There: six words. Have you heard of the six-word essay concept? Or the race card project? Michele Norris, with NPR, is asking folks all over to sum up their feelings and thoughts about race in a six-word essay. Right now, most of the replies are coming in as a reaction to and comment on the Trayvon Martin killing. My six word essay is the title to this piece.
Six words is never enough. If it were, I wouldn't be blogging. And I want to make the case that the title/essay stands separate from race issues and is still equally valid.
Of course race is a part of what happened. A white guy with a gun decided a kid in a hoodie, a "f...ing coon" as he told the 911 operator, was up to no good. Why? WWB. Walking while black. The claims by Zimmerman and his buddies that he's not a racist are absurd on their face. The kid was profiled. He's hispanic, they say, as if that makes a difference? What? Hispanic folks can't be bigots too? In what magical world is that true?
Of course race is also a part of what didn't happen. Zimmerman wasn't drug and alcohol tested by the same police that tested the kid's body. He wasn't arrested. Somehow he was able to sustain a claim of self defense against a kid he stalked in his vehicle, a kid smaller and much, much younger than he was, a kid "armed" with a bag of skittles to Zimmerman's gun. You know, 'cause the kid was, well, let's face it, black. That means he was automatically guilty of something and deserved what he got. Right?
You don't have to be black to be outraged at what happened, at how horribly common it is, how terribly unjust and tragic. Race is in every bit of that. Were it not for race, this never would have happened. I get that.
But I want to point out that race is not the deciding factor in why Zimmerman should be arrested, his claims of self-defense obliterated, and his freedom taken away for a long number of years.
Zimmerman committed murder. Plain, simple murder. And here's why. Every step of the way he was the instigator. He decided the kid was "up to no good" with absolutely no evidence to the contrary. He kept following the kid even after calling 911 and being told by the operator that his actions were not necessary. He got out of the vehicle where he was perfectly safe and confronted the kid. Every step of the way, he escalated the action, unnecessarily. And once the terrified kid finally clocked him on the nose, he had all the excuse he'd been actively seeking to claim self-defense and pull his gun. A kid is dead and he labels himself a hero. No, it's murder. Plain, ugly, murder.
Somebody wanna throw me on the jury?
I know another case where race issues never muddied the waters. An accident was claimed, and from the same reasoning, the perpetrator escalating the action, a prison term was earned. In this case, it was a divorced couple, Chris and Mark Cole, former neighbors of mine. She drove him home from a visit with their boys, living with their mom. She at least, possibly both, had been drinking, and an argument started. She pulled over and kicked him out of the car. After driving away, she returned to give him the cell phone he'd left behind, and incidentally to continue the argument. She drove away again, and again returned. It was repeated a fourth time. Only this time when she returned, she hit him with her car with enough force to send his body across the road and land such that he was declared brain-dead at the hospital.
Her claim that it was an accident was negated by her continuing to return and escalate the fight. She had several chances to leave and stay away, but she just couldn't let it go. Each time her choice of action was one that brought her closer to the killing point. She, like Zimmerman, could have prevented the ensuing death at any of several points. She, like Zimmerman, was in pursuit of conflict.
Hopefully Zimmerman, like she did, will spend time behind bars.
It won't be enough, in either case. Two boys are growing up without their father. A family has forever lost a child. A little justice doesn't seem too much to ask. At least I hope not.
My other six-word essay on race is: Unequal justice, unequal hope, unequal lives.