It wasn’t about Trayvon.
It was about Zimmerman.
Specifically, it was about Zimmerman’s skin.
It was white.
That’s what caused the upset, that’s what drove the charges, that’s what brought the trial.
As the president – the same president who conjectured that his own son would have looked like Trayvon – urges us to calm and reflection, we should calmly reflect upon what made this incident unique.
Sadly, it was not the shooting death of a young black man.
There is nothing unique about the shooting death of a young black man. That tragedy plays out with predictable regularity as urban America genocides itself.
The crocodile tears about the loss of Trayvon and all the years and adventures life had ahead of him don’t ring true. It does not seem likely that many beyond the poor lad’s family and friends would be particularly perturbed by his death.
I say that based on how we respond to all the others.
All across urban America, young black men’s lives are snuffed out daily. You don’t hear Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson saying much about them. There are seldom calls for prosecutions – there is seldom cooperation with police investigating the slayings.
The shameful fact is that the steady stream of slain black men is ignored by almost everyone.
So why this one?
Why do we know this one’s name?
Certainly, the others are as loved by family and friends as was Trayvon, and many are as innocent, and many are more so.
What was different about this killing?
The only variable is that Zimmerman is white.
His white status was assigned by the press, contrary to his own self-identification as Hispanic, but he’s white.
From a genetic standpoint, Zimmerman is just as Hispanic as the president is black. From a cultural standpoint, he’s more so. The president, after a boyhood in Indonesia, was raised in a white home in a white community. Zimmerman was raised in an Hispanic neighborhood by a mother whose English is still heavily accented with Spanish.
But to fit the narrative of the activists and the press, and to galvanize the black vote in an important election year, he needed to be white.
So white he was.
Countless young black men lose their lives to violence, overwhelmingly at the hands of other young black men, and nobody seems to notice. Jesse doesn’t come to town, Al doesn’t pound the pulpit, the president doesn’t speak from the Rose Garden.
America, including black America, looks the other way.
But not this time.
And that illustrates the hypocrisy and double standard of current American race relations.
It wasn’t love for Trayvon and whatever metaphor he represented that drove some to such upset, it was bigotry against the race of the Neighborhood Watch volunteer who shot him.
If Zimmerman hadn’t been white, there wouldn’t have been any charges in this case and there certainly wouldn’t have been a trial. And even if this mythical non-white Zimmerman were to have been arrested and tried, no one would have noticed.
Because countless trials and plea bargains go on each day. And not a one of them moves the needle.
It wasn’t solidarity with Trayvon, it was antipathy for Zimmerman. Astoundingly, large portions of the population – particularly large portions of the black population – ignore the holocaust against young black men.
And that’s what this case should point up.
There is an ongoing slaughter of young black men, overwhelmingly by other young black men, and the destruction of life is horrifying.
That’s the issue.
Not respect for hoodies.
Not rolling back self-defense laws.
Not getting more money for civil rights groups or building careers for politicians and activists.
Trayvon is the exception, legions of other young black men are the rule.
It is immoral to exploit his death and ignore theirs. And it is immoral to pretend that his death represents a great societal threat while theirs does not. Trayvon has been a diversion, exploited by activists, reporters and a president. A diversion from the troubles facing our country, and from the butchery of a rising generation by black-on-black violence.
So let’s face the facts.
If we truly care about those who are slain or endangered. If we truly want to keep more young black men alive. If we are going to be honest, we need to recognize that the greatest threat to these lads is not people like George Zimmerman.
It’s people like themselves.
People who look like the president’s son, if he had one.