The Trial of the Enlightenment
My formative childhood years were spent in a diverse neighborhood in the Inland Empire about 20 miles east of Los Angeles. My third grade class consisted of 10 white kids; the rest were Hispanic, Black, and Asian and a few could not speak English; they were given assignments in Spanish and special educators administered their standardized exams. The ones who could not speak English in third grade had yet to master even a conversational level of the language by the fifth. This, of course, was not the fault of the children but of the educators who insisted upon a diverse classroom; so diverse, in fact, that one segment of the class could not in any meaningful way communicate with the other.
The neighborhood itself was in a perpetual state of decline. Being an Engineer for Northrop Grumman, and then later Lockheed martin, did not afford my father the luxury of an Orange County residence, where housing prices barred all but the exorbitantly wealthy. That was for the Doctors and lawyers and news anchors. And it was the doctors and lawyers and news anchors who were entrenched liberals, talking haughtily of racial injustice, socioeconomic liberation, and redistribution. It must be nice to be able to afford liberalism.
There they were my father and mother, a lower middle-class white couple squeezed between the super rich and the perpetually envious. They paid their mortgage and their taxes while the man across the street would drink tequila on his front porch all day in preparation for his daily ritual of making sexually suggestive comments to little girls walking home from school. He would subsidize his drinking and loathsome behavior by calling 911 every month or so suffering from some ailment that would inexorably lead to the state stroking a disability check. And so it continued. There were peep holes in his garage door where his sons resided and out of which they sold drugs. The entire neighborhood was government sponsored.
I can remember three shooting incidents, a running gun battle up and down the darkened streets, leaving third graders the next morning discussing in a manner that third graders only can, the gunshots and police sirens they heard as they lay in their beds the previous night. There were two incidents like that. The third I can remember was a drive by shooting at the Taco Bell about a mile away from my house and across the street from my Elementary school in which a mother and her unborn baby were slaughtered along with the target, a rival gang member. My cub scout troop banned certain colors from our uniforms because the diverse surrounding in which we lived evinced hatred of certain color schemes, resulting in many innocent kids having the crap kicked out them for wearing a red, or blue, or black T-shirt. The diversity was positively tribal. When my father was offered a transfer to Atlanta, he didn’t hesitate.
The house they bought here in Atlanta was twice as big, in a great neighborhood, and only a few thousand dollars more expensive than what they had sold in Ontario California, a circumstance that suggests that there is still a healthy middle class in the red states where the blue states are mired by the rich who demand social justice and the tribes which are all too happy to absorb it, as the middle class flees as soon as the opportunity is afforded.
As part of my diversity education, the first time I heard the N word was when I overhead two black teens using it in reference to one another. I then capriciously and innocently used the word in front of my parents one evening. I have angered my parent more times than I can remember, but the verbal ass chewing I received that evening was one that is particularly vivid in my memory.
I relate this personal anecdote only because it is a general requirement for a young man of Anglo-Saxon origin to proffer his diversity credentials before commenting on anything of import as it relates to race and society. This post is about the Zimmerman trial but the Zimmerman trial was a stage managed prosecution of the country and so I had to offer my opening arguments, my witness testimony, that is.
Statistics and Grievance
“The verdict in the Zimmerman trial,” Dr. Marc Lamont Hill triumphantly tweeted after the Zimmerman verdict, “proves that it is lethal to be a black teen in America. Trayvon Martin is a Metaphor for America.”
Dr. Hill is a sociologist. Sociology is a discipline in which this kind of just so statement passes as rigorous analytic science, and so it should not surprise us that Dr. Hill can say these things with ease. He was trained to do so.
It is lethal to be a black teen in America, but that fact is not proved by the verdict of the Zimmerman trial. Trayvon was very much dead before Zimmerman’s arrest, trial, and acquittal. And so the verdict proves nothing. In the tritest of trite observations, many despondent correspondents have taken to the press to condescendingly explain that Zimmerman is not guilty, not innocent. These are big thoughts from little minds.
Zimmerman is not innocent. This is a logical conclusion that comes from the two centuries of our legal system’s metaphysics. That he is not guilty of murder does not mean that he is innocent of everything. This is fundamental.
That it is lethal to be black in America is a conclusion that comes straight from the data. It is a statistical set of data and so limited in the amount of inferences which can be made from it. As a sociologist, though, Dr. Hill has made it his job to interpret statistical information in any way that Dr. Hill pleases, a habit to which many in the social sciences succumb. In Dr. Hill’s analysis, the fact that more blacks are in jail is because blacks are oppressed and discriminated against and has nothing to do with whether blacks commit more crimes more frequently and with higher rates of recidivism, and why. Both answers can be true, and the demand for greater analysis — “why?”– remains untouched and unanswered. And so statistics are viscous and tend to lubricate nothing but our prejudices.
But what can statistics tell about black existential lethality in America? It can tell us a lot, and it tells us that Dr. Hill is correct in his conclusion but hopelessly blinded by bigotry in his premises.
In 2007, 93% of blacks who were victims of homicide were killed by other blacks. This percentage has not changed considerably, and the fact that the Zimmerman trial was such a national event, if not because the media lynched him before trial, is because it was a highly unlikely statistical aberration. But, like I said, statistics are viscous things, and so the only conclusion that can be logically drawn from this is that statistically speaking, there is a correlation between the proximity of a black person to a black community with a greater likelihood of that black person being murdered. Black communities are the most dangerous and lethal threat to the black teen. It is a statistically certain artifact.
Racism and Culture
The “why?” still stands as an impregnable logical wall. Why is it that the black community is so inclined to devolve to a state of violent chaos? The answer to this question functions as an axiom in that any answer is improvable. But an answer fielded can be analyzed such that there is one that is more logically consistent than the other. To Dr. Hill’s mind, faced with such facts, the endemic poverty, family decline, violence and crime rate of the black community are a symptom of a greater racist society which drives this vicious cycle. There is absolutely no evidence to suggest this, except that the black community is mired by endemic poverty, family decline, violence and high crime rates, making the assertion a circular triviality. No mathematician would dispute that A=A. But why — there she is again — is it that we should give it any credence? We shouldn’t, and for more reasons than its meaningless self reference may suggest. It has historical precedence upon which we can rely.
The Jews in the Diaspora have been arguably the most oppressed people in the history of the world and for possibly the longest and greatest time in myriad cultures and social circumstances. They were impoverished, but this did not lead them to serial theft and drug abuse, violence and moral decline. If the claim that the social circumstances that afflict the black community are a product of some continued ethereal oppression, even in a country with a twice elected black president, it must always be true, and not just limited to the black community. The Jewish experience suggests that the claim is not always true, and so the conclusion that racism and its subsequent inclination to oppress is the cause of the continued failure of the black community is a suspect accusation, one designed more to avert attention than solve the problem.
There is undoubtedly a difference in culture between the Jewish community and the black one, and I will leave that statement were it is. But it would not in any way hurt the black community if the introspection provided by the biblical tradition was more readily practiced than drug dealing, rapping about cars and money, and objectifying women on BET and other flagship totems of black culture. About the only time the black community rallies around a moral issue is when a George Zimmerman shoots an assailant who used terms like “creepy ass cracker.”
The Trial of the Enlightenment
The legal system of the United States is an artifact of the enlightenment. It relies heavily on logical precision, analysis and doubt, all products of the revolutionary and cynical view taken by the drafters of the constitution toward the ability of a man made government to assess the guilt of an individual and therefore be granted the power of disseminating Justice. If we are to find someone guilty, we better be damned certain. The legal system operates from the moral assumption that for a secular society to convict someone who is innocent is a greater moral failure than if it allows a guilty criminal to go free without retribution. As such, the burden of proof, and it is a burden, is always on the accuser, while the accused is presumed innocent.
I don’t know if Zimmerman is innocent or not, and nobody but Zimmerman, Trayvon Martin, and the Almighty know that; but I do know that he is not guilty. He is not guilty based on the evidence which was provided to the jury and the nation. And it is by that criterion we avoid the possibility of a greater injustice, that an innocent man be convicted. But the manner in which our society just dealt with this tragedy, specifically the media, is positively medieval.
The media wanted so badly for this to be a case of a Germanic ethnically pure white male to have shot, with malice and hate, Trayvon Martin. It is a medieval mindset which imposes its faith in racial hatred upon any circumstance and event to the detriment of reason, morality and civilization itself.
Al Sharpton wanted a lynching, not a trial. A trial exposed the myths of his faith and now he will be sure to clarify that the trial was racially rigged. This is the same mindset of the irrational and uncivilized mob which lynched blacks in the Jim Crow south. There is little qualitative difference between a lynch mob which everywhere sees racism, and a lynch mob which everywhere sees race. Both are emotive, post-modern, anti-enligtenment and anti-justice.
The Zimmerman trial was the trial of the very principles by which the country was established — can the rule of law triumph over the lynch mob? Thankfully, this case proved that it can.