By Christopher A. Darden and Michele Noble
When Juror B37 detailed to CNN’s Anderson Cooper how she and her fellow jurors came to their verdict, we, as a nation, had a myriad of reactions—some judicial, some moral, and some just plain emotional. It became transparent as she defined her thoughts and understanding of the case that she related most to Zimmerman, the adult armed with a loaded gun, not to Trayvon, the unarmed child on his way home. It was also tragically clear she saw Trayvon only as a color—black—which meant to her and the others a thing, a possible threat, not a person. Were they not mothers? How could they not see and relate to the frightened teenage child who was being followed? We know people see race. But when one person is an adult with a loaded gun and one person is an unarmed teenage boy on his way home in his own neighborhood, one wonders why there wasn’t overwhelming empathy for the child.
On July 16th at the NAACP, Attorney General Eric Holder spoke about “the conversation” he must now have with his 15-year-old son in the wake of the Zimmerman verdict. He pondered “the conversation” he had with his father about the imposed rules of conduct with police when being black, and was saddened this chain of “the conversation” from father to son has not been broken in our racial profiling America. His words were raw, personal and sadly familiar to me and many other parents of color. Last night, I took the opportunity to spend time with my son watching the animated foolery on Fox. Watching him laugh at the Family Guy’s toilet humor comforted me. I don’t know what I would do if that goofy laughter was somehow lost.
But “the conversation” used to be only limited to the police; now we must include every vigilante citizen with gun. Holder questioned and cautioned the expansion of the self-defense laws known as “stand your ground” laws, which are now in place in over 20 states. Holder declared we didn’t have to add or expand self-defense laws; they were already sufficient. New York mayor Michael Bloomberg has also warned against “stand your ground” laws, but continues to support “stop and frisk” which embraces not only racial profiling but recovers proportionally very few weapons and reaps higher rates of police brutality towards people of color. Eighty-seven percent of New Yorkers stopped are black or Latino. Only 1.3 percent of last year’s stops resulted in the discovery of a weapon of any kind. Six percent of the stops resulted in arrest.