Forgive me if I am somewhat sceptical of Obama’s tearful claim that he was the victim of racial profiling too. It strikes the MacDoctor that, beyond his early childhood, Mr. Obama has had a relatively privileged and wealthy life compared to the vast majority of his fellow black Americans. One wonders if he actually has any idea what it is like for black youths and how deep the problem goes
Obama calls for Americans “to do some “soul-searching” about (Trayon Martin’s) killing and the country’s difficult racial history”. I have no problem with this, but I greatly suspect that the naval-gazing that will ensue will focus in entirely the wrong place. Already, it is clear that the administration’s focus is on gun laws and the controversial “stand-your-ground” laws. Their focus is on trying to make an example (still) of George Zimmerman, the Hispanic man who shot Martin dead. This is despite a clear verdict from a jury trial that Zimmerman acted in self-defence.
All of this is completely unhelpful. Demonising racial profiling is like banning people from locking their doors at night because it shows a lack of faith in the neighbourhood. It does not address the problem. Which is - why do people feel the need to profile people according to race? Surely this is because black Americans are disproportionately represented in almost every crime statistic? George Zimmerman was trailing a black teenager, rather than a white one, not because he was racist but because, statistically, the black teenager was more than three times more likely to be “up to something”. This is indeed an indictment on US society, but it is more an indictment on black American sub-culture than on society in general. There is a deep festering sore of despair and hopelessness in many black American communities that must be addressed by the black communities themselves. The last thing they need is more help from whites – further reinforcing the perception that black people need white people (or their money) to survive.
In the meantime, the Obama administration goes off on a tangent blaming racism and guns laws for this state of affairs. The inevitable result of the former is massive protests by aggrieved black Americans who are protesting against a media-induced illusion (that of a racist Zimmerman callously gunning done the innocent Martin). And what do they want? Changes to the self-defence laws and the persecution of Zimmerman. Not a word about looking at their own families, homes and communities. As the media has said – it was clearly “whitey’s” fault. No need for us to look inwards.
As for the latter, gun laws and self-defence laws have always been in liberal sights and Obama will use almost any event to try to push this agenda. Using the racist card in this instance makes his argument more potent since his opponents run the risk of being called racists if they object. It is clear that Obama is “gunning for” the “stand-your-ground” laws in many states which allow a partial argument of self-defence if the accused can show that it would have been reasonable to feel threatened. The irony here is that Zimmerman did not use the “stand-your-ground” laws because he could claim a clear case of pure self-defence – a case the jury has affirmed was perfectly believable. All of this elaborate meme of racism and hatred is built on sinking sand – the foundations were not merely shaky but complete illusion.
The “stand-your-ground” laws were introduced to de-escalate a dangerous situation, giving an armed victim time to draw his weapon, shout a warning and possibly fire a warning shot when being approached by a clearly dangerous person (say a person armed with a knife or iron bar). Once the protagonists are hand-to-hand fighting, a weapon becomes much harder to use non-lethally. The statistics for these laws vary from state to state with some reporting a significant drop in homicide and GBH and others reporting an increase (though it is not clear whether the increase is in aggressors or defenders!). It is very unlikely that scrapping these laws will make any difference to homicide rates and would certainly have not changed Trayvon Martin’s fate. In fact, it could be argued that, had Zimmerman taken out his weapon when Martin started his approach, Martin’s death may have been avoided. This is, of course, pure conjecture.
America is in the hands of lawyers. They think that all the countries ills can be cured by simply changing a law here and adding a law there. But law does not change people. You cannot legislate less suspicion into George Zimmerman. You cannot legislate less belligerence into Trayvon Martin. These are changes that come from within people and are not imposed by governments. Changing the law, hoping to change people, is a forlorn hope. But changing the wrong law, based on pure fiction, is utterly futile and likely to be ultimately destructive. Sinking sand indeed.