I discussed the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial with my mother, a 65-year-old white woman. She, unlike me, is politically and socially liberal. She was perplexed, though, by the media response to the verdict. Why the outrage?
What I explained to my mother was my best exercise in empathy, because I struggle to understand the outrage too.
If we were a black family, especially one living in the Deep South, this might look different to us, I reasoned. If she had been born black, when she was a little girl, white people wouldn’t feel the need to apologize for calling her a “n*gger child,” or telling her she couldn’t eat near them, or shuttling her off to an elementary school that was certainly separate but was only equal in theory. My mom would have grown up watching white police officers call her father “boy.” She would have had to observe my grandfather grow meek and obsequious when approached by a white man, especially one with a badge or a gun. He wouldn’t shrink into obeisance because he wasn’t strong and proud, or because he wasn’t law-abiding. He would do so because he couldn’t risk being perceived as “mouthy” or “uppity” by someone who could hurt him or his family for social transgressions as minimal as that….