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by Dr. Boyce Watkins
Leonard Pitts of the Miami Herald explores the manner in which George Zimmerman’s race played a role in the public’s reaction to the killing of Trayvon Martin. Pitts speculates that Zimmerman could have easily been black, since many African Americans would have responded to a “suspicious-looking” black male in the same way. In his article, Pitts says the following:
Indeed, the dirty little secret of the Martin killing is that Mr. Zimmerman could easily have been black. True, a black Zimmerman probably would not have been sent home by prosecutors who declined to press charges — whiteness still has its privileges — but otherwise, yes. It is entirely possible.
Why not? Blacks watch the same TV news as anyone else. We internalize the same message. We drink the same poison.
Why else do you think black folk flinch when the mug shot goes up on television, hoping the face will not be brown — as if we bore some communal responsibility for the suspect’s misdeeds? Why else do you think so much of our music is a song of violence and crime? Why else, when I ask an auditorium full of black kids how frequently the individual who murders a white person is black, do they figure it at 75 percent? Why else are they shocked to hear it’s only 13?
At some subterranean level, we — African-Americans — still believe the garbage of innate criminality we have so assiduously been fed and struggle with hating ourselves, as America long ago taught us to do. We struggle with it, yet we know better from firsthand, man-in-the-mirror experience. So how much harder is the struggle for white folks?
Here are some other random thoughts about how the Trayvon Martin case would have changed had George Zimmerman been black:
1) There would not have been a national protest- hundreds of black teens have died since Trayvon and almost no one has said a word.
2) Zimmerman would not have been allowed to walk away – Stand your ground is not a very good on-the-spot defense for black people, just ask Marissa Alexander, the woman who faces 20 years prison after standing her ground against an undeniably abusive husband.
3) The NRA would not be raising money to defend Zimmerman, since they are not nearly as anxious for black men to have guns.
4) We wouldn’t be bending over backward trying to prove Zimmerman to be a racist, as if that has anything to do with what he did to Trayvon that night.
5) The Obama Administration would have nothing to say, since it rarely speaks up on the large numbers of black men being killed every single day. However, if gay kids in the suburbs were being killed at the same rate, it would be a national crisis.