I took an 11-day break from the newspaper, and so much happened with the George Zimmerman case -- the verdict, the mostly peaceful marches and rallies, then a juror and finally the president of the United States speaking out -- that it's tempting to say nothing rather than jump into the fray so late.
Except it's not late. I doubt that the marches that were held in Philadelphia and roughly 100 other cities this weekend were the end of something. Hopefully it will be the start of something that goes far beyond the future of the punk-who-got-away George Zimmerman -- that addresses national outrages like the lethal "stand your ground" laws and the unconstitutional stop-and-frisk jihad against young black and Latino men.
Meanwhile, there are a lot of folks -- some of them well-meaning, some of them not-so-much -- looking at the multitudes marching or otherwise craving #JusticeForTrayvon, and calling it a case of misplaced rage. Why the furor over the death of one black teenager in these disputed circumstances when dozens of young black males are shot and often killed in America every weekend, usually by another African-American? Why are there no marches about black-on-black crime? they ask.
There's a lot to say in response to that. For one thing, there have been many marches and vigils for victims of black-on-black crime. Also, evidence is mounting that some of the crime stats getting thrown around are completely warped by a criminal justice system that is grossly unfair to blacks and other minorities -- dramatized by the fact that African-Americans smoke pot at the same rate as whites but are almost four times more likely to go to ger arrested.
Most importantly, passion by definition is not a rational thing. People don't take to the streets over body counts. They take to the streets over a sense of right and wrong, and by one of the strongest emotions I have ever witnessed in my lifetime -- a desire for justice on a world chock full of unfairness.
When, to borrow the examples that President Obama used on Friday, being black means people locking their cars or that security guards follow you through a store, the fact that America has an African-American president or that workplaces are now better integrated isn't going to make a black citizen feel better. Given human nature, it will probably make him or her feel even more angry and frustrated -- especially when some politicians want to turn back the clock on voting rights, and when law-abiding minorities are stopped by cops on a regular basis for no other reason than the color of their skin.
It was nearly 50 years ago that Berkeley free-speech-movement leader Mario Savio said famously that sometimes the machine becomes so odious that "you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus -- and you've got to make it stop." This is what we are seeing again. Sure, it's about Trayvon Martin, but if it were JUST about Trayvon, it would have been over and done a week ago. This is rage against a broken machine, and there's a long way to go to fix it.