Three Observations About The George Zimmerman Arrest Yesterday
Three things stood out to me yesterday amid all the Trayvon Martin related hoopla surrounding the arrest of George Zimmerman on a charge of murder in the second degree. I don’t know who in the Florida governor’s office made the recommendation to go with Angela Corey as the special prosecutor in this case, but it should stand out as one of the few shining moments in Rick Scott’s horrendous tenure as governor. I actually listened to the live press conference in a mall parking lot, and what I heard was impressive. Corey’s polish and poise in the face of the media onslaught after her press conference announcing the particulars of George Zimmerman’s arrest and the nature of the charge brought against him should be a welcome relief to anybody who cares what the Florida justice system looks like to the rest of the world.
It wasn’t until the middle of a heated argument with a lawyer buddy of mine a couple of hours later that I could articulate why Corey’s combination of a genuine sense of compassion and personal warmth with her no nonsense demeanor was so important to this process. Corey’s presence brought a level of credibility to this process that finally allows the thousands of my African American brethren who have trekked to Sanford Florida to protest an injustice to mentally and physically head back to their homes and their lives.
If you watched any cable news TV at all last night, you saw an array of pundits engaged in conversation about this case and the latest developments. The second thing that stood out to me as I flipped from channel to channel was the way the diversity of the commentators affected the tenor and the tone of the discussions. I didn’t necessarily agree with all of their opinions, but even Fox News, whose entire ethos I am happy to denigrate on a daily basis, understands in this day and age that having African American commentators in their on-air discussions involving African Americans makes sense. I remember in the aftermath of the Rodney King verdict and during the O.J. trial how little connection many in the media had with the people in the streets who were the subject of their conversations. The on camera diversity plus the voice of social media has not only allowed black Americans to be heard, but has given the rest of the country many more voices to listen to instead of the traditional lone community spokespeople some Americans have come to pigeon hole or despise.
The third thing that struck me in the middle of the night as that obsession that begins many of my blog posts – the thing that has been left unsaid – kept gnawing at me until I started organizing my thoughts around one image in particular, that of New York Times columnist Charles Blow. He has been appearing on the Lawrence O’Donnell show several times a week for the past few weeks. He and many of the other African American personalities from the television, print and radio arenas who have focused relentlessly on this case have likely had to buck the unwritten status quo of their respective office cultures to keep bringing this story up day after day. They have all counseled their viewers, now that this issue has been brought to light, to remain calm and let the system run its course. In many ways they are like the old civil rights marchers who sat down at the table with the very same people who had trained water hoses on them to work out the details of social integration.
Last time I checked, I was the lone African American voice here at Big Think. I appreciate the indulgence of the editors here to allow me to expound as I see fit, even though their livelihoods depend on the traffic this site generates. I am mindful of the fact that this is primarily a science oriented site, where visitors may often be more interested in the latest technological phenomenon or engineering marvel. In some ways, I would argue that some sort of dialogue about race is as important to the progress of civilization as quantum physics. If you find yourself getting tired of this conversation, I would posit that this is exactly the point at which the conversation should begin, where we are all so tired of saying the same old things to each other that we finally break new ground.
Political activism may get people invested in politics, and affect urgently needed change, but it comes at the expense of tolerance and healthy democratic norms.