Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Another Look at the George Zimmerman Case

A miserable evening, the prenight sky darken and dampened by a fine mist, not heavy enough to be rain, but far from dry.  A young man on a cell phone shuffles home from a convenience store.  Despite the drizzle, he moves slowly, enjoying his fleeting freedom.  He complains about his overbearing father, wannabe step-mother, and little brother to his companion on the phone.  He just wants to be home with his friends ...

A miserable evening, the prenight sky darkened and dampened by a fine mist, not heavy enough to be rain, but far from dry.  A young man starts his pick-up truck, debating whether or not he needs to turn on his windshield wipers.  As he backs up out of his space, he noticed a hooded figure walking towards the footpath behind the townhouses.  He flashes to the six month string of burglaries--each time, witnesses described seeing hooded figures carrying out the stolen goods ...

A young man in a dark hoodie notices a stopped car, lights on, driver is just staring at him.  What did he do to justify this?

A young man in a pick-up truck calls the police as he tries to follow the figure in his vehicle.  As the figure disappears behind the townhouses, the young man tells the 9-1-1 operator that he is getting out to follow the figure.  Though the operator specifically tells the young man to stay in his vehicle, he pursues the figure--this is his chance to be a hero.

"I'm being followed by some creepy-ass cracker."  Anger.  Annoyance.  First he cannot be where he wants; now he cannot go where he doesn't want to be without somebody up in his business. 

"He ran."  Assumed guilt--innocent people do not run.

A confrontation: a wannabe-G against a police wannabe.  Anger on both sides.  Betrayal and hurt.  A young man is dead. Another has killed someone who was innocent.  Both become folk heroes.  Both deified and exulted by their respective supporters.  One young man is dead.  The other, his life might as well be over.

We look at this case as a sign that racism is alive and well in this country.  Liberals line up on the side that is "right;" conservatives line up on the side that is "white."  We look at this case and see a dead Black boy and a living White Hispanic (which is the first time that I have heard that term and I am a "White Hispanic).  We want it to be about Black and White because that is easy, when the issues at play in this case are far more complicated and involve the nuances of Florida's "Stand Your Ground," self-defense and conceal-and-carry laws.  It involves understanding sociological archetypes that would drive this confrontation, and yes race may have played a factor, but it was not the only one.  It also means that we would have to look at this case as two young men instead of a man and a boy because 17 is still a minor, but far from boyhood and 28 is technically adult, but many 28-year-old men are still in the later stages of puberty.  We had a perfect storm, a convergence of many factors that resulted in unneeded death and destruction, but the media and in turn, society wanted to pare it down to race because racism is something that everyone easily understands and can fit into a sound bite for the teaser for the 11 o'clock news.

Society craves the easy way out which is why we, as teachers, must demand rigor.  We cannot let our students slide into black and white debates--they must see nuances--they must see the rainbow for all of its glory.

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