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