A few thoughts in the wake of Zimmerman verdict (and related matters):
1) The New Yorker’s Amy Davidson stated last night, “I still don’t understand what Trayvon Martin was supposed to do” once he knew he was menaced. Gary Younge similarly asked, “What version of events is there for that night in which Martin gets away with his life?”
Cord Jefferson, in a way, provides a practical response to that question:
To stay alive and out of jail, brown and black kids learn to cope. They learn to say, “Sorry, sir,” for having sandwiches in the wrong parking lot. They learn, as LeVar Burton has, to remove their hats and sunglasses and put their hands up when police pull them over. They learn to tolerate the indignity of strange, drunken men approaching them and calling them and their loved ones a bunch of [n______]. They learn that even if you’re willing to punch a harasser and face the consequences, there’s always a chance a police officer will come to arrest you, put you face down on the ground, and then shoot you execution style. Maybe the cop who shoots you will only get two years in jail, because it was all a big misunderstanding. You see, he meant to be shooting you in the back with his taser.
Yahdon Israel writes about similar coping mechanisms in Manhattan, and the fallback tactic of avoidance. He notes that, “Although Columbia [University] is in Harlem, power wills that there is no Harlem in Columbia. Rather than walk through, the people of Harlem are more comfortable with walking around Columbia to get to the other side because they know where they don’t belong.”