Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Problem with "Justice For Trayvon"

It's too late for that. Trayvon is dead. Making George Zimmerman's life more miserable is not going to bring justice. That's the problem with these protests and the petition from the NAACP and others for the justice department to bring civil rights charges against Zimmerman. Under the laws we have, it's just not going to be a strong case.

We live in a legal regime where private citizens and police forces across the country can do just about whatever they want, and as long as they don't shout the n-word while they're doing it there's supposedly no proof of racial profiling or bias.

So asking the justice department to come in and prosecute a case that it would almost certainly lose is not productive. Don't get me wrong. The protests should go on. They should get bigger. They should shut down traffic and paralyze normal life and make the authorities act. But they can't be a backward looking quest for justice for a boy to whom it has already been denied. They must be a constructive campaign for something that can actually make a difference for the future.

The NAACP and other leaders need to trust and hope that the American people are smart enough and passionate enough to rally for a constructive campaign, in Trayvon's name, that goes beyond Trayvon. Justice has already been denied to him. For him it is too late. But it is not too late for a nationwide campaign to repeal every stand your ground law. Or a campaign for a constitutional amendment to outlaw racial profiling. Or a campaign to end racially discriminatory application of the war on drugs and racist sentencing disparities.

If the American people can only rally around "justice for Trayvon," we're saying we happen to care about a high profile case but can't agree on a campaign to end the deep systems and practices that produced that case in the first place.

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