What Was the Shooter Taking Back?
Never touch anything in a store.
I still remember an African-American colleague telling me what she warned her two sons, decades ago. When they went to a department store or a toy store in New York, they were under strict orders to keep their hands at their sides, lest somebody get the wrong idea.
Knowing how people love to touch things – and how hands-on is tolerated as a normal part of business – I could only cringe at the double standard my friend had to inculcate in her sons.
The perceptions are still out there, even with an African-American president in the White House. Or maybe because of it.
Take back our country. That sentiment careens around the Internet. What is worse is that versions of it are put forth by elected officials like Eric Cantor, the man with the most sour expression in Congress, who recently said Mitt Romney would “get us back on track.”
Everybody knows the code. It was no accident that Cantor echoed the resentful tone that has been going around since November of 2008. The Trumps and Palins and McConnells of the country have been treating the president as an interloper, an outsider. Wonder why.
I have no way of knowing what was bouncing around in the mind of George Zimmerman, 28, who allegedly followed and killed Trayvon Martin, 17, in Florida three weeks ago. Was this volunteer vigilante hopped up by the rhetoric in Congress and the campaign trails, that things are not quite right at the moment? Or does the traditional racist undertone of the country survive on its own, without blatant help from prominent politicians?
Any of us with friends and relatives of color know the double takes and the stares.
Children, particularly boys, are warned to watch their step when they go out.
The photos of Trayvon Martin will break your heart. The sweet trusting smile. Surely, this young man heard the warnings from loved ones to be careful out in public.
Even then, with the gun laws and the stand-your-ground law in Florida and the inflamed rhetoric going around, any caution Trayvon Martin had learned in his 17 years was not enough, as he ran into a stranger with his own notion of taking something back.
3/21/2012 08:43:36 am
It is a shame and tragedy that our country cannot escape our racist history.
3/22/2012 04:44:48 am
George, a thoughtful commentary on our terrible problem of race that sticks to us like mud on a hot and humid August afternoon. We must confront the existential empiness and foolishness of encouraging people that they are superior to other human beings, whether it be race, class, education, etc. Every single person on this earth is unique and is good at something. We must devalue the idea of superiority. It is childish, hurtful, and in this case, fatal.
3/22/2012 05:52:41 am
An unarmed boy with candy in his pocket is dead and cannot speak to us from the grave. An armed professional vigilante admits to killing him. That right there is enough for me. But there is still more. Tapes indicate he confronted the kid. Arrest him, charge him and let a jury of his peers to their duty. The pressure belongs on the Florida prosecutors to do justice and bring the charges.
3/22/2012 11:49:47 pm
Perfectly said, George. And on a personal note, we have decided not to come to NYC this spring; Costa Rica called and we are answering, Have never been there. Hope to get to the city one of these days, though, and renew old acquaintances.
3/24/2012 11:19:02 am
Amen. I wish I would get some sort of alert when you post, although reading the pieces in bunches is also good.
3/25/2012 02:12:19 am
Tom, I think I tweet at @georgevecsey.
3/26/2012 04:49:43 am
Martin-Zimmerman is a tragedy, but until all the facts are known it's counterproductive and asinine to assess blame: eg Duke Lacrosse Team, Tawana Brawley, et al.
3/27/2012 05:39:49 am
To fbanta, you are right that we need to wait until the facts are in. It is cringe inducing when political leaders use an event to rally thier cause, even when the cause is good, before the facts are in. It could discredit them and the cause if the facts don't fall in line with thier original narrative which they got people riled up about. It doesn't mean the cause isn't worth getting riled up about.
3/28/2012 01:12:50 am
To all correspondents, the latter two in particular: thanks for your comments. I'm glad to spout off, and even more delighted to have people react in opposite -- and respectful -- ways. That's the fun of my new toy. Come back again. GV
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From the great Maureen Dowd:
As I write this, I’m in a deserted newsroom in The Times’s D.C. office. After working at home for two years during Covid, I was elated to get back, so I could wander around and pick up the latest scoop.
But in the last year, there has been only a smattering of people whenever I’m here, with row upon row of empty desks. Sometimes a larger group gets lured in for a meeting with a platter of bagels."
--- Dowd writes about the lost world of journalists clustered in newsrooms at all hours, smoking, drinking, gossipping, making phone calls, typing, editing.
"Putting out the paper," we called it.
Much more than nostalgia.