Tonight a Florida man’s acquittal for hunting and killing a black teenager who was armed with only a bag of candy serves as a Rorschach test for the American public. For conservatives, it’s a triumph of permissive gun laws and a victory over the liberal media, which had been unfairly rooting for the dead kid all along.
For liberals, it's a tragic and glaring example of the gaps that plague our criminal justice system. For people of color, it’s a vivid reminder that we must always be deferential to white people, or face the very real chance of getting killed.
When I was junior in college in Virginia, my then-girlfriend and I decided one night to meet up for a quick snack while studying for midterms. We bought some sandwiches at a 24-hour deli and, rather than waste time going to either of our homes, which were in opposite directions, we decided to eat in her car in a parking lot near a fancy hotel off-campus.
We were listening to music and laughing about something when I saw a security guard’s headlights in the rear view mirror, and I stopped laughing as I watched him—a white man in his mid-40s—walk up to my girlfriend’s door and ask her to step out of the car. “Uh, OK,” she said, clearly as confused as I was about what we’d done to warrant his attention.