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July 18, 2013
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A subtle race card

People with a long racial history of being lynched now would lynch a man acquitted of murder in a self-defense case.

Some have been quoted and even Tweeted as much. There’s your high tech reference, to bastardize a quote by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas during his rocky confirmation.

According to a loud minority, a jury in Sanford, Fla., may have spoken, but it spoke the wrong words: Not guilty.

Never mind that prosecutors could not make the case. Never mind the due process broadcast nationally from that courtroom.

This verdict will not do. There must be another trial, and maybe another. Hang double jeopardy, hang the facts and hang Florida law. This must be tried and tried again to reach the right result.

An unarmed, black teenager simply could not have been shot to death in self-defense by an overzealous Neighborhood Watch volunteer.

This can be only further evidence of racism persisting to the point that white people get away with murder when the victim is black.

Never mind that the accused actually is Hispanic. His father is Caucasion, and “Zimmerman” runs off the tongue differently than, say, “Mesa,” his Latino mother’s maiden name. Seems the theme would be more difficult to carry off if the parental ethnicity were switched.

We do seem awfully intent on making this tragedy a black and white tale, one that hearkens to the old South, the old racial rifts and an older America before multiracial marriage took hold.

Our president, the son of a black father and white mother, identifies as black, but he’s as much white genetically, even with the darker hue of his skin.

All this is missing the point, of course, in the place of this story on the wider conversation that thought leaders, advocates and much of the African-American community seem to want to have about race relations today.

The facts of the case just don’t quite fit right, though. And maybe that’s part of how race has become more complicated.

The case in court was relatively simple. A Neighborhood Watch volunteer entangled himself with a kid he suspected of being up to no good, but was walking home through the neighborhood. In their struggle, the volunteer shot the kid to death.

The jury heard the full case and found the volunteer not guilty according to Florida’s self-defense laws.

It was a tragedy. The volunteer surely exercised bad judgment. But he did not commit a crime, as determined in a full trial.

End of story, other than the usual course of appeals and a likely civil case. Or should be.

But I would think this, wouldn’t I, as a middle-aged white dude with no family remembrances of ugly incidents, obvious injustices committed by my community establishment in the way black generations have endured.

I’m struck by the degree to which our reason and logic on this is inescapably colored by our race. Our divide remains real.


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The VailDaily Updated Jul 18, 2013 08:13PM Published Jul 29, 2013 11:35AM Copyright 2013 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.