Soledad O'BrienLast night, CNN anchor Soledad O'Brien held a town hall-style show Beyond Trayvon: Race and Justice in America in which a wide-ranging group of people -- from professors to moms -- discussed the implications of the Trayvon Martin shooting and what it says about the state of racism in America.
After the show, O'Brien talked to reporters about her on take on the Martin case.
I actually get the sense that it's more like a Rosa Parks case [than other shootings have been]. There is this case that is so clearly defined in a lot of people's minds that it sets the bar for them ... people said, 'if this could happen to Rosa Parks, it could happen to anybody.'
And she's right.
Trayvon Martin did nothing wrong but walk down the street at night ... while black. George Zimmerman would like you to believe otherwise, but his claims of being in fear for his life and physically injured are become less credible by the second (that's if you ever believed him at all).
Zimmerman has yet to be arrested and Martin's parents are still grieving their dead teenage son and hoping justice will be done. But even if Zimmerman is arrested and tried, we'll never be able to rectify what happened that night unless we get to the core of the problem. Racism still exists in America, and it's much more rampant than any of us want to believe.
We've seen it rear its ugly head in the weeks since the shooting. Bloggers, the media, twitter-ers, have all been quick to jump on the "it's not racism" bandwagon. Spike Lee has been the recipient of oodles of racist tweets after his twitter snafu last week. Geraldo Rivera was lambasted for blaming Martin's hoodie. President Obama himself commented on the case.
Here's the thing: George Zimmerman probably didn't see Trayvon Martin walking down the street at night and think to himself, "Ooh, there's a black kid. I hate black people. I'm going to kill him." If he did, we can all agree that's all kinds of messed up. But it's unlikely (so let's give him the benefit of the doubt). More likely: He was suspicious. And then he acted in a way that totally crossed the line -- and for which he should be held culpable.
Let's get back to that suspicious part -- because it is very, very important. Why was he suspicious? By all accounts, Martin was doing absolutely nothing out of the ordinary (let's give him the benefit of the doubt too). So ask yourself this: If Trayvon Martin had been a white guy wearing a suit -- but otherwise behaving the same that evening -- would George Zimmerman still be walking around a free man?
Even sadder, the 17-year-old would still be alive.
Zimmerman was suspicious because Martin was black. And that's why he's now making up all these lies about what really happened. Because he realizes it. He had no good reason to shoot the teenager. But he didn't act alone. Movies tell him to be suspicious of black people, our country's history tells him to be suspicious of black people, institutional discrimination and prejudice tells him to be suspicious of black people. Racism is still very much a part of America's DNA.
Rosa Parks was kicked out of her bus seat over 50 years ago and yes, America has made a lot of progress since then. But the Trayvon Martin case shows we've got a lot of work to do.
Do you think the Trayvon Martin case is about race?