Let’s take the advice of the attorney general of the United States. Let’s have a national conversation about race in the wake of the verdict in the Zimmerman trial. Let’s make it a painfully honest conversation — except about all the things that are painful for us to admit.
Let’s take a tragedy and make it a racial crime. Let’s not acknowledge the evidence suggesting that Trayvon Martin was beating George Zimmerman. Let’s never, ever admit that if Martin hadn’t hit Zimmerman, he would almost certainly be alive today.
Let’s act as if the main threat to young black men in America is overzealous neighborhood-watch volunteers who erroneously consider them suspicious, call the police and follow them, then shoot them in self-defense after a violent altercation in confusing circumstances that will never be entirely disentangled. Let’s pretend that this happens all the time.
Let’s send down the memory hole reports of burglaries and attempted break-ins in Zimmerman’s community that, according to a Reuters report, “had created an atmosphere of growing fear in the neighborhood.”
Let’s ignore that Zimmerman is from a mixed-race household. Let’s forget that he initially didn’t mention Martin’s race on his 9-1-1 call and said he “looks black” only when prompted by the operator. Let’s disregard testimony about his good character, lest it get in the way of the national dialogue about how he’s a racist murderer who got away with it.
Let’s say the trial was about race in America or about whether black men can walk home from the store or any other insipid, racially charged nonsense to fill the air or the column inches. The national conversation cannot afford to get mired down in legal niceties like what constitutes lawful self-defense, let alone reasonable doubt.
Let’s call people we disagree with racists. We often do that anyway, but during such an open, freewheeling discussion, it is particularly important that dissenting voices be swiftly condemned and, ideally, silenced. People have an obligation to be careful about what they say during a national dialogue.
Let’s not talk about the 90 percent of black murder victims killed by other blacks. That is not a fit topic for the nation’s wide-ranging national conversation. Why should we get worked up about something that happens on the streets of Chicago literally every night? If you are bothered by routine slaughter, sadly, you just don’t get it. For national-conversation purposes, not all killings are equal.
Let’s blast New York City’s stop-and-frisk policy as the worst kind of racial inequity. Let’s not bother to note that New York City once had 2,200 murders a year and now has 400, nor that many of the thousands of lives saved are those of black men. Let’s focus on the important thing — condemning the policy that contributes to saving those lives as heinously racist.
Let’s talk about guns, except the guns that black men use to shoot other black men. No one should worry too much about those guns, or attempt to take them out of the hands of the people carrying them illegally, because that’s racist (please see above and try to follow along — this essential national dialogue cannot succeed without your careful attention).
Let’s listen to the attorney general inveigh against “stand your ground” laws and make believe that he knows what the hell he’s talking about. Let’s ignore that the “stand your ground” law wasn’t the reason the Sanford, Fla., police initially didn’t arrest Zimmerman, and that it really had nothing to do with the trial.
In short, let’s take a terrible event and make it a festival for all our ideological and racial ax-grinding and a showcase for our inability or unwillingness to reason clearly. Let’s do it in perpetually high dudgeon while simultaneously patting ourselves on the back about our fearlessness and honesty.
Yes, Mr. Attorney General, you are right. This is exactly the conversation that the country needs.
— Rich Lowry is the editor of National Review. He is also the author of the recently released book Lincoln Unbound. He can be reached via e- mail:firstname.lastname@example.org. © 2013 King Features Syndicate