For reasons that include that I’m usually not in lock step with the more conservative opinion writers and commenters on KC Confidential I tend to avoid weighing in on topics like the George Zimmerman trial.
That doesn’t mean I don’t follow many of these stories or have no opinion. Of course I do.
However, I’d like to think those opinions are less predictable than merely coming down on the stereotypical side of being either ultra conservative or wildly liberal. It’s funny. Most people at the Star seemed to think I was a card carrying Republican, most readers the opposite
The truth lies somewhere in between.
Now – gulp – let’s talk about George Zimmerman.
Predictably the mostly white male editors at the Kansas City Star trotted out a column about the Zimmerman trial by FYI columnist Jeneé Osterheldt and served it up as a rare (for Jeneé) front page story.
I can tell you exactly why they did this, although I suspect you already know.
They did it because Osterheldt is one of the newspaper’s token, high profile black writers. That despite the fact that Osterheldt has yet to distinguish herself as a columnist of any import. She’s been dismissed as inconsequential by the best of ’em (The Pitch) and the worst (Tony).
I know Jeneé pretty well, and she’s a very nice person.
She was hired by my former editor to fill a void at the Star and provide the answers to questions precious few readers were asking; especially the older, white males that make up the lion’s share of the newspaper’s readership.
And frankly, to the extent that Pitch-loving hipsters, women and people of color have been exposed to Jeneé, she’s done little to distinguish herself in that crowd either.
If Jason Whitlock was still at the Star – or even ousted columnist Steve Penn – you can bet one or both of them would have been doing the front page honors instead of Jeneé.
All of which is my way of saying that Jeneé’s column was served up as being front page important, aside from the fact that she evidently didn’t follow the trial closely, if at all. That or her built-in biases from being a black woman were too easily won over by a largely successful media campaign that turned a criminal proceeding into a race issue.
Because of the efforts of influential black leaders and a more-than-willing media, people like Jeneé were able to take a pass on learning the details revealed in the trial and end up exactly where they began prior to those details being coming to light.
Let’s talk about what Jeneé was spot on about first.
“The laws are flawed. And so are our race relations.”
Look at what a jury of clued out Kansans did to poor Joe-College owner Larry Sinks five years back. The jurors didn’t have a clue about copyright law, so when left to decipher what slick talking lawyers from Atlanta told them, they came down largely on Sinks side. Unfortunately that still exposed Sinks to a several hundred thousand dollar settlement liability and legal bills that knocked his moral victory completely out the box, ruined his business and cost him his marriage and family.
What’s more KU sealed his lips for all time, in letting Sinks off the bankruptcy hook.
Life is not always fair, we all know that. So while Jeneé is correct on the above count, that’s hardly a front page proposition.
She’s also correct that blacks – black youth in particular – are viewed suspiciously by many whites. You don’t have to look any further than the Plaza, Ward Parkway Center, Crown Center and any number of other largely white, local hotspots to see evidence of that.
But using the Zimmerman verdict as an excuse to point that out was lame, because had Jeneé followed the trial halfway closely – like I did and the jurors obviously did – she’d know that this case was first and foremost about crime where the verdict was concerned.
Not stupidity or race.
One juror on CNN’s Anderson Cooper show Monday spoke to the race angle and chastised Zimmerman for poor judgement for following Martin. However that wasn’t what the verdict was about, she stated.
George Zimmerman wasn’t on trial for race crimes, he was on trial for murder.
And Jeneé didn’t quite get that.
There was no verdict the jury could have rendered that would have punished Zimmerman for not hanging back as he should have. Should they have ignored the evidence and convicted him for something he wasn’t guilty of, just to make a point about race?
As the juror clearly stated – and was evident to anyone who followed the trial testimony – the evidence pointed to Martin having been the aggressor, throwing the first punch and having been in a position where, banging Zimmerman’s head repeatedly against a concrete sidewalk could easily have resulted in his death.
The jurors ruled Zimmerman had every reason to fear for his life, thus the ruling of self-defence.
This case was never about a little boy with a bag of Skittles.
Nor was it about Jeneé’s bible thumping husband going jogging in a peaceful, suburban realm such as Prairie Village. This was about a fully developed teenager – who would have been tried as an adult had he prevailed in the fight – in a bad neighborhood where lots of bad things had been happening.
It was also about a Hispanic guy who volunteer works with black kids, who took a black girl to prom in high school and who made some poor decisions but had every reason to fear for his life when those poor decisions came back to bite him in the butt.
What would have been significant is if Jeneé had stepped outside the box, done some research and brought something to the table less predictable than a rehash of what many in the national media had already made up their minds on BEFORE the facts came out in the trial.