“Florida sends a black woman to prison for 20 years for firing a warning shot, and frees a white man for killing a black boy. How’s that for justice?”
There’s a picture floating around Facebook with the quote above on it, masquerading as serious commentary on the state of criminal justice in our nation today. Unfortunately, this picture and quote IS symbolic with a major issue with our society, but it’s not the issue that the posters think it is.
First, I’ll briefly address the image itself.
Mandatory minimum sentencing laws are beyond stupid, especially when they’re linked simply to whether a gun was used in the commission of the crime. Marissa Alexander’s sentence is absurd, but is entirely the fault of the hoplophobes in the state legislature who passed the mandatory-minimum gun law, not the jury or judge involved in her case (and CERTAINLY not the jury of Zimmerman’s case).
Speaking of the Zimmerman case, it’s unfair to classify him as simply white, and Trayvon was not a boy (the media’s penchant for showing pictures of him from years ago notwithstanding), but a young man. It’s not really fair to say he was a boy 1. Additionally, a jury found that the prosecution in Zimmerman’s case had not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the shooting of Trayvon met the criteria for the crimes they were charging.
Both of these cases are rife with issues that can and should be discussed, but there’s so little difference between the two that conflating them like this is comparing apples and oranges.
This oversimplification of very complex (and important) issues is a major problem with Facebook and Bumper-Sticker politics. These kinds of comparisons are perfect for trivial comedy shows like The Daily Show, or the quick “hit and run” cleverness that you can see on bumper-stickers, typical Facebook posts, or tweets, but they shouldn’t substitute for actual discussions between people.
The problem with modern society is that so many people are afraid of actually discussing issues, instead substituting careful consideration of issues with funny quips and strawmen. I raised an issue with a relative’s casual dismissal of the use of vile racial epithets, and was accused of attacking her. People get angry and defensive when one attempts to question their strongly held beliefs, and I hate the fact that people who refuse to give issues serious contemplation are permitted to vote. If your stance on an issue is based purely on whose Facebook image had the funniest quip, how can you truly be trusted with one of our citizenry’s most important duties?
One of the reasons I have given up on traditional political parties is that the “us vs. them” mentality often leads people to give up on thinking about issues, instead simply jumping to a position based on what The Other Guys are doing, and then rationalizing that position with whatever logical fallacies happen to be at hand. This isn’t just a problem for citizens, but also for politicians.
- Just ask any 17-year-old male how they’d feel about you calling them a “boy.” For extra credit, ask a BLACK teenager how they’d feel about it… ↩