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Thursday, July 18, 2013

Convict George Zimmerman of idiocy but . . . .

George Zimmerman employed extremely poor judgment.  George Zimmerman -- and people like him -- should not be permitted to carry firearms under any circumstances.  Zimmerman was the direct and proximate cause of the death of a human being -- Trayvon Martin -- a teenage boy who was simply minding his own business that night, but who attracted Zimmerman's attention by being black and wearing a hoodie.  The result of Zimmerman's stupidity -- in getting out of his car, following Martin, etc., was completely foreseeable.  He was a Pillsbury dough boy with a gun.  If the confrontation he started ended up in a fight, he would lose -- but for the gun.  And since confrontations often end up in fights, the gun came out and a boy is dead.

A jury has apparently found that Zimmerman acted in self defense.  Apparently the prosecution had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that it was NOT self defense.  And there, the fact that Zimmerman was a wimpy, overweight, soft, wannabe cop worked very much in his favor.  The jury could well believe that the athletic black kid got the upper hand, and was winning the fight.  And apparently if they believed that, then it was ok for Zimmerman to pull out his gun and shoot Martin dead.

But I'm not here to talk about that.

I feel bad for the black community.  I admit I'm white, or white-ish, but in my defense I've spent over $100,000 trying to better the lives of black people.  I like black people a lot.  I have black friends.  I have black kids.  I have a black son who wears a hoodie sometimes.  I am worried for him.

But here's what I am sick and tired of.  I am sick and tired of seeing letters or Op-Eds from Ivy League African American males who complain that America is racist and that the result of it is that they can't go outside wearing a hoodie because (1) white people look at them with suspicion, and (2) sometimes they even get stopped and possibly even searched by the police.

Ok, I've been stopped and searched by the police, apparently because I resembled another white guy.  Unusual perhaps, but I got over it.  Just another story to tell.  So I'm not really sharing the sense of  "humiliation" that these Ivy League African Americans feel so deeply when they are stopped or suspected.  Afterwards, they can still go home and look at their diplomas.  I can't quite figure out what causes the alleged "humiliation," although I sense that my situation is somehow different.

I thought of a fable that might help us analyze the problem.

Imagine there is a place where the only two species are lions and hyenas.  Ok, let's humanize them a little -- they can talk and some of them wear hats.  Usually, lions and hyenas get along just fine -- many lions have hyena friends, and vice versa, and hey, they even intermarry. But the fact of the matter is, one out of every ten lions, if he happens to be having a bad day, and is hungry, will chase down and kill and eat a hyena.  Pretty easy to do, since lions are bigger, smarter, faster, and stronger (and better looking) than hyenas.  Interestingly though, the only lions who have ever been seen doing this are lions wearing hats.

Now hats are kind of a fashion statement with lions.  So a lot of lions wear hats, and they like to wear hats.  They feel they have almost a natural right to wear a hat.

But what happens?  Hyenas begin to grow wary around lions with hats.  They know that most such lions are harmless and friendly -- and maybe even graduates of Ivy League schools -- but they can't see past the fact that lions with hats are responsible for a disproportionate amount of the hyena killing and eating that goes on.

So what's a hyena to do?  They cross to the other side of the street.  If they happen to be the police -- and have weapons to back themselves up -- they might question lions with hats who seem to be walking in mostly-hyena neighborhoods.

And now, what's a decent, Ivy-Educated male lion supposed to do?  He has a choice.  Either stop wearing the hat -- and the hyenas will treat you as harmless and accept you as a "good" lion, or keep wearing the hat, and put up with the scared looks, and the possible police harassment.  Neither choice is perfect.  But at least you're a lion, not a hyena.  Some people are born blind, deaf, or otherwise handicapped.  Some people are born ugly or grow ugly as they age.  Some people go bald.  Life is unfair in many ways.  This is one small way in which life is admittedly unfair to lions.  But what am I (a hyena) supposed to do about it?

For the lions who truly want to make a difference:  they can work within their own community to try to stop the hungry hat-wearing lions from eating hyenas.  For the lions who'd rather simply cash in on their Ivy League degrees, they can write whiny letters to newspapers.

And the Ivy-Educated African American males have the same choices.  Don't they?  Somebody tell me what I'm missing.

Ok, I see I've written something very similar to the column that Richard Cohen wrote earlier this week in the Washington Post about Racism vs. Reality.  And yes, I read the column when it came out.  I don't think I would use the same terms that Cohen did (I'd much rather just keep talking about lions and hyenas).  In fact, it was the first-published comment (of 4000) -- by an Ivy League African American male complaining about the way he is treated when he wears a hoodie -- that caused this particular rant.  If Cohen's remarks are racist (and lots of people seem to think they are), then maybe so are mine.  But I am nothing if not educable.  Please educate me!

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