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It's hard to measure this sort of thing, but I nominate the Trayvon Martin protests as the least effective protests in modern history. They might qualify as some sort of world record. And that is a tragedy on top of a tragedy.

You can Google Trayvon Martin if you're not familiar with the case. I assume it's not getting much coverage overseas.

My understanding of the Trayvon Martin protests is that the participants would like the public to stop believing that young African-American males are crime-prone. The strategy for accomplishing this involves holding largely peaceful protests in which a small number of young African-American males are likely to be filmed by news crews wearing masks, breaking store windows, threatening innocent motorists, and getting arrested. That's exactly what I watched on the news last night as Oakland was starting to heat up.

The trouble-makers are a small percentage of the protesters - maybe 1%. The problem is that the 1% gets the lion's share of news coverage, thus reinforcing the racial bias that the peaceful protesters are trying to combat. In terms of managing the public's impressions, the protests are an epic fail.

On a related topic, I'm fascinated by the way humans reflexively group things. In this case, most observers see this as a racial situation: black versus non-black. And yet no one believes Zimmerman would have made the same boneheaded moves if he had seen an African-American woman in his neighborhood instead of a man. Or an African-American child at age ten. Or even a middle-aged black dude in a sweater-vest. The fact that Trayvon was young and male was at least half of what made him seem suspicious to Zimmerman, one presumes.

As a male who was once young, I can confirm that most of my offenses against humanity happened in my early years. My testosterone was high and my frontal lobes were only partly formed. That's a recipe for trouble, and I caused my fair share. I also grew out of it, right on schedule.

The most effective type of protest I can imagine after the Trayvon Martin verdict would involve demands for greater science literacy. That sort of movement doesn't attract too many vandals and it effectively puts racists in the "ignorant" box instead of the "evil" box. That's a game-changer. In the year 2013, perhaps the African-American community needs fewer leaders who are ministers and more who are scientists. Just a thought.

 
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+12 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 17, 2013
This whole thing smacks of something you talk about all the time, confirmation bias. Each person can look at this tragedy and see what they are biased to see. Systematic racism exists due to this bias effect (BTW everywhere, not just this country), but if I am alone on a dark street and see 1 or more young men and they don’t look like they belong to my group, I would be on guard. However, I would just drive away, armed or not, and not confront them. But my bias is always for self-preservation.
 
 
Jul 17, 2013
Zimmerman's actions may have been racially motivated, but his acquittal was based on Florida law, which is not specifically racist. I see lots of comments that say if the roles were reversed and a black man shot a white boy in the same situation the black man would have been arrested immediately and been convicted. This may or may not be true. The fact is that Zimmerman called 911 before all this happened and waited on the scene for the police to arrive. This means they knew where he lived and was not considered a flight risk. The right to a speedy trial starts when you are put in jail. Delaying an arrest for a person not considered a flight risk is a smart move, allowing more time to gather evidence and reducing jail expenses. So... Perhaps a black man would have been arrested, and if so that would have been racially motivated, but leaving Zimmerman free immediately after the shooting is not racist. This is obviously based on my own knowledge about this specific case, and my knowledge could be wrong or incomplete and what I do know does not apply to any other cases because !$%*!$%*!$%*! will be different.

The law itself isn't racist, but it's stupid. In what world does it make sense to let you pick a fight and then shoot your opponent if you are losing the fight? No matter what you think about who threw the first punch, Zimmerman was the one stalking Martin on a dark night, and Zimmerman pursued when Martin tried to run and leave the situation. Zimmerman created a menacing atmosphere that Martin could not escape. Zimmerman is at fault here.

My understanding is that Florida law says you can defend yourself, with lethal force if necessary, when your life is threatened. While I agree with this in principle, I can't see why it would apply when you provoke that threat yourself. Apparently it does. Florida's laws could really use some reform in this regard. The law should be written to make sure the person who is truly at fault is punished, which will hopefully act as a deterrent for people who now think they can pick fights, start losing, and shoot their opponent.
 
 
Jul 17, 2013
It seems to me that most people have a very hard time dealing with the reality of how the world works verses how they believe it ought to work. If you wish to be treated with dignity and respect you have to be willing to act, look, dress, speak and interact with society in a certain manner. Perhaps everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect, but the reality is, it don't work that way. If you want to work to change reality, fine. But, until you are able to change the reality of the rules of the game of life, then you'd be best served to respect them. And if you chose to ignore the rules of the game, it should not come as a complete shock to you when the game bites you on the ass. For most of us it take many, many years and hard knocks to figure this out, and some never figure it out. That's how I've come to interpret 53 years of hard knocks in the game of life.
 
 
-3 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 17, 2013
Sorry should be "than I do".
 
 
-18 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 17, 2013
@jammer170

I will not be baited into a fallacious argument with you. If you believe the police handled this correctly and mishandle things when they charge black people for doing the same thing, then you have a different view of the way things should be then I do. If someone shoots an unarmed boy I think they need to be charged.

BTW, Zimmerman's father is white, Hispanic is not a race, who gets to decide what race he is? Where are these race rules written so I can familiarize myself with them? Or are you just trying to distance yourself from Zimmerman? Hey he's not white, he's not one of us, we have no horse in this race.

My point was about the protests, they are not only about Zimmerman's racism, but about the systemic racism in the way things were handled by the authorities. There were protests right at the beginning of this whole thing, when the police refused to arrest a 29 year old man for shooting an unarmed 17 year old boy. Tell me once again how the system does not work differently for black versus white? And do it with a straight face.

People like you...well we all know people like you.
 
 
Jul 17, 2013
BTW CodeJammer I thought your comment was funny at least even if no-one else seems to have noticed the obvious tongue in your cheek.
 
 
Jul 17, 2013
OT
I liked this article on data philanthropy. It's relevant to your privacy contemplations.
http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2013/03/a_new_type_of_philanthropy_don.html

Key point:
"Debates in the private sector have devolved into an existential struggle between two camps: one which believes that privacy is dead and profit is king, and one which fears that any reuse of data beyond the original purpose for which it was collected is a potential threat to privacy and civil liberties. Our goal is to insert a third pole into this discussion: Big Data is a raw public good, and we must work together to find ways to harness it for massive social impact, both safely and responsibly. For this to happen, data philanthropy has to become a private sector priority."
 
 
Jul 17, 2013
Racist or not, the acquittal is the result of the florida law. in an other state Zimmerman would have probably been convicted.
And on the issue of racism, it is naive to assume people should not entertain prejudices, it's just how we are wired. Unfortunately, skin colour and appearance are very easy discriminators. But i think it would be more productive (ignore the moral issue) for the black community to work on their PR then to try and change racism. Asians and Indians are perceived as brainy, so why can't the black community aspire to the same?
 
 
Jul 17, 2013
I recall a case a few years ago which involved a young white man getting shot by an older black man. The white boy was in the black guys driveway yelling at him. The black man walked out with a hand gun and told the white guy to leave. The white guy tried to grab the gun and was shot dead. This was a civil rights uproar because the white guy clearly was in the wrong, but the black guy still did a few years in prison.

I bet you a similar thing happened. Mr. Martin at some point tried to grab Mr. Zimmermans's gun. And why not? You see it all the time in movies. Ask a random kid on the street if they think they can disarm someone, if only they are fast enough. Not only will they say its possible, they themselves will believe they are capable of it. Chris Paul of the Clipper's couldn't steal that; its impossible. Get a nerf gun and a friend. Try it out for yourself.
 
 
Jul 17, 2013
Whenever I watch the Weather Channel when a hurricane is threatening the east coast, I can't help thinking that it seems like the talking heads are kinda rooting for the hurricane to hit, so they'll have something to cover.

I got that same feeling watching the news channels predict that riots might break out if Zimmerman walked. The only difference is that no matter how hard the Weather babes might wish for a hurricane, the wishing won't actually help make it happen. But when it comes to "predicting" riots...
 
 
+35 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 17, 2013
A black gentleman is walking down an empty street when he sees 3 young white men walking toward him. They look to be in their late teens, with !$%*!$ heads, sleeves torn off their shirts, and sporting tattoos on their arms and necks. The black gentleman crosses the street and slips into a store until the young white men pass. Is he a racist? No. But he feels an increased sense of vulnerability based on the white guys' age and appearance. And, yes, those young men are much more likely to have criminal intentions than a 40-year old man wearing a sweater vest, so the black gentleman's actions are completely rational. It works the same way when the races are reversed.
 
 
Jul 16, 2013
Sorry about the double post, folks. Had a bit of trouble accessing the website. Scott, feel free to delete one of my posts and this one too afterwards.
 
 
-13 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 16, 2013
[The most effective type of protest I can imagine after the Trayvon Martin verdict would involve demands for greater science literacy. That sort of movement doesn't attract too many vandals and it effectively puts racists in the "ignorant" box instead of the "evil" box. That's a game-changer. In the year 2013, perhaps the African-American community needs fewer leaders who are ministers and more who are scientists. Just a thought.]

If you were anyone else I would expect you to realize how unlikely this is. 'We Demand Greater Science Literacy' is not a protest that comes naturally to protesters in general and Trayvon Martin protesters in particular. You have, however, in the recent past demonstrated a lack of understanding of how unusual your thinking is, so I wonder just how seriously you take this.
 
 
-12 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 16, 2013
[The most effective type of protest I can imagine after the Trayvon Martin verdict would involve demands for greater science literacy. That sort of movement doesn't attract too many vandals and it effectively puts racists in the "ignorant" box instead of the "evil" box. That's a game-changer. In the year 2013, perhaps the African-American community needs fewer leaders who are ministers and more who are scientists. Just a thought.]

If you were anyone else I would expect you to realize how unlikely this is. 'We Demand Greater Science Literacy' is not a protest that comes naturally to protesters in general and Trayvon Martin protesters in particular. You have, however, in the recent past demonstrated a lack of understanding of how unusual your thinking is, so I wonder just how seriously you take this.
 
 
-16 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 16, 2013
"In this case, most observers see this as a racial situation: black versus non-black."

There was definitely a racial component. George Zimmerman has a history of calling the police specifically about African American men.[1]

Anyway, what's slowly going to come out is that the defense didn't win this -- the prosecution lost it. Many legal experts agree their most glaring mistake was that they didn't offer the jury an alternative version of what happened during the altercation. The jury only heard the defense's version.

The obvious alternative version is that Zimmerman drew his gun or showed his gun to Martin. Martin, already frightened from being followed, reacted in a manner to try save his life. Zimmerman, losing the fight, ended up having to shoot his way out.

The jury never heard this or any other alternative narrative. Thus, they really had no choice but to find Zimmerman not guilty.


[1] http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/16/opinion/zimmerman-prosecutors-duck-the-race-issue.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
 
 
Jul 16, 2013
I'm not sure it's in the best interests of anyone to ignite the faith vs. reason debate and throw it into this situation... instead of removing ministers and the voice of moral responsibility, keep them and add scientists and the voice of scientific reason. They both have important things to say about racism.
 
 
+19 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 16, 2013
@jlamp8:

People like you fascinate me. There is so much self-contradiction there I hardly know where to begin.

Do you really believe you know exactly what would have happened if Zimmerman was black and Trayvon white? For that matter, why white? Are you aware Zimmerman is Hispanic? If you want to present a hypothetical situation, shouldn't it at least be relevant to the discussion at hand?

In addition to that, if you feel the racial aspect to this case is how the police handled it in comparison to how they would have handled it if Zimmerman were black (and I should point out that I have heard many people say that the racial aspect is Zimmerman is racist - and this is the one pushed by the media), then why should Zimmerman be convicted? The evidence shows it would be just as wrong to convict Zimmerman if he were black. If, on the other hand, you think the evidence supports Zimmerman's incarceration, then why are you complaining about how society treats black people that commit the same crime?

Also, can I ask if you looked at the evidence presented in court? Regardless of what Zimmerman has or hasn't done in the past or your unprofessional, personal opinion of Zimmerman's state of mind, what matters in this case is what happened on the night Zimmerman and Martin encountered each other. If you really want, I can provide detailed links to all the evidence presented, which lays out exactly what happened, with both witnesses and telephone conversations to support them, along with police reports that show Zimmerman was taken to the station immediately after the shooting (which also contain information about the injuries Martin inflicted upon him), detained, questioned, and then released - which is exactly what is suppose to happen when all evidence corroborates someone's story. I understand that almost never happens when a young black man is arrested, but that doesn't justify it happening to Zimmerman, which is what you seem to want, based on your statement that you think juries should convict Zimmerman.

Back to Scott's original point, I think that is a good one. I would note I don't see Neil deGrasse Tyson commenting on the case anywhere, but as one of the most prominent African American people in the country, with a sharp mind capable of understanding all the complicated elements of a court case, why wasn't he asked about it? In regards to the media, I can guess - he wouldn't provide any particularly inflammatory statements, so it wouldn't be worth their time; Al Sharpton, on the other hand, can be counted on to make the necessary calls for retribution that play so well, without caring about any of the actual facts.
 
 
Jul 16, 2013
If Zimmerman had been patrolling in his car, and accidentally ran down Martin while staring at a "suspicious" light, would there still be no legal consequences for his carelessness/stupidity?
 
 
-13 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 16, 2013
The racial issue is not would Zimmerman have done the same thing if it had not been a black man, the issue is that Zimmerman would have been arrested, charged and convicted from day one if he was black (or just dark-skinned) and Trayvon was a white teen named Trevor.
I think it is pretty clear from the news stories of Zimmerman making constant calls to the police (if they are accurate) that Zimmerman is paranoid and maybe has other issues as well. What he did is not the complete issue here, the way it was handled by the police and others is the part that has to change. If the police start arresting and charging people like Zimmerman and juries start convicting them, the behavior will start to change or at least be punished.
I am a little surprised at you Scott that you did not differentiate between individual racism (which can't be controlled), and systemic racism (and other discrimination) which gives more credence to certain individuals over others based on prejudices and stereotypes. That is what these protests are about. Those who focus on the 1% who are violent wouldn't get the message anyway, in my opinion.
 
 
+11 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 16, 2013
Wow, did people see this Piers Morgan interview with Jeantel last night? I'm looking at the transcript and it suggests that Trayvon thought Zimmerman was a policeman or security guard who was gay. It started to sound like Trayvon didn't run away (like she told him) and decided instead to beat the cr@p out of him. Gay bashing!
 
 
 
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