Continuing the Talk about Equality and Justice

I know, I intimated last week that I was going to talk about sex, and here I am, post 3 for 3 this week talking about race instead.

My family motto (and I mean me, Dan, and the kids) is: All things are subject to change at any time.

On Monday, I wrote, in brief, about the equality gap. And that’s my take, overall, that that’s the real challenge we are facing in America. On Tuesday, I linked to a bunch of people who said it a lot better than I did.

Today, Pittsburgh bloggers are publishing more thoughts about Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman. I’ll be reading most of them, and commenting on those I can, and I hope you will too.

It’s important to talk about this.

Overt racism, although it still exists, is not the bigger problem. Systemic, institutionalized racism, the inequality of our criminal justice system, the economic and class system America still supports — these are the deeper issues. These are the areas that need to be addressed, need to (still) be redressed.

In June, the Supreme Court struck down part of the Voting Rights Act. They didn’t strike it down because it wasn’t needed anymore, and they didn’t strike it down because it was wholly unconstitutional. They struck it down because it was applied across the states unevenly. That is, more states South of the Mason-Dixon line got more federal scrutiny that most other states (because they had a proven poor record of letting blacks vote).

The Supreme Court said, We can’t uphold this, and Congress needs to rewrite it so it applies to every state the same way. We can’t target anyone.

And in the meantime, lots of states, Pennsylvania included, dusted off their Voter ID laws to get them moving through state legislatures again.

Disenfranchisement is disenfranchisement, folks. If it’s the law of the land that “those people” can’t vote, then it’s a law for a reason. If a generation — another generation — internalizes that black skin is suspicious, that Hispanics are lazy, that American Indians are drunks (do I have my stereotypes right there?) — then my generation of parents will have failed.

And if we don’t speak out about Trayvon Martin getting shot, about the Voting Rights Act getting struck down, about sexism in the military, about gun control, about gay rights, then we aren’t doing our job. As parents, as decent people.

I really believe that.

Oh, and on another note, and something I’ve been wrestling with this week: Dan and I don’t have any black friends. It’s been bothering us, mostly because we’ve had black friends in the past (and not like the token black friend — actual friends). I have some online acquaintances of different colors and races, but most of the people I socialize with are white.

This was especially brought home to me recently when my younger daughter referred to one of my friends as my brown friend. She (my friend) is of Sicilian descent, and somewhat tan.

And thinking this way: is it in itself racist? I understand why I don’t have black friends at this time. I live in a suburb. I send my kids to a private school. Compared to the public schools in our district, the school is not wildly diverse — it’s not 100% white, either, nor would I want it to be that way.

So I wonder about this, and then I wonder about making black friends, and then I wonder if that looks like I’m looking for a token black friend, and then I’m all like, “Isn’t this line of thought in itself racist?”

You see what we’re up against here, talking about race. It feels to me like I’m talking the talk but not walking the walk. I’m not sure how to change that right now.

Anyway, go and read. Express your thoughts. (Go see Becky at She’s got a link to all the posts. I’m not tech saavy enough to load it here for some reason.)

I always say, if we were all the same, life would be boring.

Blame the Victim

The thing I couldn’t wrap my head around regarding the George Zimmerman case and his trial was that it seemed to be the ultimate blame-the-victim strategy.

The fact of the case is pretty clear: Trayvon Martin was shot dead by George Zimmerman. That is indisputable.

After that, all is unclear. Or rather, before Martin was shot, all is unclear.

What it came down to was that the defense pretty much had to put the blame on Martin — an unarmed, black teen — for causing his own death. It wasn’t Zimmerman’s responsibility, even though he followed Martin after being instructed not to by a police dispatcher, and he was carrying a gun.

Zimmerman was the only witness to the killing, and he (and his defense) controlled the narrative. The jury did their job; the prosecution simply couldn’t prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. We can go back and forth all day about race, guns, civil rights, and justice.

A boy died. And no one is going to pay for that. Because of the way the prosecutors tried the case, instead of being able to show how Zimmerman broke the law, they had to prove… something impossible to prove. That Zimmerman — again, the only eye witness — acted out of hate and malice instead of out of self defense.

Self-defense in this case bothers me. (“Stand your ground”, which was not brought into this case, would bother me more. It’s a bad law.) Zimmerman was not in his car, on his property, or in his house. At any point before he was shot, did Martin know Zimmerman had a gun?

Invoking self-defense, to me, sounds like “It’s not my fault that I killed this person. I had to. Otherwise, I would have died.”

There’s no way to prove that, obviously. Zimmerman did not take the stand. It’s not even “he said, he said”. More like, “They said, and he’s dead anyway so you’ll have to take our word for it.”

He’s alive, Martin’s dead. The justice system worked, but to what end?

To the end that says, “It’s the victim’s fault.”

This is the glaring absence for me, that the law is not applied evenly across the board.

It’s the woman’s fault she was raped. It’s the boy’s fault he was killed. It’s time to abandon the idea that bad things happen to people who are asking for it.

I know it will take a generation or two to reach equality for all classes, colors, and crimes under the law. We’ve come a long way since the idea that women and people of color were mere property; we’ve come a long way from the suffragette movement and the Civil Rights Act.

We’ve got farther to go. We’re not done. As I wrote before regarding gun control laws, the status quo will not stand. That Trayvon Martin is dead, and that “it’s okay” in the name of self-defense conclusively proves that. That we sometimes question “is that rape?” proves that. That the law is different for some people — because of class, or sex, or skin color — proves that.

And it’s not okay, and it’s time to speak out. It’s time for change.