Last week, in anticipation of the verdict in the highly polarizing trial of George Zimmerman, the Broward County, Fla. Sherriff’s Office issued a PSA urging people not to riot once the announcement was made. The video was at best a laughable cautionary warning—and at worst, a reflection of the patronizing presumption that black people in cities and towns across the country would take up a vigilante stance not unlike the one Zimmerman assumed on the night he killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. The reports of proposed riots, however, were greatly exaggerated; with very few exceptions, demonstrations—even those that were heavily attended and disrupted traffic—have been peaceful.
David Simon, the creator of the television classic The Wire and the author of Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets and The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City Neighborhood, took to his blog last night to offer his own take on the verdict. “If I were a person of color in Florida,” he confessed, “I would pick up a brick and start walking toward that courthouse in Sanford.” The relative peacefulness demonstrated by minorities following the end of this trial is, he wrote, “a testament to a stoic tolerance that is more than the rest of us deserve.”
Simon’s post is short and blunt—expressing shame over the state of the country and citing guns and race as America’s “great pathologies,” brought together in a “pornographic embrace.” But it’s the Comments section, where Simon has been avidly participating, that is especially fascinating to read. More than a few commenters have criticized Simon for “encouraging” people to riot. “Try reading my actual language—the whole paragraph, please—and think harder about what I am saying and what I am not saying,” he curtly replied to a commenter named Matt. “Seriously. Or go elsewhere in these comments, if you need more of a clue. Asked and answered.”
Others asked Simon to prove how Zimmerman’s actions were racially motivated. (His response to one commenter: “I don’t think Mr. Zimmerman is by any necessity a racist. But his calculations and his behaviors were racially motivated.”) Still others, like a Dr. H, asked Simon to put himself in Martin’s shoes, and wonder whether he would engage in an altercation with a stranger following him, or run away. Simon, in part, replied,
The game of white people putting themselves in the shoes of black folk and saying what they would do in such-and-such a circumstance is an ugly and dangerous one. Invariably, the majority is subject to imagining themselves—with their own actual resources, life experiences and entitlements—in a given circumstance, and going from there. The actual journey would be more than a change in melanin.