Friday, July 19, 2013

Don't Apologize for Me

"I'll just tell you one thing and I'm speaking now for all white people but especially those who have tried to change in the last 50 or 60 years — and a lot of them have really tried to change — I'm sorry for this stuff. That's all I'm saying."

Chris Matthews

MSNBC's Chris Matthews took it upon himself Thursday to apologize for "all white people" for the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial.

Hey, Chris. Do me a favor. Don't apologize for me, OK? Leave me out of it.

Before I get an avalanche of racist accusations, hear me out.

I was raised by liberal Democrats. They were advocates of civil rights, which wasn't a very popular position to take in my Arkansas hometown. They participated in the local Human Rights Council, which was responsible for many changes in my hometown when I was growing up. They were activists on behalf of equal treatment under the law.

And I learned my values from them. For a long time, I was apologetic for truly terrible — and obvious — injustices against minorities. And, in my lifetime, I have witnessed many.

But I've grown weary from being beaten about the head repeatedly for things I had nothing to do with — like slavery. It was abolished a century before I was born. I'm sorry it existed, but what else can I do? I can't go back in time and change history. Heck, if I could do that, there are several decisions I have made in my personal life that I'd like to have a do–over on first.

But I don't have that time traveling kind of power. I'm sorry it happened, but it wasn't my fault, and I've never owned a slave. Neither did any of my ancestors (as far as I know) nor has any other living American — unless you want to include folks like that guy in Cleveland who held three women against their will for a decade or more, and that is really a different discussion, don't you think?

And I have never discriminated against anyone. On the occasions when I have been in a management position, I have not discriminated against anyone who was different from me in any way.

I have also taught journalism for a total of seven years, and I have never discriminated against anyone in any of my classes. My classroom policies are the same for everyone. My grade calculation method is the same for everyone.

Nor was it my fault that blacks and civil rights workers were murdered, primarily in my home region of the South. I'm not ashamed of the fact that I grew up in the South, and I won't apologize for it, either, but I realize and I regret that terrible things happened here. There are aspects of the region's history — even its recent history (comparatively speaking) — that I don't like — but isn't that true of most places?

I believe in justice for all, not justice for some. And justice means that the law (and the legal requirement to convict someone of something) is the same for everyone.

Sometimes the person who should be held accountable appears to escape justice. And, depending on whether one believes in the afterlife, there may be a tendency to believe the guilty did get away with something. That truly can be a frustrating experience. But I don't believe that is what happened in this case.

If the available evidence meets the standard required to convict that person, then that person must be found guilty. But if the evidence is not sufficient to meet that legal standard, the jury must acquit.

Outside the Zimmerman courtroom, a racism narrative was being presented, and guilty white liberals were lapping it up like kittens being presented with a saucer of milk. But inside the courtroom, the jury was being instructed to decide based on the evidence, and they were told what the law required for conviction.

Justice is supposed to be blind to everything — race, gender, religion, age, financial status. Only the facts are supposed to decide a case.

The evidence did not support the popular narrative, and, as the old saying goes, every person is entitled to his own opinion but not his own set of facts.

I believe in the principle that a person is innocent until proven guilty. Zimmerman was not proven guilty. I know there are some people who want to believe he was guilty of something — presumably because the person who died was black — but the physical evidence supported his side of the story.

The jury made the appropriate decision — and when you speak of this case, please remember that Zimmerman was found not guilty, not innocent. Courts do not decide if a person is innocent. In our system, a defendant is presumed to be innocent, and it is the responsibility of the prosecution to prove the defendant is guilty of the charge. That is the question being decided — guilt, not innocence.

And the prosecution had a weak case.

I do not apologize for believing the jury made the right choice. And I don't need anyone else to apologize for me, either.

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