Black or white

Trayvon Martin.  George Zimmerman. A Verdict.


But it’s not black and white. Not the outcome, not the people, not the meaning and challenge of it.  We want it to be black and white, either / or, simple and uncomplicated.  It is, however, always complex, always shadings of gray. It can’t help but be that way because it involves people.

There are questions enough to drive King Solomon crazy.  We will never know exactly what happened that night.  Every perspective carries with it the limitations of the person involved. For sure, we will never know what Trayvon was thinking or doing.  We also won’t really know what Zimmerman was thinking that night as events unfolded.  Nor will we know the angle, the perspective, the attitude of the responding police. Did something terrible occur that night?  Oh, obviously…. clearly.  Was it intentional, was it reckless, was there a modicum of reason for the shooting?   Those are answers that are less clear.  We want a black or white answer, and we can’t get one. The verdict doesn’t even identify right or wrong, it only identifies that six jurors could not agree beyond a reasonable doubt that the crime of murder was committed.

It’s disheartening to read some of the commentaries and vitriol coming out about the recent verdict. The wholesale malignment of everyone involved……Trayvon , George , jurors, the courts, law, and society.  Are we a perfect society?  Absolutely not.  Our flaws come out in matters of race, but also in numerable other attributes.  Too often in situations like this it seems like color is the only lens we see through.  It isn’t, but it clearly is one of the two most obvious ones (gender being the other).  Here, there appears to be a socioeconomic lens as well; gated communities and community patrols exist mainly where one group (richer) wants to be isolated and protected from less affluent.  There seems to be an age lens as well; Trayvon and George clearly of different generations, with the misunderstandings that so often and traditionally come from that.  There is the unacknowledged culture lens; attire and music too often geared to showy defiance and swaggering attitude that is intended to be domineering and threatening, which has as a base the inherent distrust of society and its laws (albeit not without reason).  No, this isn’t a simple clear-cut black and white.

It is sad that this story exists.  It is sadder that so many other parents go through this with other sons and daughters.  It’s saddest that we will argue and pontificate …..and nothing will change.


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