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Justice failed Trayvon Martin the night he was killed. We should be appalled and outraged, but perhaps not surprised, that it failed him again Saturday night, with a verdict setting his killer free.

Our society considers young black men to be dangerous, interchangeable, expendable, guilty until proven innocent. This is the conversation about race that we desperately need to have — but probably, as in the past, will try our best to avoid.

Those are the first two paragraphs of Black boys denied the right to be young, Robinson's column for tomorrow's Washington Post.  

UPDATE - Robinson tweeted this last night, but there is a different column in today's paper.  Go figure

There is simply so much in this column.  I will not attempt to summarize it.  It needs to be read.

If you will simply go read Robinson's column, I will be satisfied.

You need not read further here, nor do anything else.

Below the fold I will offer a few thoughts of my own, and then some more powerful words from Robinson.

I am a white, middle class, senior citizen.

I have spent much of the past two decades teaching in schools that were majority African-American.  Occasionally my students have let me see their world through their eyes.

How when one 8th grader tried to tell a cop to stop harrassing and belittling his mother the cop slammed him against the wall and arrested him for interfering.  Then put felony charges against him unless he would withdraw his complaint for police brutality, so the policeman - who by the way was black - did not get formally disciplined.

How students would go into certain stores and be followed by the management -  it might be an Eddie Bauer store, it could well be a small convenience store run by East Asians.  They would note they got followed, while their white classmates did not.

How if they were walking down the street some whites would cross to the other side of the street to get away from them.

Perhaps some of them heard Eric Holder speaking at the NAACP about how when he was in the Georgetown section of DC and was running because he was late for a movie he was pulled over and questioned by a DC policeman - at the time Holder was a Federal Prosecutor.

We have heard again about "the conversation" Black parents feel they must have with their children, conversations I as a white adolescent did not have to have.  Hell, I knew that if a cop harassed me I would get his badge number and inform him that my mother was Assistant Attorney General of NY State.  

Perhaps when I had long hair and a beard in the 60s, I might get eyed by some police, but around Greenwich Village there were too many of us for them to make it an issue.

It is the small indignities that add up.

It is the constantly having to be on one's guard lest one be treated with more than suspicion.

It is seeing the re-legitimizing of overt racism in American society, and not just from the Ann Coulters of the world.

Writing of the jurors in this case, Robinson says bluntly

The assumption underlying their ho-hum approach to the case was that Zimmerman had the right to self-defense but Martin — young, male, black — did not. The assumption was that Zimmerman would fear for his life in a hand-to-hand struggle but Martin — young, male, black — would not.
But of course, "stand your ground" is intended to rationalize force out of "fear" - or in some cases mere hatred that one might describe as fear, but certainly not a rational fear of imminent harm.  

On every measure that matters in the lives of younger black males, the weight of discipline (school suspensions and expulsions) and criminal justice falls disproportionally upon them for the same offenses as it does whites of the same age.  Thus more are arrested for drugs even though we know drug use among white and black adolescents is roughly the same.  Unfortunately, some whites will then use the statistics of arrests to push the racist claim that blacks are more prone to crime, like the mayor of New York justifying the absurd disproportion of stop and frisk incidents falling upon people of color, who therefore get arrested at an even higher rate, that rate being used to say "See, they ARE more prone to crime."  

Or if you raise the issue of Zimmerman's violence will say "but what about Black on Black violence?"   To which I will point out all the white on white crime they choose to ignore, including the financial devastation of people's lives by wealthy whites in the financial services industry.  But somehow that doesn't seem to matter.

Most violence is done by people who know us.  Thus most violence against blacks is by other blacks, particularly when we are increasingly resegregating much of our society.  Most violence against whites is by other whites - husbands, parents, uncles, sometimes mothers and wives and aunts.  

In his penultimate paragraph Robinson tells us how black males of any age

are denied the right to be young, to be vulnerable, to make mistakes.
 He bluntly calls the disproportionate nature of criminal punishment racism.  He challenges us bluntly  What would you call it?

And here is the scary thing.  Can we really call it anything else?

And if we cannot, then ponder his final words, and the implications flowing from them:

Trayvon Martin was fighting more than George Zimmerman that night. He was up against prejudices as old as American history, and he never had a chance.
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Comment Preferences

  •  I hope some who read Robinson will share (24+ / 0-)

    their reactions

    I found i was almost not breathing as I read through the column

    it is as powerful as anything I have read from him, and I was reading him for several years before he won his Pulitzer.

    His last two columns certainly warrant serious consideration for another Pulitzer for commentary.

    "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 Thu Jul 18, 2013 at 08:09:25 PM PDT

    •  His writing about this case has been spectacular (15+ / 0-)

      I  find myself frequently applauding him and also at times, holding back tears.

      Bravo Eugene !

      Join PA Liberals at

      by wishingwell on Thu Jul 18, 2013 at 08:21:21 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I sometimes feel my breath taken away (9+ / 0-)

        as if I had been punched in the solar plexus and could not breathe.

        "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 Thu Jul 18, 2013 at 08:22:49 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Exactly ! I know what you mean (8+ / 0-)

          Join PA Liberals at

          by wishingwell on Thu Jul 18, 2013 at 08:30:54 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  I posted it on facebook.... (7+ / 0-)

          sadly a colleague I don't know well has reposted  some Fox News claptrap about 10 things you don't know about the trial because of mainstream media.  I didn't know how to respond.  At first I just limited what I would hear from this guy and hid his post.  Then i read the comments of Anton B. tonight, how he is still mad and posting so on Facebook.  So I decided to not hide this individual's comments.  They are a fellow teacher, and i can't blind myself to another's prejudice because it makes me uncomfortable-I need to be aware.  I am an advocate and mentor for young African American scientists and I need to walk in their shoes.  I need to hear what my colleagues are saying, especially if they are so dumb they can't filter this stuff.  And then I realized, I should post this opinion piece, since it said what I wish this colleague could really learn about he world.

          And then I thought, I am a teacher.  How can I get some lessons on prejudice home to my often narrow-minded students.  When they come to campus, many make friends from different races and different cultures for the first time, and learn to become less prejudiced.  How can I jump start that process?  I read in a comment on CNN from a man who learned at age 12 his father was Jewish.  then he realized he had absorbed prejudices and stereotypes about Jews himself, and now he learned his dad. whom he admired, was also Jewish.  this changed forever how he thought about prejudice.  

          Most of my Appalachian students HAVE experienced prejudice and stereotyping because of their region and their accents.  I plan to ask them about this in my critical thinking class- encourage them to look inward about how unfair that was, and how it made them feel.  I won't make the connection to the Trayvon Martin case directly, but I am hoping to awake some insight into how others acquire and use unfair prejudices, and then ask how they will use their insights to avoid doing the same thing.  Many are Criminal Justice and forensic science majors, so as future law enforcement personnel, this is an important lessor.

          You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you mad. Aldous Huxley

          by murrayewv on Fri Jul 19, 2013 at 01:32:16 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I expect I will have a similar experience soon (5+ / 0-)

            in that the school in which I am teaching is predominantly lower middle class and white. It is a very different setting than the four schools in which I have previously taught

            Kettering Middle Schoo (Prince George's County MD) - about 85-90% African American, mix of working class and middle class

            Eleanor Roosevelt High School (also Prince George's) - majority African-American, but incredibly diverse.  It was not unusual that in a class of 30 at least 2/3 would have at least one parent born in another country  (or both parents, and/or themselves)

            Williamsburg Middle School (arlington VA) - while only aabout 15-20% Afrcian-American or Hispanic, still very diverse, with something like 60-70 languages other than English spoken at home

            Maya Angelou Public Charter Middle School - 100% African-American, 90%+ free and reduced lunch

            North County High School, where I will be teaching, is Anne Arundel County.  One nearby high school, Chesapeake, is to put it bluntly a place where overt racism is too easily experienced.  When i was coaching soccer at Eleanor Roosevelt, we would go there and play every year.  It was not at all unusual for their players to use racial taunting to try to provoke our players.   And I have been told by parents that some of the comments in the stands were pretty bad.

            It will be a different environment for me.  I will as is my practice continue to write about my teaching.

            "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 Fri Jul 19, 2013 at 04:01:36 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  Another thing you might want to show them (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            The blue/eye brown eye experiment


            I found that this not only just speaks to how silly prejudices can be but how they affect the people prejudiced against.

    •  robinson (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Thanks teacherken.
      Very powerful.

    •  an addendum (0+ / 0-)

      as noted in the update in the diary, Robinson tweeted this last night, as if it were his column for today.

      But in the email from the Post today is another piece,  Obama is the wrong person to lead discussion about race

      It is a good column, but not in a class with the one about which I wrote in the diary.

      "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 Fri Jul 19, 2013 at 04:17:17 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Well said on: (18+ / 0-)
    Or if you raise the issue of Zimmerman's violence will say "but what about Black on Black violence?"   To which I will point out all the white on white crime they choose to ignore, including the financial devastation of people's lives by wealthy whites in the financial services industry.  But somehow that doesn't seem to matter.
  •  The Zimemrman apologists need to read this (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, nellgwen, elwior, ExpatGirl

    and then re-read this, and again until they understand!

    Never underestimate stupid. Stupid is how reTHUGlicans win!

    by Mannie on Thu Jul 18, 2013 at 08:42:53 PM PDT

  •  This is at the core of racial superiority. Black (11+ / 0-)

    men can not be trusted, they are unpredictable, prone to violence and always over sexed.  This the legacy of slavery, segregation, Jim Crow, and racism.  Trayvon Benjamin Martin paid the blood price for this aweful history which haunts us still too often.

    •  I've had this idea.... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      ....I don't know if anyone else has thought of anything similar.

      As a protest, every young black man or woman who is in the "age danger zone" which equals a threat to white sensibilties should, whenever in public and as they choose, to raise their arms in the air to clearly show anyone around they are not carrying a weapon. Hell, it's coming that ALL black folk will be required to do this. Just in case.

      I already do this whenever I am pulled over or stopped by the police: I put my bare arms and hands out the driver's side window to make sure the trigger-happy cops in my town are placated and feel "safe" about approaching an old, gray guy and not have any excuses to make a "mistake." Everyone should walk and drive like this. I never carry anything in my hands when walking and keep them out of my pockets. I plan on raising my arms in front of every cop (and "rent-a-cop!") I see when I'm out walking. In protest.

      I hope someone takes this and runs with it...

      "Wealthy the Spirit which knows its own flight. Stealthy the Hunter who slays his own fright. Blessed is the Traveler who journeys the length of the Light."

      by CanisMaximus on Fri Jul 19, 2013 at 12:44:32 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I read it and it is worthy of a Pulitzer... (7+ / 0-)

    Any teacher who  has had Black students has had a Trayvon...and knows that skinny teenage boys are just that...boys and not adults!

    I have taught Freshmen and Third Graders and Sixth Graders and Junior High, and upper High School and minorities and so many students over the years and they were all beautiful and young and goofy and wonderful and smart and so full of promise!

    What a crime!

    Character is what you are in the dark. Emilio Lizardo in Buckaroo Bonzai

    by Temmoku on Thu Jul 18, 2013 at 09:13:46 PM PDT

  •  I'm white, but all these calls for justice are (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ExpatGirl, white blitz

    lacking in that there is nothing explaining how to attack white discrimination.

    I think that's what needs to happen, liberals need to ATTACK white discrimination!

    How? I don't know, but it doesn't look like peaceful marches are going to accomplish jack shit any time soon...

    •  You begin by becoming aware and calling it out (6+ / 0-)

      Since racism starts in the brain before its acted out, it must be called out regularly to make people aware of it.

      This came out in one of the juror's comments on CNN. She began to rethink her own mindset . She bought the defense's story hook, line and sinker without question.
      She failed to make connections on some obvious facts.

      She said that Zimmerman should have stayed in the car.
      Then she said that he had a right to defend himself if he was attacked. She failed to see that Trayvon had a right to defend himself too against a stranger who was stalking him.

      How could she  blindly fail to see that Trayvon had rights too? If she is an honest person, she will speak out more on how ill prepared she was to make the judgment she had to make.

      Its  moral cowardice to ignore this sin called racism. It robs people of their potential and should be a crime. I hope I won't fail when I am called upon the next time to call it out. If we do it together it will become easier.

    •  In appalachia..... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      teacherken, gramofsam1, orlbucfan

      I plan to draw attention to how folks feel when people assume they are violent, ignorant, inbred meth users who live in single-wide trailers in a holler.  And then ask them how that makes them feel, and how they can overcome that stereotype short of hiring a language coach.  Won't work for everyone, but it is useful here.

      You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you mad. Aldous Huxley

      by murrayewv on Fri Jul 19, 2013 at 01:45:02 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Amen! (0+ / 0-)

      The first thing we need to do is stop tiptoeing around racists and start calling them what they are - and to their face. Amazing how much they don't like that and how quickly their defenses go up. They know racism is wrong but until called out, they will continue to up the rhetoric.

      I don't know how we address the echo chambers of the Internet. One day, I will put the time into researching the effect the medium has had on the coarsening of society and the strengthening of hate groups.

      It is ridiculous that pointing to racism has become a bigger crime than the racism itself.

  •  Zimmerman may have been judged innocent... (6+ / 0-)

    ...but America (at least certain parts like Florida) has been found guilty of institutionalized racism.

    Too many racists with too much power.

    Daily Kos an oasis of truth. Truth that leads to action.

    by Shockwave on Thu Jul 18, 2013 at 11:17:23 PM PDT

    •  not quite, Al (6+ / 0-)

      Zimmerman was judged as not guilty -  that is, that the jury found the prosecution had not proven him guilty "beyond a reasonable doubt."  Remember, on the first vote one juror wanted to convict him of 2nd degree murder and 2 of manslaughter.  I don't think one can say that the jury unanimously found him "innocent'

      "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 Fri Jul 19, 2013 at 04:03:35 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  That is an important point (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Shockwave, orlbucfan

        Most of the poeple who are convicted of crimes plead guilty to some sort of lesser offense.  

        The defendant enters a plea to the charges brought by the U.S. attorney at a hearing known as an arraignment. Most defendants — more than 90% — plead guilty rather than go to trial. If a defendant pleads guilty in return for the government agreeing to drop certain charges or to recommend a lenient sentence, the agreement often is called a "plea bargain."
        It is my understanding that many people who are actually innocent plead gulity because they view the risk of conviction and then having a maximum sentence imposed is too great.

        The criminal burden of proof, i.e. beyond a reasonable doubt, is a very high burden and is difficult to prove.  The deck is usually stacked against the defendant because jurors tend to give police witnesses too much credibility, in my opinion.  The Zimmerman case seems to be different, however.  From the begining, Zimmerman was given the benefit of the doubt, which is atypical for a criminal defendant.  I don't know how much Martin's skin color played in all of it, but one would have to have just fallen from the turnip truck to believe it had no impact.

        I do not feel obligated to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use -- Galileo Galilei

        by ccyd on Fri Jul 19, 2013 at 05:52:33 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Today I sat in a parking lot... (4+ / 0-)

    ...eating my filet-o-fish dinner and watching some cops hassle someone in the parking lot.  Afterword one came over and asked me if everything was ok.  In other words an excuse to see who I was.  I have to wonder how it would have went down if I was black or otherwise minority.

    Also, yesterday I watch Addison police hassle some poor people in the WalMart parking lot, I think they may have been panhandling.  Since when is being poor a crime for fucks sake.  And the walmart managers or security people watching from a large distance, I bet they called the cops even though the people were on the very edge of their parking lot by the road sitting under a tree.  As I drove by them they gave me the stink eye and you bet I gave it right back.  I can't imagine the hostility to them, the wal mart people, didn't show in my face.  Serious assholes.

    We Glory in war, in the shedding of human blood. What fools we are.

    by delver rootnose on Thu Jul 18, 2013 at 11:55:18 PM PDT

    •  The Rich Man's Army. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      delver rootnose, orlbucfan

      There are so many examples of what you describe EVERY DAY EVERYWHERE. It has always been this way to some degree, mostly in urban environs.

      Now, it's everywhere. Most people I talk to do not respect law enforcement. They believe -rightly so- that the various LEOS from the Feds on down to County Mountie are selective in who they target, prosecute, harrass, and maintain policies which are "anti-public" and only protect the Rich and the police themselves. They have been militarized and it would seem every little podunk agency has a SWAT team and all of them seem so eager to use them.

      Fuck the police.

      "Wealthy the Spirit which knows its own flight. Stealthy the Hunter who slays his own fright. Blessed is the Traveler who journeys the length of the Light."

      by CanisMaximus on Fri Jul 19, 2013 at 12:59:11 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  At the bottom of Robinson's column is a link (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, Fenric, ExpatGirl

    to a column by Jonathan Capehart. Here's the link. It's worth a read as well. I watch both of these men on MSNBC almost every day, and only rarely have I heard them speak about race and their experiences. Their columns and comments made by other African American commentators over the course of this trial have been real eye-openers for this white lady. I have fears when I go out into the world, but I have the safety of the police. And nobody feels threatened by this little old lady. And I feel horribly guilty that I never knew how perilous the world is for black people. I'm a liberal, dammit. I'm aware of all the statistics, but I hadn't put it all together until I heard the fear in all the parent's voices as they pondered what to teach their children. For someone who's been a rebel all my life, always coming up with ideas for protests, solutions to daily aggravations, I don't have a clue how to make this hell stop. I'm paralyzed by the mourning.

    •  As white parent of four children I struggle, too (0+ / 0-)

      I have conversations with my kids from time to time about how they should react to the police.  After having participated in lectures in law school and having seen other lectures on video, I have come to the conclusion that the best way to deal with the police is to invoke your 5th Amendment privilege from the moment you see them.  If you are a witness to a crime and the police want to interview you, you tell them (politely) that you would be happy to give a deposition pursuant to a subpoena and nothing else.  That goes double if they think they might be a suspect.  It is not a matter of respect for the police, but rather a greater respect for the Consitution and demanding that the police and prosecutors respect it as well.

      My brother has to have a different set of conversations with his kids.  He is married to a wonderful black woman (who was a friend of mine before they even met, although I did not set them up).  I have encouraged him to advise his children to use ther 5th Amendment privilege.  I am not in his shoes and he has to forge his own path.

      I do not feel obligated to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use -- Galileo Galilei

      by ccyd on Fri Jul 19, 2013 at 06:12:21 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  The culture of obedience aims for compliance. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    orlbucfan, white blitz

    When compliance is the issue, the demands are likely to be irrational because behavior has to be coerced. Rational demands are not coercive.

    The culture of obedience, in addition to being focused on compliance, is cowardly. That's probably to be expected, since coercion risks not just resistance, but retaliation. So, in the interest of avoiding the risk of retaliatory behavior, the targets of the culture of obedience are those individuals perceived as least likely to resist. That's why, for example, almost no guns are actually discovered as a result of hundreds of thousands of people being frisked on the streets of New York. That's why it should be obvious that the search for weapons is just an excuse. The real purpose of targeting a minority of the population with indignities is to set an example and send the message that, "if you don't behave yourself, you're next." That is the correct reading of what happened to the participants in OWS. Neither, btw, was targeting the women a happenstance. Inoffensive females are next in the line of risk-free targets.

    That thousands of women are killed each year is also not a happenstance. The culture of obedience needs visible victims to demonstrate it means business. This also accounts for the culture of rape that is being countenanced in the military services.

    The culture of obedience accounts for the prevalence of abuse of all kinds. When compliance is the objective, abuse is the tools of choice for the simple reason that dead people can't do what they are told. It is our misfortune that the fixation on death disguises that fact and, in many cases, gives abuse a pass.

    We organize governments to deliver services and prevent abuse.

    by hannah on Fri Jul 19, 2013 at 04:21:58 AM PDT

  •  Black boys are not allowed to be teenagers (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ExpatGirl, white blitz

    in America. So true. Society considers Black teenage men and women before  they're girls and boys. White kids have the privilege of being young and forgiven, while Black kids, particularly young Black boys are held to a high standard, a standard that is not applied to White kids.

  •  It made me's so painful, the shame. (0+ / 0-)
  •  I am a 6'8" - 300 lbs White Man (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, furrfu, white blitz

    I never once worried about people following me, eyeing me, etc.

    Then I made a new friend who happend to be 6'8" - 300 lbs black man.

    We would go into bars and the bouncer would follow us, and watch us.  We would stop at 7-11 and the counter staff would stop and watch.

    Etc - Etc - Etc

    This was 20 years ago now, but before I hung out with this man, I thought it was overblown, that the person did something, or for whatever reason it was the person's fault.

    I learned it wasn't

    I am a statistician, not a magician although we are easily confused. I guess that explains why people keep trying to tie me in chains and place me under water.

    by Edge PA on Fri Jul 19, 2013 at 07:44:22 AM PDT

    •  I used to work in a retail store that sold high- (0+ / 0-)

      end marine electronics, among other boating supplies. After being there a few years and being repeated ripped off, by stealth, by smash-and-grab and other scams like fake credit cards, you get a sense that tells you a customer, white, black, latino, whatever, is not "right," and yeas, until the cheap-ass suits who run the company cut the staffing to the point that there was only one person to do EVERYTHING in a 5,000-square-foot store with seven aisles and various alcoves and bathrooms, etc., the people who looked "wrong" did get followed and even run out of the store. And this was a chain with several stores in the same area, and the thieves would work their way up or down the main route pulling the same stuff at each store, so when we had an incident, we would call the staff at each of the other stores to let them know there were problem people on the prowl.

      Not to say that the reflexive bullshit attitudes of most of us toward people with different eye color or skin tones -- I personally am a mixture of cream and tan with a little cyan in it, and others are various mixtures of rich red and gold and ochre and coffee and obsidian, all of us with the same pink and yellowish palms and soles -- is anything but stupid effing wrong.

      The worst part of all of it is knowing first, that we can do better, second, that we are unlikely to, and third, that the cynical shits who rule us and divide and conquer us use this congenital weakness to manipulate us and keep us weak and at each others' throats, rather than combining to make life better for all of us.

      "Is that all there is?" Peggy Lee.

      by jm214 on Fri Jul 19, 2013 at 09:34:38 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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