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is the title of this NY Times column by Charles Blow, to which I would like to direct your attention.  Blow begins his piece simply but bluntly:  

The case of Trayvon Martin is producing another O.J. Simpson moment for America.
  A recent Gallup poll shows a real difference in attitude:  most Blacks believe Zimmerman is guilty of a crime and that racial bias was a major factor, while only 11% of non-Blacks definitely think Zimmerman is guilty and only 1/3 think Zimmerman was operating on racial bias or that he would have been arrested had his victim been white.

Gallup itself makes the parallel with the OJ case:

"In one Gallup poll conducted Oct. 5-7, 1995, for example, 78 percent of blacks said the jury that found Simpson not guilty of murder made the right decision, while only 42 percent of whites agreed.”
Blow makes two points.  OJ was charged with murder, and he as a Black man thinks OJ was guilty.   As I noted last night on twitter when he asked for responses to his column, I am white, have no doubt that OJ did it, but thought his rights were totally violated when the police went over the fence without a warrant, thus thought it almost poetic justice when the bloody glove - which should never have been admitted into evidence - turned out to be the basis of his acquittal - remember Johnny Cochran repeating "If the glove does not fit, you must acquit."

The point of Blow's column flows from the apparent parallel in attitudes between the two cases, something he puts simply:  

But there is an important, if strained, commonality between them: the issue of equal treatment by the justice system.
Please keep reading.

I am not going to go into all of the points of his exceedingly well written column.

Let me offer a few selections to explain why I think you should read it, beyond the fact that Blow is ALWAYS worth reading.

There is nobility in the advocacy for truth and justice for a dead child who would still be alive if Zimmerman had not pursued him. While opinions shouldn’t get ahead of the facts — and we must all remember that what is right and what is legal don’t always dovetail — public pressure for a thorough investigation and fair dealings in this case needn’t and mustn’t be defined as a black issue. It’s a universally human issue.
This is key.  Moreover, as I tweeted last night, it may lead us to understand that justifying the use of deadly force merely because of irrational fear is a license to widespread killing.

Blow notes that the case has reopened the question of racial profiling, writing

Guilt isn’t genetic. Color and culture don’t dictate criminality. Innocence must be the default assumption. No one should be punished for another’s sins.
He reminds us that it is far more than this case:
And, as the investigation progresses, it may well open the conversation even wider to consider unequal treatment of boys and men — by all authority figures in this country — and the heavy toll that that takes.
To support that line of thinking he points at a study that show that students of color are disproportionally subjected to corporal punishment in schools in those states that still allow it.  He reminds us of the disproportionate number of people of color being stopped by the NY Police, a point that Bob Herbert also used to make regularly.  And as those who pay attention know all too well, when it comes to sentencing those of color face harsher penalties.
This lifetime of harsher treatment seems to stand in stark contrast to the authorities’ treatment of Zimmerman. This perception of unequal treatment eats away at the psyche of these men and boys of color and erodes their faith in a just and honest society. That is its own tragedy.
  And this is key, if this case is not to undermine what trust may remain in the criminal justice system.  

Blow concludes with a statement that until there is a trial for Zimmerman that the whole justice system is on trial.

But there may not, because of the Florida law, be a trial for Zimmerman.  

For me the key sentence in Blow's piece is the final sentence of his penultimate paragraph:  

In the decision not to charge Zimmerman, was the boy with the candy accorded the same presumption of innocence as the man with the gun?
Zimmerman may not have volunteered to the 9-1-1 dispatcher that Trayvon was black:  if one listens to the whole tape, he was asked the color of the person.   But he did volunteer about the type of people always getting away, and having listened to the tape I am reasonably certain that the expression under his breath was "fucking Coon."     Should not a thorough examination of the evidence be something about which a jury of the community is entitled  to render judgment?

Even if Trayvon did confront Zimmerman, who was by his own statement to the dispatcher, following him, did he not have an equal right to stand his ground?

We will never know what Trayvon thought was happening.  Perhaps when he and Zimmerman spoke he saw the gun and was in immediate fear for his life.   Would not his fear be reasonable?  Would not he be entitled to act to protect himself?

We don't know.

We do know that there are racial aspects to what happened, both in the confrontation, and in the failure to charge Zimmerman.

There is a real perception of unequal justice.

In politics we know perception becomes reality.

In how people react to police, perception also shapes reality.

I do not see a strong parallel between the OJ case and this case.  In that sense I am perhaps troubled by the title and the beginning of Blow's column.

That I am troubled was not a reason to stop reading.   I am glad I continued.

I think we should be troubled.

I think we should consider how the aspects of this case shape perceptions.

Read Blow's column.

Ponder it.

It is well worth your while.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (13+ / 0-)

    "what the best and wisest parent wants for his child is what we should want for all the children of the community" - John Dewey

    by teacherken on Sat Apr 07, 2012 at 04:56:48 AM PDT

  •  the parallel is there (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, maybeeso in michigan

    Having lived in LA at the time, the trial was unprecedented in the amount of media coverage it got.  It became must see TV, and was on all the time.  When the not guilty verdict came back, the TV stations were at the ready, with reporters out on location at various public places where people were gathered watching the event...bars, pubs, restaurants.  Some were mostly White crowds and some mostly Black.  The not guilty verdict elicited gasps, open mouths and shocked looks of disbelief among the White crowds...while it elicited shouts of glee, high fives and whoops of celebration among the Black crowds.

    This case will be very much similar...just you wait and see.

    "By your late thirties the ground has begun to grow hard. It grows harder and harder until the day that it admits you.” Thomas McGuane, Nobody's Angel

    by Keith930 on Sat Apr 07, 2012 at 05:37:05 AM PDT

    •  when the TV showed the crowd response on (4+ / 0-)

      split screen...the compare and contrast was the most honest and unblinking moment of depicting the racial divide in the country that I can recall.

      "By your late thirties the ground has begun to grow hard. It grows harder and harder until the day that it admits you.” Thomas McGuane, Nobody's Angel

      by Keith930 on Sat Apr 07, 2012 at 05:39:29 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  However, RE: OJ (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Ms Citizen, teacherken

      There was sloppy police work to the extent that it was possible to accuse the LAPD of trying to frame OJ.  Given the notorious history of the LAPD, this especially resonated in the minority community, esp. since Rodney King had been 3 years prior.
      Mark Fuhrman was manna from Heaven for the defense.

      So far the sloppy police work here benefits George and no Fuhrman has emerged in this case.

      Taken in context, it seems the two cases are really not that similar, except both are ultimately racial in nature

      •  I haven't read Blow's column yet, but, (2+ / 0-)

        I watched the O.J. trial every single day. I broke my leg an couldn't negoiate crutches very well, so I was home almost every day.
        O.J. got a fair trial, because he was rich, and not precieved by society to be "too black". Even the jurors choosen were done fairly, with input from both sides. The point is not whether or not O.J. murdered those two people, it was "did the prosecution prove he did it beyond a reasonable doubt". I just heard last week some guy wrote a book saying O.J.'s son did it, so there is still some doubt lingering.
        Trayvon, is not getting justice, not yet anyway. He was shot down in cold blood, and in an effort to hide their incompetency or racism, the Stanford police department has seen fit to bash the victim, releasing information about Trayvon that has no relation to the night or reason he was killed. That is one of the problems with this whole thing, and you don't have to be black to recognize unfairness when you see it. There are lots of white folks who are pissed off about this too.

        •  OJ was also very adroit in his pivot (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          aliasalias

          after years of ignoring the African American community including his own first family, he embraced them during the trial and just as quickly dropped them following the trial

          •  This is true, but I think part of the reason the (0+ / 0-)

            jury found O.J. not guilty was in part because of race. For years and you can even see it today with the Trayvon Martin case, African Americans were never given the "benefit of the doubt". I don't think they found him not guilty because he was African American, but because they were African American, and know everyone deserves the "benefit of the doubt." No one can deny there was room for reasonable doubt with O.J., missing blood, confusion over all the DNA evidence, the prosecution not really going after him for spousal abuse, and then the glove not fitting. Most folks felt he did it, based on their own common sense, but the prosecution failed to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt. I think Marcia Clark tried, but she was not in control of the situation, there was too much input from Garcetti. Truth be told, he lost that case for the state. I think he put his political ambitions ahead of seeking justice.
            There was so much evidence of domestic violence and the cycle of abuse, had they concentrated on that, rather than the DNA, I think there would be less doubt in the minds of the jurors. I think Marcia Clark wanted to do just that, but a higher power said, no, use the DNA.

  •  It's the Revenge for OJ as I've Been Pointing Out (0+ / 0-)

    for quite a while here.

    They're poisoning the jury pool so that if a case ever does come to trial, they will acquit.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Sat Apr 07, 2012 at 05:38:40 AM PDT

    •  poisoning the jury pool??? (4+ / 0-)

      It's already poisoned.  It just depends which well you want to drink out of.

      "By your late thirties the ground has begun to grow hard. It grows harder and harder until the day that it admits you.” Thomas McGuane, Nobody's Angel

      by Keith930 on Sat Apr 07, 2012 at 05:45:54 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  This pool was pretty shallow to begin with. (0+ / 0-)

        These are the same folks who acquitted Casey Anthony.

        "If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.." - John F. Kennedy: Inaugural Address, January 20, 1961. We are the 99%.

        by IndieGuy on Sat Apr 07, 2012 at 07:48:11 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  also people in gated communities develop (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          IndieGuy

          a bunker mentality which views outsiders as potential threats and exaggerates the crime rate.  Some defenders of George (FOGs) have claimed a rampant crime spree in the area when it shows 7 burglaries and 8 thefts and 1 shooting in a community of 620 people over 2 years with most thefts being bikes and grills.  Hardly Crime City

    •  I doubt George will be tried under FL laws (0+ / 0-)

      but he may face federal charges; question is what effect will it have on the outcome having a broader jury pool?  In the case of a state trial, I see nullification at least hanging the jury if confusion over SYG does not, judging from previous cases

  •  Mr. Blow's article is a thought-provoking read (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken

    It seems that a large number of people view legal proceedings in our system (court cases, legislation, elections in some cases) like a football game between their "group" (black, white, gay, straight, etc.) and what they view as an opposing group.  Lost is the concept of fairness that's supposed to pervade such proceedings (criminal defendants need to be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, new laws are passed through by legislators duly elected by the people, etc.).

    The problem for some of these people is that when their team loses, they feel compelled to take action against the opposing team to "even the score."  The most significant example of this that I'm aware of in our country's history was the actions of Southern whites in the decades after the Civil War, who responded to emancipation and civil rights for African Americans by killing, torturing and terrorizing many thousands of African Americans.   But you see smaller examples of people seeking group-based retribution after many well-publicized court cases, new laws and elections.

    All of which highlights the need to respect the legal process, and concentrate efforts on ensuring that the legal process operates in a non-discriminatory manner for the equal benefit of everybody.  To a large extent the legal process is a substitute for the blood feuds, tribal warfare, and unrestrained violence by the strong against the weak that mark most of human history.  It's 2012 and, while we're not there yet, we should keep working toward putting the more ferocious aspects of our nature behind us.

    •  of course the lost point in this is the justice (0+ / 0-)

      system has little to do with justice.  Formerly 70% of all cases ended in a plea bargain; now I understand it it 90%. in some jurisdictions it is 100% and has been for some years.
      If a case goes to trial, there is a 70% conviction rate while the Innocence Project estimates 10% of inmates are incarcerated for crimes they did not commit while we continue to call this a Justice System  

  •  I think this is partly the result of (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    VClib, IndieGuy, maybeeso in michigan

    the fact that many people get their "news" from outlets that have an agenda, and this contributes to the divide.  When there's so much being put out there by people with an agenda, it is no wonder that people start dividing -- each side here has things that they can point to as unfair, or misleading, "fact" being put out against their side.  

    Everyone here knows what the supporters of Z are putting out there.  And there has been diary after diary complaining about  statements by people I'll call "Zimmerman supporters" that are misleading or, at the very least, factually disputed -- including the alleged background on Martin, the attempts to color the public perception of Zimmerman's supposed injuries, and the stories told by Zimmerman friends and lawyers about what Zimmerman supposedly said on those tapes and did on that night.  And those have a people I'll call "Martin supporters" getting their backs up.  The Zimmerman supporters refuse to recognize that this stuff just hardens the views of the people on the other side of the divide.

    On the other side (and this is harder for people here to recognize because this site is primarily "Martin supporters") there has been misleading stuff put out against Zimmerman as well.  That includes the NBC tape, of course, but it also includes things like the misreporting of the sizes of the two individuals,  the claims that Zimmerman had no injuries (we'll need to hear from the EMT's on that), and the extreme positions of some essentially forgetting that Zimmerman, like any individual in this country, has certain rights to a fair trial as well.  

    Unfortunately, many people in this country have made up their minds about this tragedy based on supposed "facts" coming out now and virtually nothing is going to change that.  Each and every supposed "fact" that comes out is viewed by those people as either a fabrication, or is twisted to fit their pre-existing narrative.   People forget that it is very, very likely that many of the "facts" being reported now are just not going to pan out at trial.  And yes, I saw the same thing happen during the O.J. trial.  (Remember Jill Shively who supposedly saw OJ fleeing the murder scene in the white Bronco?  Remember Rosa Lopez who supposedly saw the Bronco at OJ's house at the time of the murder? The jury at trial heard from neither.)   And yes, it's a destructive thing for the country.  I wish people would remember two things:  (1) we should all want the same thing, the truth to come out (whatever that turns out to be) and justice to be done, and (2) we simply don't yet know what the truth is, and we won't know what that is until the investigation is complete and there's a hearing or trial.  

    •  difference in size? (0+ / 0-)

      In RWistan, Trayvon is now a 6"1" 160 Lb varsity football player and George is now 5" 9" 170 Lb regular guy.  Is that the difference?

      If George would have appeared in public since the shooting or had had a mug shot, his broken nose and the gashes and bruises would have been obvious.  Instead he is in seclusion to the extent family and lawyers claim they have not been face to date.  The questions arise from his actions  

  •  the OJ comparison is B.S. (0+ / 0-)

    and I wish people would get off that.

    O.J. wasnt about race at all, it was about class. O.J. simpson had a Dream Team of lawyers that he threw his millions at to bend justice to his will.

    To compare O.J. to the black experience when it come to justice in the US is detrimental

  •  What's being punished is disobedience. (0+ / 0-)

    Blacks are perceived to be more disobedient than whites because the presumption that they should be obedient is firmer.
    Presumptions or pre-conceived notions color what people think and how they react.
    And then there's jealousy.  Zimmerman is a fearful person.  He needed a cage on wheels and a gun to navigate his neighborhood.  How dare someone walk around on foot, unconcerned.  The frightened man needs everyone else to be frightened, too.

    People to Wall Street: "LET OUR MONEY GO"

    by hannah on Sat Apr 07, 2012 at 11:36:06 AM PDT

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