`haven't posted here for a while; not that much worth sharing I suppose. But now that the President has joined most every one else, in weighing-in (again) on the Trayvon Martin tragedy, `thought I'd comment a bit on Obama's key points myself. And my point (if there is one) is to point out what IMHO are several conflated and confused key points (in this and any number of other similarly-pointed debates)...
First, my take on the key elements of the President's most recent remarks which, I think, were these:
- The trial was conducted properly and the jury properly considered the "beyond a reasonable doubt" threshold incumbent upon the prosecution of a serious offense [Indeed, the prosecutors offered no case whatsoever for 2nd Degree Murder (which would have attended an actual wrongful death charge alleging racist motives); and, in the end, the DA's 11th-hour switch to Manslaughter was evidently (the operative word here) unpersuasive as well.] Thus, as badly as we all feel about the whole incident, I agree with the President's reluctant assertion: that no one should have an enduring quarrel with the verdict
- President Obama did, however, go on at some length about the "context" of the anger and anxiety that frame not only this incident but countless others—in which young blacks are unfairly presumed to be "up to no good." While no one could deny the reality of these recurring situations, a case could be made for other than purely racist roots: e.g., the President's observation of white folks' frequent fear at the approach of black youths failed to include the fact that black folks share similar fears [of the same youths!]. (`more on this point in a minute)
- The President's best point, perhaps, was reserved for his altogether appropriate admonition that we all engage in a conclusive conversation on why: why the above "frequently recurring situations"... reoccur: e.g., why is that black inner-city youths seem so often bereft of hope and embracing of the gangsta culture?
Clearly, this will not be an easy conversation to have, let alone to positively resolve. But, by way of offering but one small step, IMHO we'll make no progress unless and until we can rid ourselves of some of the more harmful PC (politically correct) BS!
In particular, I'd strike a blow against commonly "conflated and confused" understandings of slur and per words like rights vs. entitlements and, then, prejudice and profiling vs. simple pattern recognition.
So, here's a bit of semi-delicious irony for a start: among the Founding Fathers’ principle objectives in drafting our Constitution (now the world’s most successful and long-enduring) was a well-reasoned desire to obviate entitlements: i.e., they wanted to ensure that designated classes of individuals (in colonial times, aristocrats) never again felt “entitled” to special privileges or gifts from the public treasury merely because of who they are and how they were born. A “right”, by contrast, is a guarantee of freedom from discriminating constraint. Thus, when we say that someone has a “civil right” we’re not (or, at least, should not) be describing some special access to public assets or unusual protections; rather, it should serve to ensure that their access to services, occupations and other opportunities should be precisely the same as everyone else's. In other words, we all have a right to pursue [life, liberty and happiness]; but no one's entitled to it.
In the main, we still get most of these rights right: e.g., last month’s Supreme Court decision to impose more rationality to Affirmative Action. But in some others we don’t: e.g., the Supreme’s awkward upholding of Obamacare. In the later case (as in others I suppose), the Justices are bending over backwards to stay in sync with public opinion (a.k.a., to be themselves apparently PC). Sadly, here’s a case in point (of “confused rights vs. entitlements): the general public has, evidently, become convinced that healthcare is a “right” to which everyone is “entitled.” But in fact, everyone already has the same quasi-equal access to healthcare systems that they do to everything else—e.g., transportation, food, energy, etc. Affordability, not policy, forms the natural constraint upon consumption of...everything; and, arguably its relative absence in healthcare comprises a big part of the problem (i.e., of why Americans consume over twice as much per-capita as everyone else!) Why? And more to the point, How? How and and why do so many think that patently-socialist alternatives are better? Do they really believe that a “single payer” (a.k.a.., government-run) health system would fare better than Public Education, Housing, USPS, etc?...but, I digress.Back to PC-proscribed profiling (be it racial and/or, evidently, most any kind). Here's an example of what I mean by turning a positive, or "per", word into a slur.
Nature has consistently de-selected against creatures unable to make quick judgments of other creatures and situations more dangerous to their well-being than others. In other words, pattern recognition is a basic, perhaps the most basic, attribute of intelligence. Telling people that they should learn to ignore these impulses is, at best, silly. Yet, our leaders persist in lamenting individuals, wary of what they logically perceive as dangerous, as prejudice on its surface. It's not. Failing to recognize heightened threat levels does nothing to prevent violence; on the contrary! Faith in restrictions upon natural survival (e.g., fight or flight) skills is misplaced and often serves merely to defocus attention upon the underlying cause. Only George Zimmerman truly knows the "context" of the unfortunate decisions that he made that night; and he alone will live with them.
That said, returning (and concluding) on the point of full agreement, below the surface, we should absolutely be trying harder to understand, and then reverse (if we can), the deeper causes of these natural fears (and, of course, their often regrettable repercussions).
`just my $.02