I want to share an email I sent to a very small group of friends who discuss various current events. Some are liberal, some are conservative. All are white. One lives in Florida. Trayvon Martin came up. What I said is below the jump (I've edited it slightly to correct some errors and make some small clarifications where needed).
I ask only one thing, and this is it: for a moment, put yourself in the position of a parent (of any race) who has a black male teenager/young adult for a child, and think about how you'd feel today, knowing about this incident, when your child goes out to the store. You can't just tell your child: don't do anything wrong. This kid did nothing, and was still confronted by Zimmerman, a confrontation that led to Trayvon Martin's death. There's enough evidence out there that we know that.I then included a link to Robinson's piece and the text of the article. As this post here on Dkos is subject to fair use, I'll only include some snippets of Robinson's piece, but please read it all if you can, and look at Teacherken's post on the piece as well.
This unarmed young man who sought no trouble and was unlucky only to meet George Zimmerman is now dead. Nothing can bring him back. The impact this will have is going to be long lasting. Now, every black male teenager and young man in America and his parents are going to be even that more on edge every time a non-black person even approaches them in public for that every one of us is George Zimmerman, a man who didn't go out that night looking to commit a crime. Instead Zimmerman was a "regular" law abiding person who still ended up killing a kid who, from everything we've seen so far, did nothing to initiate any kind of crime and was only "standing his ground" when confronted by Zimmerman.
Zimmerman's lack of criminal intent (again, that he didn't go out that night planning to commit a crime) makes this event far more scary. Even more than was the case before, every black person will see every non-black person who approaches them as a potential threat until proven otherwise. Think about that in terms of states that have a "stand your ground" law.
I'd say it's reasonable for any young black male to feel threatened any time they are approached by any non-black male or female. Any of us, even those of us who don't have criminal intent (and remember I don't believe George Zimmerman had criminal intent before he confronted Trayvon Martin) can be a threat to any of them. Think about the effect of that on race relations. Instead of discussing politics, I'll ask you to read this below, from Pulitzer Prize winner Eugene Robinson:
How many George Zimmermans are out there cruising the streets? How many guys with chips on their shoulders and itchy fingers on the triggers of loaded handguns? How many self-imagined guardians of the peace who say the words “black male” with a sneer?Will my email to a small group have any effect? Who knows? What I'm trying to encourage is empathy, to encourage people to see things from a perspective that is not their own. That's not an easy thing for some people to do. It's a particularly hard thing for some non-black people to put themselves in the shoes of a black person. I would suggest it's a hard thing for people of any racial or ethnic group to do in general.
Please tell me, what would be the innocent way to walk down the street with an iced tea and some Skittles? Hint: For black men, that’s a trick question.
But the tragic and essential thing, for me, is the bull’s-eye that black men wear throughout their lives — and the vital imperative to never, ever, be caught on the wrong street at the wrong time.
I believe that I have a responsibility to my fellow Americans who suffer the consequences of the lack of empathy on the part of other Americans--and those who suffer the most are black Americans--to try and rectify that situation. Had George Zimmerman been able, for a moment, to truly put himself in Trayvon Martin's shoes before he got out of his car to confront this young man, maybe things would have turned out differently. I can't change that. Maybe I can help some of my friends to see things differently, and maybe that will have some unforeseeable but positive impact down the road. One can hope.
8:15 AM PT: Thanks, folks, for putting this on the recommended list!