Not long after George Zimmerman’s acquittal he was pulled over for speeding, and the officer who pulled him over noted that he was legally transporting his firearm. A firestorm ensued. Over what, I’m not exactly certain. Was the outrage over his legally transporting a firearm, or was it because he was speeding, something your average American does multiple times a day? For some, this was proof of his recklessness. After all, they say, he can’t be trusted with a gun because of this incident. He shouldn’t be allowed to carry a firearm anymore. The reference to speeding was inserted to bolster the argument, as if to say here’s a crazy man driving like a lunatic, transporting an evil death device. Of course, the media doesn’t frame it quite so blatantly, but the insinuation is there.
Yet imagine a case where a man was exonerated of vehicular manslaughter. Should that man be forced to give up his driver license? No. He was exonerated. Case closed, he’s allowed to drive his car. Thus, George Zimmerman is allowed to exercise his right to arm himself in a legal fashion. It’s doubtful that a black man acquitted of the murder of a white man would face similar demands. A few die-hards might blog about an acquitted black man for awhile, but the incident would be allowed to pass, despite the fact that the murder rate among young blacks is 700% greater than that of similar whites. It’s worth noting that Mr. Zimmerman and young blacks involved in drugs and criminal behavior share one interesting attribute: they are both more likely to shoot a black person. Blacks suffer more from other blacks than they do from whites.
Imagine the recent controversial actions of a rodeo clown from a reversed standpoint. During the Bush presidency a black rodeo clown dons a George Bush mask and runs around all willy-nilly. People in the stands would have had a good laugh at the President’s expense. Someone might even write up an article about the black man’s courage in braving the potential wrath of a sea of white rodeo rednecks. Instead, we have a man who has been banned from performing in the state, resignations happened all around, people lost their jobs and cries of racism were tossed about.
This isn’t just a fact of life at redneck state fair rodeos, either. Chris Rock muses on the situations wherein a white man might say the dreaded n-word without fear of racial allegations, which is pretty much never. The comparable terms for whites, of course, are commonly accepted or given a pass. The sum of it is, there is a double-standard in America, and it’s not helping anyone. It’s not bringing to attention the suffering of young blacks in Chicago. It certainly didn’t do Zimmerman or the rodeo clown any favors.
A lot of this seems to stem from collective guilt, shared by many whites, for wrongs committed in the past. Unless you were a slave owner, a member of the KKK or a Jim Crow supporter, you should feel no collective guilt. You are not a racist. One of my friends is Native American, and he mentions from time to time the wrongs committed by people ages ago, but that doesn’t mean he’s looking for special treatment now. Certainly he’s not trying to enforce a double standard or make me feel guilty for things I have never done and would never condone. If a Native American were doing a wrong today, I’m quite confident he would have no moral difficulty in pointing it out.
In Zimmerman and Trayvon’s case, however, the media suppressed immense amount of evidence that Trayvon was not the sweet little boy he was made out to be. He was a teenager who was deeply disturbed following some damaging incidents in his life. As Bill Whittle points out, Martin Luther King, Jr. told us to judge not by the color of the skin, but by the content of the character. Zimmerman was known to defend homeless black men from police oppression. Trayvon, on the other hand, was involved in theft and possibly drugs and was having serious problems at home and school (see the video). In other words, Trayvon may have been the one that died that night, but Zimmerman was the one being pigeonholed into a practically-demanded guilty verdict by his skin color. He was acquitted, but the court of public opinion wants to paint him as guilty anyway.
Imagine the situation reversed, just like the rodeo clown example. A redneck wearing a NASCAR hat, a camouflage hunting jacket and holed, skinny jeans is walking alone at night through a black neighborhood. A black neighborhood watch man with some Hispanic ancestry sees the redneck. An incident ensues and the redneck is shot. What would the story have been then? Would the story have been even one-tenth as controversial? For another mental exercise, imagine the redneck is also a rodeo clown wearing an Obama mask.
This is lunacy. But I’m honestly surprised at how few people can actually see it for what it is.
All a nation can be is good in its own time. We can never make up for past wrongs committed by our ancestors. Dispense with the myth that it is possible to fix, and jettison the guilt and shame for things you did not do. Each time you are tempted to cry racism for something stop, and try framing it in reverse. If you’ll excuse the bad pun, it’s often a lot less black and white when you think of it that way. If you’re white, the next time someone calls you a “cracker” or some other racial epithet, don’t let them get away with it. Explain that you don’t believe in a double-standard, and you don’t feel like tossing the n-word about. So why, you will say, should they be able to use the c-word on you?