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Earlier today I posted Eugene Robinson may deserve another Pulitzer about the column he wrote in reaction to the verdict in Sanford.  In that piece I wrote

I have been waiting for the reactions of Eugene Robinson and Charles M. Blow.  The latter's column would normally next run on Thursday.
  Well, it came out today, for tomorrow's paper, as Catte Nappe informed us in a comment, where he quote a bit.

I went and took a look at the column, which is titled The Whole System Failed.  Up now and intended for tomorrow's print version of the New York Times, it begins like this:

In a way, the not-guilty verdict in the trial of George Zimmerman for his killing of Trayvon Martin was more powerful than a guilty verdict could ever have been. It was the perfect wrenching coda to a story that illustrates just how utterly and completely our system of justice — both moral and legal — failed Martin and his family.
Like the Robinson column, about which I diaried a few hours ago, this one is hard to sample, because it deserves to be read all the way through.

But let me offer a little more.

There is a section that begins with a single sentence:  

The system began to fail Martin long before that night.
 Blow then goes paragraph by paragraph, reminding us of the failures, starting with changes in the law, continuing through a total of fourteen paragraphs, each beginning The system failed him when ..., hammering home the structure of a system that failed - not just Trayvon Martin, but the principles that are supposed to apply in America, to all of us.

Read those 14 paragraphs.

As I did, I was reminded of the accumulation of grievances against George III in the Declaration of Independence, an accumulation that the signers felt justified them in breaking off from England.

A key part, after the list of failures, can be found here:  

The idea of universal suspicion without individual evidence is what Americans find abhorrent and what black men in America must constantly fight. It is pervasive in policing policies — like stop-and-frisk, and in this case neighborhood watch — regardless of the collateral damage done to the majority of innocents. It’s like burning down a house to rid it of mice.

As a parent, particularly a parent of black teenage boys, I am left with the question, “Now, what do I tell my boys?”

It is that question, and the fact of the failure of the system, that should haunt anyone who reads this, whether or not you have black sons.

There are other questions, just as heartbreaking:  At what precise pace should a black man walk to avoid suspicion?

It is not just black male children.  As much as that is the reality of this case, if they can be defined as suspicious and to be feared, what stops people from classifying 67 year old graying former hippies, or bubbly 14 year old blonde haired girls?

Oh, don't be silly you tell me.  

I am not being silly.

Once we allow fear and discrimination free reign, once we do not challenge how it is used to justify unacceptable violence, to treat some as not fully equal, hell, as not fully human, where does it stop?

The pain right now is in the African American community.

But will it just be worrying for our Black sons?  What about our black daughters, like my two grand-nieces?  What about the three Hispanic nephews I have, ranging from just graduating from high school to upper elementary?

What about my Native American niece?

and yet, yes, the immediate fear is for our Black sons.  They are ours.  They are all of our children, or they should be.

They are the young men I taught in four different schools.

I wrestle with this, not as the parent of black sons.

So let me end with Blow's final words, and then urge you to go read his entire column.

The whole system failed Martin. What prevents it from failing my children, or yours?

I feel that I must tell my boys that, but I can’t. It’s stuck in my throat. It’s an impossibly heartbreaking conversation to have. So, I sit and watch in silence, and occasionally mouth the word, “breathe,” because I keep forgetting to.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (40+ / 0-)

    "We didn't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts." - Pema Chodron

    by teacherken on Mon Jul 15, 2013 at 03:39:54 PM PDT

  •  Like Robinson's, this one packs a punch (10+ / 0-)

    This comment arguably belongs in your other diary but I'm here now and this one is equally worthy of attention so I'm posting it where I am.

    It was pretty evident to me that Zimmerman posited Martin as a threat based entirely on the fact that Martin was black. Although I like to think that I have a reasonably nuanced understanding of racism; the fact is that I am white and will never have the perspective of a person of color. So the only conclusion I have taken from this sorry episode is that, thanks to racism, an adult killed a child and got away with it. It's a travesty. It is injustice of the most profound sort. Since the justice system of the State of Florida failed Trayvon Martin from start to finish, my only hope is that a federal case based on a violation of Martin's civil rights will provide at least a modicum of justice.

  •  I hear you but... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    a2nite, samddobermann, Calamity Jean

    black men are feared more than any other group. You do not hear about other groups/genders being targeted in such a fashion. I can't tell you how many of my black male friends have been stopped, frisked, harrassed -- over and over, for no reason at all!

    As a woman of color, I, at most, have been followed around in stores. At most, I've been eyed suspiciously because I have a Middle Eastern name.  What black men in the U.S. face is different -- and cruel.  They are stigmatized, stalked, killed, charged, convicted, and sentenced in a way that you cannot compare to other groups.

    Black men are the scapegoats of our society.

    god help us. Even a Latino male -- who would be called "illegal" in other circumstances -- can see a black man as his enemy and boogieman.

    The civil rights, gay rights and women's movements, designed to allow others to reach for power previously grasped only by white men, have made a real difference, and the outlines of 21st century America have emerged. -- Paul West of LA Times

    by LiberalLady on Mon Jul 15, 2013 at 07:22:46 PM PDT

  •  Thanks nt (0+ / 0-)

    nosotros no somos estúpidos

    by a2nite on Tue Jul 16, 2013 at 08:12:50 AM PDT

  •  People are missing the lesson (0+ / 0-)

    this must give us if we want to improve our situation. Perhaps it is too soon. But we need to, must, channel our anger to work on the remedy to this outrage and many others.

    The outcome was due to the damnable "Stand Your Ground" laws. These laws are basically a license to kill. Here it allowed a person to stalk a person and put himself into a position he could claim fear for his life and then kill. Taken to its logical conclusion: if I want to kill someone where this law is in effect I have to get a gun (especially when I don't let the other person know about the weapon), provoke the other person to take a swing and more  than one for a good show, then get out my gun and shoot them dead.

    It would be nice if we could get a court decision that if you go in pursuit of someone and create the situation which you perceive  endangers your life you do not have a right to kill them. You only have the right to protect against force used upon you  proportionately.  However I am not sure how we would get to such a decision.

    What we can do and must do is energize people to vote, take back the state legislatures and remove or modify the laws on the books. We must use the energy that is going into demonstrations to register voters no matter how hard the laws interfere in that. We need a fund to pay for birth certificates where required. (How much is involved in getting a concealed carry permit in Texas which is sufficient id for voting?)

    Every Black person, every Brown, Yellow, Red, Purple or Polka dotted person must get registered to vote and convinced of the importance in doing so. Civics classes should be set up; people should at least know the difference between a government and a business.

    And we must train people to run for office and figure out how to run subversive low cost but winning campaigns. We must stop ignoring races like those for school boards, city and county commissions and every other "low level" position. They are the springboards to bigger things. And we need to form civic organizations to give a platform to

    Right now 2014 is almost upon us. We need to register voters NOW.

    We aren't going to be able to take over the state legislatures in 2020 before redistricting if we don't start NOW. If we can't get enough legislators in those states which have not taken expanded Medicaid people will suffer longer and insurance costs will not come down as much in those states — because of uncompensated care for those who have no coverage.

    As far as this trial went I would have stressed that the law was not designed to protect those who actively sought an opportunity to shoot someone, without whose active behavior that person would not have been placed in a position of feeling threatened. I would have emphasized that Trevon Martin, being followed at length on a dark night might have felt threatened, especially when the man following him stops his truck and gets out. I would ask did Martin feel like he was fighting for his life?

    I would have said "If Martin had a gun and shot Zimmerman dead would he not be arguing that he had a right to "stand his ground?""

    I would point out that even in the stories Zimmerman told police, without any fear of contradiction, never once did he report saying, "Halt, who goes there?" or "Who are you? What are you doing here?" even "Stop or I will shoot" or any words to that effect.

    At no time did Martin do anything illegal. But Zimmerman disobeyed the order to stay in the truck. He didn't do what he said and stay by the mailboxes.

    Does this mean the young Black men should be armed at all times?  

    I'm asking you to believe. Not in my ability to bring about real change in Washington ... *I'm asking you to believe in yours.* Barack Obama

    by samddobermann on Tue Jul 16, 2013 at 02:18:13 PM PDT

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