Obama – An Allegedly Post-Racial President’s Advice to Avoid Offending Black Men? Don’t Turn Down an Aisle a Black Man Happens to be Using at the Store, and Don’t Lock Your Car Doors if a Black Man Happens to be In the Vicinity
By Ken K. Gourdin
I thought President Obama’s remarks on the Trayvon Martin case before the White House press briefing on Friday were interesting.
He asked, had the roles George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin played in the encounter been reversed, if Trayvon Martin would have been justified in invoking Florida’s “stand-your-ground” law. This was a red herring, since Zimmerman’s defense team did not invoke stand-your-ground in the course of defending him. But my answer is, “Yes, if George Zimmerman had been on top of Trayvon Martin, ‘ground-and-pound,’ ‘Mixed-Martial-Arts [MMA]’ style, causing Martin reasonably to fear that his life was in jeopardy and to conclude that deadly force was reasonably necessary to preserve his life, Martin would have been justified in shooting him.”
President Obama also spoke of the frustration young black men feel when they are followed in stores. The president said the same thing happened to him, at least, before he became a senator. But I wonder if what a black man might interpret as “being followed” might be misconstrued. If I see a black man in the aisle at the supermarket, and something I happen to need is down that same aisle, am I allowed to proceed down that aisle when the black man happens to be there, or should I wait for him to vacate the aisle before proceeding?
Further commenting on the frustrations of young black men, the president said they also feel stigmatized (my term) when they walk down the street and hear car doors click locked as they pass. It seems to me that it would be prudent to lock one’s car doors so as to reduce the possibility of getting carjacked, or of some other mishap taking place (such as a door accidentally opening and a child falling out), regardless of the race of anybody who happens to be in the vicinity. Indeed, some car doors lock automatically once a vehicle is shifted into drive. Should we avoid locking our car doors (and disable the automatic-locking function) so as to avoid stigmatizing black men?
My advice when shopping would be, “Don’t alter your shopping patterns in a futile attempt to avoid offending someone on the basis of his race. If he’s so sensitive that he’s likely to become offended simply because you happen to turn down the same aisle at approximately the same time, nothing you do—or don’t do—is likely to avoid giving such offense.” And my advice when driving would be, “Don’t avoid locking your car doors (and don’t disable the automatic locking function) in a futile attempt to avoid offending someone on the basis of his race. Again, if he’s so sensitive that he’s likely to become offended simply because he happens to hear you lock your car doors, nothing you do—or don’t do—is likely to avoid giving such offense.”
Curiously, after discoursing at length on these and other subjects vis-à-vis race, the president then talked about how far we’ve come in race relations, and how each succeeding generation seems to be progressively more accepting of people of all races. Perhaps he would say that we’ll know we’ve arrived when it no longer occurs to white people to follow black men in stores, or to lock their car doors when black men are in the vicinity. Personally, I’ll know we’ve arrived when it no longer occurs to black men that they should worry they’re being followed when a white person happens to be in the same aisle at the store, or that they should worry whites don’t trust them just because they happen to hear a car door locking.
Offense is a curious thing: it is far more easily taken than it is ever purposefully given.
Or, perhaps whites should simply avoid shopping and driving altogether.