Adam Fisher: Racism too important a problem for posturing
NORTHAMPTON — I am a racist.
About the best I can say for burning convictions is: (1) They have a tendency to burn out. (2) It’s a good idea to keep an eye skinned for how much damage they can do.
I have not read the transcript of the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin case. If I conceived enough of a burning conviction to be willing to call someone a “racist” in matters related to that case, as has happened in these pages, I would consider it my responsibility to do so. Sincerity does not strike me as an underpinning for a cogent argument once anyone has stopped being a teenager. Righteous anger is too often a cover for self-aggrandizement and some matters are more important than posturing.
Racism is one of them.
Ask an honest cop or lawyer whether the American judicial system is biased and I think the answer would come back “yes.” Does this include race and poverty? I think the answer would again be “yes.” It seems fair to assume that George Zimmerman’s trial played out against a backdrop of subtle and profound prejudice, though I am willing to be contradicted in this assumption.
But subtle and profound prejudice were not, ostensibly, on trial. George Zimmerman was on trial before a jury charged under relevant statutes. Zimmerman was found innocent. It is my understanding that those persuaded that the decision was mistaken have the opportunity to sue under civil statutes.
Any death is a tragedy, though it might be hard to argue the point given the national proclivity for sending youngsters to their flag-waving war-time deaths. Tragedy makes the heart break and Trayvon Martin’s death is no exception. I cannot imagine the anguish I might feel if one of my children were shot to death, whether in Florida or Afghanistan. But the anguish of a burning horror is forced, when it is to be more effective than some yowling “sincerity,” to return to an imperfect world of laws, of step-by-step actions, of issues rather than personalities or high-minded prejudice. Is the judicial system flawed because it refused to play the race card in what may or may not have been a racially motivated encounter? I don’t know. I haven’t read the transcript. Would the system be less flawed if there were a trial system akin to Russia’s in which a dead man, Sergei Magnitisky, was recently tried and convicted? Or perhaps scrubbing the entire judicial system would work out better?
The other night, on TV, a talking-head commentator remarked that policies did not undo racism — only people’s hearts and minds could do that. True, policies can prod, but I think the commentator was basically right.
And if he was, then all I can figure — after all the sincere and name-calling convictions quiet down — is the need to start at the beginning: I am a racist.
Adam Fisher lives in Northampton and is a regular contributor.