Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Ladies, Get Over It!

OK, so this week I get to talk about my 25th wedding anniversary, which was last Tuesday. 25 years married, and 27 as a couple. Not too shabby. And I’d gladly sign up for another 25. Of course, we’ll both be old and decrepit by then. On the other hand, people are looking good and functioning better for longer and longer these days. So who knows?

Anyway, our 25th anniversary brings us back to that Cheerios commercial that caused so much of an uproar among certain less enlightened members of our population. As of this date, 15% of new marriages are interracial, inter-ethnic, or whatever you want to call it. In fact, I think we’ve reached a very important tipping point, and it will increase even more in the near future (anyone for 25% in 10 years?). The website wearethe15percent.com documents some of these marriages, and if you scroll through long enough, you’ll find a picture of the four of us…although we’re not happily posing with boxes of Cheerios, as one family did. And this brings me to something that Cheryl put on her Facebook page:

I want to say this about my anniversary. In the 25 years Keith and I have been married, we have had to face very few unpleasant racial incidents. I think I could count them on one hand. We have had a multi-racial marriage for 25 years and NO ONE CARES! I know other people have experienced unpleasantness, and their experience is their experience, but my experience is true and valid, too. Surely people have privately disapproved, but the support and friendship Keith and I have received has been overwhelming.

I’d like to take a little time to talk about both of those incidents. Yes, there were only two; and they both involved women. Black women. They were women who were offended at the sight of Cheryl with me because to them it represented her stealing something that was “rightfully theirs.” It represented me passing them up to choose someone from “outside the community.” And there are many of those women still around. In fact, a fair number of them came out of the woodwork during the whole Cheerios debate. They feel perfectly justified in their feelings, and don’t see themselves as bigots. Well, to those ladies, I have three words:

Get over it.

Really. I’m going to try to explain this is very small words so that they’ll understand me.

When I was in my 99% black high school, I dated black girls…or at least tried to. I was a little too geeky even for the smart girls in my school. When I moved on to college, I found a much wider pool of geeks to hang out with, and most of them were white. Obviously, you date who you know and hang out with, so I ended up dating white girls.

But here’s the very important point. In fact, it’s so important that it will be on the test. Whenever I found a black girl that I liked, and was considering asking out, it turned out that she was already seeing someone…someone who just happened to be white.

Now far from me taking offense at this, railing against the girl for passing me up for “one of them,” and at the guy for “stealing something that was rightfully mine,” I took a sense of validation from this. Why? Because if this girl was dating a white guy, it obviously meant that we shared the same set of values; values that judged people not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. Well…OK…we also judged by whether or not the other person was good-looking, but that’s just human nature.

These are values that the women who felt wronged by Cheryl, and who feel wronged every time they see a black guy with a white girl, don’t have. And this clash of values meant that we never would’ve gotten along in the first place. So ironically, they’re complaining about not being able to have something that they wouldn’t have wanted.

But there’s something more basic going on here. There’s something even more important that these women are missing in their kvetching and kvelling about people like me and Cheryl. This is where the test comes in. If every black girl I was ever interested in when I was in college seemed to already be dating a white guy, then what is the likely correspondence between black girls with white guys and white girls with black guys?

If you said 1:1, then you got an A+. Congratulations.

In other words, it was a total wash, and statistically no one lost out. The black girl who I would’ve been a good match for is not complaining that I ended up with Cheryl and I’m not complaining that she’s spent the last 25 or 30 years happily married to a guy whose last name just happens to be DelVecchio.

And if neither one of us is complaining, if we’re each happy for each other, then everyone else just needs to shut up and get over it.

So there!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Trayvon Martin and My Driver's License

Note: This was supposed to appear a few days ago, but I had a sudden issue come up with my hand that delayed everything. So here it is, two days late.

If I had my druthers, I’d be happily writing about my 25th wedding anniversary today, instead of about the Zimmerman verdict. Of course, if we all had our druthers, there wouldn’t be any Zimmerman verdict to talk about, because he would’ve stayed in his car, as he was told, and Trayvon Martin would still be alive.

But that ain’t the way it is, and so here I am, talking about it. And this is gonna be a longer one than usual.

Let me get this out of the way and perfectly clear right now, what Zimmerman did was wrong. Not just wrong, but heinous. I also believe that most of the jurors think the same thing. But…I’ve served on a jury, and you’re given very specific instructions about what you can and can’t consider, and just what fine points of the law the case is actually about. So even though your gut may say “String the mofo up,” the specific piece of law you’re looking at may say, “Not so fast, cowboy.”

And this is where my driver’s license comes in.

I don’t recall whether it was in getting my original New Jersey driver’s license (yes, I’m one of those drivers), or taking the written test to change it over to New York, but I recall reading about a concept called the last clear chance. What this means is that it doesn’t matter if the accident was entirely caused by the other driver; if you figured out that the other driver was going to do something stupid, but didn’t change your course because you legally had the right of way and “shouldn’t have to,” you had the last clear chance to prevent it from happening, and bear some responsibility for it.

I don’t know the details of the Florida Stand Your Ground law, and I don’t know exactly what instructions were given to the jurors, but if they were anything like the “last clear chance” rule that I learned when I got my driver’s license, then even though Zimmerman was morally wrong to get out of the truck and follow Trayvon, Trayvon had the last clear chance to avoid the altercation that ended up with him getting killed.

Note very carefully what I am saying here. I am not saying that Zimmerman was right. I am, however saying, as I said a year ago in You May Be Right, They May Be Crazy…and Armed, had Trayvon Martin not turned around and confronted Zimmerman, with the feelings of invincibility so common among young men that age…had he used his cell phone to call 911 instead of talking to his friend, he might be alive today. I am also saying that the verdict of “Not Guilty” is likely based not on whether or not Zimmerman got out of his vehicle to follow Martin, but on whether or not he was defending himself after Martin confronted him.

Let me say this again. As much as emotionally we want it to be otherwise, this case was not about whether or not Zimmerman got out of the car and basically stalked Trayvon. We all agree that he shouldn’t have, we all agree that this contributed to the final tragic result…but there’s no law against that. The case was basically about whether or not Zimmerman was defending himself when he shot Trayvon, after he, having all the wisdom, maturity, and cockiness of your average teenaged boy, allegedly turned and attacked the person who was following him.

My heart tells me that Zimmerman is culpable for the entire tragedy because he didn’t stay put, and leave the kid alone. But my driver’s license tells me that Trayvon had the last clear chance to avoid the confrontation that eventually took his life.

And that’s why Zimmerman was found “not guilty.”

But wait…suppose…just suppose…that for the rest of his life, Zimmerman noticed that wherever he went, he was being trailed by people wearing hoodies…

And openly packing Skittles.