This morning, the “Balanced Views” section of my hometown newspaper, the Austin American-Statesman, published — on one side of the section — a column by Leonard Pitts Jr. on the Zimmerman verdict. On the other side of the page the Statesman printed an opinion piece by David Brooks on the ongoing immigration reform debate.
There is no question about where Miami Herald’s Pitts stands politically. On the other hand, David Brooks, a columnist for the New York Times, has been described as “a conservative pundit that liberals like, sophisticated and engages with the liberal agenda, in contrast to a real conservative.”
I like and respect them both.
But that is not the issue or the point here.
The point is that in a “balanced views” section one would expect to read politically or philosophically differing views — opposing views — on the issue at hand. Occasionally that is the case in this section of the Statesman.
However, after reading Pitts’ column, I believe that I understand why the other column was not about the Zimmerman case — and God knows there are numerous opposing views on the purely legal aspects of the Zimmerman case that could have fit the bill.
Given the essence of Pitts’ column, “the central moral question,” I just have not seen a relevant “balanced view.”
You see, Pitts gives the jury — and the Florida legal system — the benefit of the doubt. He says:
Let us assume that, within the narrow constraints of the evidence at hand and Florida’s bizarre gun laws, six good women rendered the only verdict they could Saturday night in acquitting George Zimmerman of murder and manslaughter in the killing of Trayvon Martin. Even so, the problem remains. Whatever legal closure it gives, this verdict does not satisfy, any more than a guilty verdict would have, the central moral question here…
That “central moral question” being “Why?”
Why did Zimmerman regard Trayvon as suspicious when all he did was wear a hooded sweatshirt while walking in the rain? Why did initial police reports designate Trayvon the suspect when he was actually the unarmed victim? Why was his assailant able to go home that same night?
After acknowledging that Trayvon’s parents’ rejection of the notion that race played a role in their son’s death was a smart position because such reflects recognition that “when race enters the conversation, reason often exits, compassion following close behind,” Pitts immediately parries:
But truth is, race has been there at every turn. If man and boy had both been black or white, we would never have heard of either. There likely would not even have been a shooting.
For many of us as African-Americans, that night was a recurring nightmare driven to a horrific conclusion. It was the driving-while-black traffic stops, the “born suspect” joke that isn’t, the cost of being black in a nation that considers black the natural color of criminality.
After giving examples of racial disparities that still exist in our country and after sharing how so many deny such disparities, Pitts — getting back to the Zimmerman “issue” (“…when an unarmed boy is killed and the man who did the killing doesn’t even spend the night in jail.”) and to the central moral question — concludes:
But the answer to the moral questions that killing raises is not mysterious to some of us. We know how America is. We know, for instance, that it regards black men as inherently criminal, jails them disproportionately because of that belief, then points to the fact that they are disproportionately jailed as proof of that belief. We know, in other words, that where people who look like Trayvon are concerned, America is a little nuts.
So we know what stalked Trayvon down that street last year. We know what killed him. And we know why the people who were paid to give a damn about that, didn’t. You see, we have not the luxury of self-delusion. We have sons and grandsons and nephews, and we must teach them, too, how America is. They are cocky and invincible in the way boys always are.
And they all look like Trayvon.
On second thought, Brooks’ immigration reform column does, in a circuitous way, broach Pitts’ moral question.
Brooks blasts House Republicans for their intransigence on immigration reform: “The whole effort is in peril. This could be a tragedy for the country and political suicide for Republicans, especially because the conservative arguments against the comprehensive approach are not compelling.”
But his final criticism of and advice to Republicans is:
Before Asians, Hispanics and all the other groups can be won with economic plans, they need to feel respected and understood by the G.O.P. They need to feel that Republicans respect their ethnic and cultural identity. If Republicans reject immigration reform, that will be a giant sign of disrespect, and nothing else Republicans say will even be heard.
Whether this bill passes or not, this country is heading toward a multiethnic future. Republicans can either shape that future in a conservative direction or, as I’ve tried to argue, they can become the receding roar of a white America that is never coming back.
And this certainly goes to Pitts’ “central moral question”
Read the entire Pitts column here
The author is a retired U.S. Air Force officer and a writer.