Every radio commentator has been doing their own post-mortem on the Zimmerman trial today. I want to respond specifically to the discussion by Chris Krok, local Dallas radio host on WBAP.
Why focus on Chris Krok? Because in some ways I think his reaction represents the real, typical, “reaction of the people”. The reaction of conservative people, that is. (I think he would take that observation as a compliment.) I also listened to Sean Hannity and Mark Levin all day, but their reactions get so abstract they get detached from what I think really matters to most people. They talk about the great currents of political posturing and power in our society, and why this trial represents a failure of Obama, and how it reveals demonic and insidious things about liberals, and all of the rest of that predictable political noise. Yawn.
But Chris Krok made it personal and real, and his argument was basically as follows. (I’m paraphrasing, and I hope I do his position true and honest justice.)
There are many people in the African American community who identify with the Martin family and who feel scared as a result of the “not guilty” verdict. They think, “What if that were my son”? But, Chris Krok points out, Trayvon Martin was a thug. He smoked pot, he used the “N” word, there was plenty of evidence that he was an aggressive kid. If you are an African American parent, you have to stop identifying with the parents of this kid, because your son is not like Trayvon. Trayvon was a punk. If your son really was like Trayvon, then you have other problems that you need to worry about.
From there, Chris Krok extends this to an observation about the African American community more broadly. There is a problem with young black boys being aggressive and being thuggish, and committing crimes, even crimes of violence. As long as we pretend that that isn’t a problem, we are doing a disservice to the African American community. What the media is going is laying all of this anger and blame on Zimmerman, when really what we should be looking at is the problem of aggression and thuggish behavior among young African American boys.
This was the core of Chris Krok’s argument.
Of course, there are some elements of this argument that are true. For example, it is true that there is a problem with violence and “thuggish” behavior among young black men in some areas. As a general sociological observation, it is also true that this problem needs to be addressed head on or it will not be solved. As a general sociological observation, it is also true that simply placing the blame on circumstance or prejudice will never fully solve that problem.
All of those things are true… in general.
(I’m a liberal, so you knew there was going to be a “however”, right?)
Do we really know that Trayvon Martin was this kind of boy? Do we really know that he was thuggish or “gangsta” or whatever other term you might want to use?
Chris Krok certainly thinks so. Never once did he suggest that there was any question in his mind that Trayvon was an aggressive, degenerate, Hip-Hop Gangsta-lovin’ what-ever-you-want-to-call-it.
And it’s possible that he was.
….but I think many people have doubts.
More specifically: I think that many of those African American families that he mentioned–the ones who identify with the Martin family–may have doubts.
I believe that they are very used to seeing black boys called “thuggish” without any more evidence than the fact that they were black. I think these families understand what it’s like for people to assume that they are “aggressive” simply because the other person sees “black” and gets scared, and figures that black = trouble.
I think these families understand that when a boy turns around and yells, “Hey, why are you following me?” many white dudes will think the boy seems “scared” if the boy is white… but if that boy is black, then he will seem “attacking” or “aggressive” or “confrontational”.
These types of biases in perception are well-known and well-documented. And almost every African American person in the country has experienced it first hand.
So: Was Trayvon a thug?
Maybe. But maybe not. Chris Krok has no doubts in his mind.
But when the only eye-witness testimony comes from George Zimmerman, who is obviously not “objective” in this matter, I think some people have doubts. I also think there is plenty of reason for there to be doubts, as well.
Remember, Zimmerman didn’t have to be a malicious hate-monger to mistakenly think that Trayvon was being “aggressive” when he wasn’t. He didn’t have to be some kind of evil man who consciously believes that all black people are criminals. He didn’t need to be any of that.
All he had to be was a guy who tends to be scared of black kids. Which, to be honest, isn’t, like, out of the realm of possibility.
Maybe the right thing to do, in the aftermath of this trial, isn’t to stand on a podium and declare with 100% certainty that Trayvon Martin was a thug–any more than the right thing to do is to stand on a podium and declare him to be an angel (as some on the left have done).
Maybe the right thing to do is to admit that we simply don’t know… and never will.