Staying in 2012 — and fixing it
Updated: April 11, 2012 5:29PM
There is so much to find infuriating about the Trayvon Martin case it is hard to know where to start.
So I’ll start at the beginning. The one fact on which we all agree. A teenage boy is dead for no reason and a young man’s life is ruined. It is a terrible tragedy that should not have happened.
Why and how it happened is not clear. One version of the truth says an innocent boy was hunted down like a dog by neighborhood vigilante George Zimmerman and shot in cold blood because he was a black kid wearing a hoodie.
The other version of the truth says George Zimmerman is a neighborhood watch volunteer who reported a suspicious person to police. This person turned on Zimmerman, attacked him, beat him and was going for Zimmerman’s gun before Zimmerman protected himself the only way he could — with the gun.
In one story, Zimmerman is the worst type of cold-blooded killer and racist. In the other, he’s a neighborhood volunteer who defended himself.
My reporter’s instinct tells me the truth is somewhere in the middle.
My guess is Zimmerman was looking for a confrontation, and Martin was a teen trying to learn to be a man and wasn’t going to back down from a confrontation.
The result was a personal tragedy for the families and the racial fallout we are left with.
I find the racial debate being played out infuriating because I refuse to return to 1967.
The activists who have taken sides on this case want to take us back to an America where race divided us more than ever, where white-on-black violence was rampant and where the races looked at each other with suspicion and fear. In a word, 1967.
I left that place behind a long time ago. I think most Americans did, too. And I don’t want to go back there. Most Americans don’t either.
But the likes of the Rev. Jesse Jackson and the Rev. Al Sharpton and the other activists want to go back there, or maybe that’s the America they live in. Adding to the polarization, Rush Limbaugh claims the media are concentrating on the story in order to help the president’s re-election chances, while Glenn Beck’s website states, with a distinct lack of supporting evidence, that Martin in fact was the aggressor.
In 2012 America today, I come in contact with the most diverse group of Americans ever. I live and work with blacks, Hispanics, whites, new Indian immigrants, new Middle Eastern immigrants. We work together on projects and in the community. We shop at the same stores and eat at the same restaurants.
If some people want to live in 1967, so be it. But I’m not going back there.
America 2012 is a better place to be.
But there is one aspect of America 2012 that desperately needs our attention and needs all of our leaders, black and white, to stand up and say something about it.
Innocent children, mostly black children, are being gunned down on the streets of Chicago every week.
It is a terrible tragedy, but reported by the media as mere statistics — the weekly death toll. It happens in a place white people call the Inner City, a term I despise. Chicago is made up of many varied neighborhoods and none are called The Inner City.
The Inner City is a place that exists in our minds. We use the term to describe a place where we think poor people, mostly black, live. And in that place people are desperately poor. Residents there deal in drugs and use drugs. Gangs rule there. It is a violent place where, on a weekly basis, innocent kids get killed. It is a hopeless place.
As long as all that stays in the place we call The Inner City, we’re OK with it.
What happened to Trayvon Martin may be a crime.
But what we as a nation accept in the place we call The Inner City is just beyond tragic.
My fear is that after all the protests and marches and speeches over Trayvon Martin go away, we’ll continue to shrug our big shoulders over the place we call The Inner City.