in Syria or the coup in Egypt, events that have the potential to destabilize the entire Middle East. During the initial media flap, we weren’t hearing about things like the effects of sequestration and the gridlock in Washington, things that actually affect the lives of Americans in direct fashion.

Here’s what I’m trying to say here. We were offered a distraction from actual issues, and we took it. This was not a good thing.

‘Til next time,

Lowell Van Ness


2 thoughts on “Why did we Care?

  1. An apt reminder. I’m glad the jury chose to consider the facts and evidence rather than “using their hearts” to arrive at a verdict as the prosecution desired. I am deeply saddened at the death of the young man. I think Race was involved on two levels, but not in enough of a way to determine a verdict of guilty. We should assume innocence of a suspect without actual evidence to the contrary and not just stories. Now for where there really is institutional racism:
    1) Zimmerman saw a black teen and assumed the worst, which results from tragic, negative stereotypes of black men in our culture. As always, people should always be evaluated on their own behavior and not preconceived notions. This resulted in a conflict which somehow led to the death of a teen with his whole life ahead of him. There was racism on the individual level, and it was deadly, though maybe not murder (or maybe so).
    2) The accusations of institutional racism are very often true, as people demonstrably choose whites and females as being more trustworthy than blacks and men. See here for an example:

    Thus people have a good reason for assuming racism in the justice process, and the time it took to get Zimmerman to trial demonstrate this to some degree, I suspect. While the narrative is often oversimplified by blacks ad whites alike into good-guy, bad-guy scenarios, such generalizations do not always fit the situation neatly. Was Zimmerman actually guilty? We may never know, unless more evidence comes to light and we get a retrial. For now, my deepest sympathies and prayers go out to the family of Trayvon Martin.

    • As to 1. it’s debatable whether it was racism or a legitimate probability judgment, as it is my understanding that there had been a crime wave in the area. Now, this is not to say that Zimmermann isn’t kind of dumb and reckless. Because he is. But, when you take the circumstances of 1. Recent crime wave; and 2. There’s a fellow you don’t recognize in your neighborhood walking around at night, it’s a bit less cut-and-dried that Zimmermann assumed the worst because of racism.
      Regarding 2, the trust hierarchy you’ve posited here runs like this: White females; white males/black females; black males. Now, why is this? The problem isn’t just institutional racism–it’s institutional stereotyping in general, because thinking of people in categories is easier than thinking of them as individuals. Seems like most people forgot that during this trial.

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