But when I click through the link, I just find a column (by Eugene Robinson) that portrays the verdict in the George Zimmerman case to mean: "Our society considers young black men to be dangerous, interchangeable, expendable, guilty until proven innocent."
Legally, that makes no sense. If Trayvon Martin were on trial for beating up George Zimmerman and had argued that he acted in self-defense, the jury would have had to view Zimmerman as guilty until proven innocent. I'm sure Robinson knows that, which is why he said "Our society considers" instead of sticking to the confines of court procedure, even as he appropriated the legal lingo of burden of proof.
If the legal doctrine that governed the jury's decision-making precludes the interpretation that the jury found Trayvon Martin to be dangerous, interchangeable, and expendable, what is the basis for the assertion that our society considers young black men to be dangerous, interchangeable, expendable? Robinson's next sentence is "This is the conversation about race that we desperately need to have — but probably, as in the past, will try our best to avoid."
Okay, let me attempt that conversation, Mr. Robinson.
Here's my response to what you just said. I think our society demonstrated great care toward Trayvon Martin, even to the point of putting Zimmerman through a trial that should not have happened. That is, it was an excess of care for Martin, a bending-over-backwards to show that we care about Martin and all the young men he was seen to represent. And now, after an extensive, careful trial, and a jury verdict that clearly hewed to well-honed instructions about evidence and burden of proof, you still want to use it to assert that we don't care. If that's the kind of conversation we get when we try to respond to the invitation to have a conversation, can you see why it's something we avoid?
Now, just there, I did not avoid. I tried to be game about conversation, and I said what I truly think, which is probably what other conversation-about-race avoiders think. If you really mean "conversation," then let's continue, with a fair response to that. If what you really mean by "conversation" is let me lecture you until you humbly accede, then could you please stop calling it a "conversation"?
Reading further into the article, I see I've got to take back my overly optimistic statement "I'm sure Robinson knows that." I'm not sure, because to say I believe that Robinson knows that — "If Trayvon Martin were on trial for beating up George Zimmerman and had argued that he acted in self-defense, the jury would have had to view Zimmerman as guilty until proven innocent" — is to say that Robinson is deliberately deceiving when he writes:
The assumption underlying [the jury's] 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.That assumption is either ignorant or shamefully deceptive. The accused is the one whose rights are systematically protected in the criminal process. Is that too boring? Ho-hum?! Ho-hum for all the rights of the criminally accused! Even if all Robinson cares about is how young black males are treated, young black males — the ones that still live — need these rights too. If the police — who had already been called — had arrived before Zimmerman saw fit to shoot his gun, if they had caught Trayvon Martin on top of Zimmerman, pinning him down, and knocking his head into concrete, they would have arrested Martin, and Martin would have benefited from those rights you think are ho-hum when they protect Zimmerman.
So there, I've now said 2 things in the "conversation" Robinson wants to have. And I'll say one more, and it's why I found the front-page teaser "Why are black boys expendable?" heart-wrenching. It's because so many young black males do end up shot dead or in prison. Can we talk about that? Or are must we fixate on the one young black male selected to be the conversation piece?