Since 9/11 targeted all Americans regardless the color of their skin there were some who thought the racial rift that has marked this nation since its birth may finally have been cauterized by the fire of Islamic terrorism in 2001. Instead, Al Qaeda only masked the animus and distrust formed nearly 400 years ago, and that may well require a corresponding number of years to heal, if ever.
And so do the ships continue to pass in the night, just as they did on that rainy February evening in Sanford, Florida where George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin because, in the end, neither man could make the leap to understanding the other.
If Martin knew Zimmerman was a neighborhood watch organizer concerned with the safety of the complex, he still might have been upset for being profiled, but he likely wouldn’t have taken a swing at the guy. If he knew Zimmerman was packing, he would’ve taken friend Rachel Jeantel’s advice and run like hell. So, too, had Zimmerman known Martin was simply headed to his father’s fiancée’s house down the block after a visit to the local 7-11, he may have remained wary, but likely would have moved on to meet the police — who he had previously called — to say, ‘false alarm, but thanks’.
Instead one young man is dead, the other has a life at least partially ruined, and we as a nation are reminded again of the seeming eradicability of our founding flaw. But whatever else we might say, at least in America our prejudices are evident, black and white (which replaced the red and white preceding it). In traveling I have seen it first-hand, the same insecurities played out in different accents though often through remarkably similar eyes.
Certainly nothing like the genocides blotting man’s history, but prejudice in less virulent form like the northern Italians looking down at the southern, the English lording over the Irish, the Chinese demeaning the Koreans, the Swedes feeling superior to Finns, or Ethiopians looking down their aquiline noses at the Kenyans, when we speak of the equality of man what we are really measuring is man’s own inhumanity to his fellow man.
For this alone I know Jefferson was right, all men are created equal, just not by virtue of their higher aspirations, rather by the banality of their prejudices. The American model is only more black and white in its current presentation.
The Trayvon Martin – George Zimmerman saga isn’t an American tragedy, it’s an all too human one.