Overplaying the Race Card

I had the distinct pleasure yesterday of taking two long car rides with my baby and my toddler. Only my baby and my toddler. If you’ve ever traveled alone with kids, you know what I mean by pleasure.

The CD player in the car was being moody and anyway, being the Nine Days before Tisha B’Av, I couldn’t listen to music. So I alternated, there and back, between 1010 WINS (CBS’s all news station) and WNYC (New York public radio).

I heard a lot of the same headlines over and over again. Between the heat advisory in effect for much of the week, one interesting story about a runaway cow falling through a neighboring roof, killing a 45-year-old man (mother: I did not raise my son to be killed in his bed by a cow), and of course, the Kars for Kids jingle, much of the news was about the verdict in the Zimmerman trial.

To be quite honest, though I’d been hearing a lot about the case, it wasn’t a news story that I was following closely. Much of what I know about the story is secondhand information. With that caveat in mind, I will still say that the American public, driven by the media, have seriously misjudged this story. (One more caveat: what follows may not be strictly politically correct.)

All the “I am Trayvon” hoodie-wearers conveniently forget part of the story. The news reports emphasizing that the dead youth was unarmed do too. So do the black parents who say they don’t know how to answer their sons who ask, “am I next?”

We don’t know much about what really happened on that Florida street, but one thing is fairly clear. George Zimmerman was acting in self defense. Perhaps Trayvon Martin was not looking for trouble that night. Perhaps it was not necessary for Zimmerman to shoot, though forensic evidence does seem to suggest that Martin had the upper hand in the fight.

But Zimmerman didn’t kill Martin because he hated him or because he was black. He believed that his life was in danger. The same story could have happened with a black community watch volunteer and a gang of white trash.

If Harvard-educated Mr. Obama had a son, it is highly unlikely that he would hang out with the likes of Trayvon Martin, let alone look like him. And should they meet people of his type in the street, it is doubtful that the “I am Trayvon” hoodie-wearing liberals would so much as say hello.

Here’s some advice that parents can tell their sons and daughters of any color: Don’t act in a way that will make someone think that you’re up to no good. If you are acting suspicious, trust people to treat you suspiciously. Because they can only judge your behavior by, well, your behavior.


About the Author
Rivka Kirwan is the director of media relations at Kars4Kids, a nonprofit based in New Jersey, where she lives with her husband and two young children. If it were up to her, she'd be living in Israel, which she grew to love in the year she spent there post-high school.