Nearly 7,000 blacks are killed annually in the U.S. according to Bureau of Justice statistics. Moreover, more than 90 percent of the victims are killed by other blacks. It’s tragic. It’s outrageous. But it’s numbingly statistical. It’s not the sort of visceral affront that overwhelms the media or invokes societal soul-searching.
For that to happen requires a high-profile, black-white murder. One that disturbingly reminds Americans that, no, we are nowhere near a “post-racial” United States. Everyone can identify. Everyone can empathize. Everyone can see a familiar agenda and stereotypes at play.
Which brings us, inevitably, to the Trayvon Martin case. Last February, an ambling, ice tea-sipping, unarmed black teenager was shot and killed in a Sanford subdivision by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman. Martin was black; Zimmerman is not.
Pass out the race cards. Cue the racial-profiling rhetoric. Call Al Sharpton.
But Zimmerman is not “white.” His mother, Gladys, is Hispanic–Peruvian. Her grandfather was Afro-Peruvian. His father, Robert, is Caucasian-American. Zimmerman arguably looks Hispanic enough. But “Zimmerman” is a white surname. And in America, racial killings are historically steeped in black-white ignominy and viewed through a black-white prism. So, just wondering. If Zimmerman’s parentage were reversed–and his name were, say, Jorge Zambrano–would this case have the same inimitably American racial-and-racist legs?
If not, there might be more attention put where it belongs: on America’s insidious gun culture. The ease–even cachet–of a concealed carry permit. The popularity–and blatant misappropriation–of Florida’s “stand your ground” law.
Maybe we should be “profiling” the locked-and-loaded crowd.