A 'Hu-Manifesto' for a Post-Trayvon World

Our world may not be postracial, but five guidelines will help us confront our hang-ups with honesty.

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The Trayvon Martin case has revealed as fallacies the memes of a "postracial" America and "post-black" identity. But that doesn't excuse the ridiculous amount of puffery and ego-tripping, as well as harmful stereotyping and merciless marketing, done in the name of justice for Trayvon -- and done in defense of the man who killed him and of the law that so far has left Trayvon's death unprosecuted.

As the Trayvon Martin case has become the Trayvon media circus, the signal-to-noise ratio in our national conversation has degraded. But we can turn things around, in large part by managing our own fears and expectations.

Let me take you back a couple of decades. I was new to New York, and a friend and I were sitting in an outdoor café in a rapidly gentrifying but still edgy neighborhood. A black (to my eyes) waiter was wearing one of those shirts that read:

My friend was mixed race (black, white and Hispanic ancestry), often mistaken for white; I am black, with an African father and an American mother. Both of us could not talk enough smack about the shirt or what we assumed was the naïveté of the wearer. To us, his shirt seemed like racial pandering, an attempt to gloss over racial inequality with pop fashion.

Flash back to the present. After two decades as a reporter, and just being an American adult, I've learned that we are all what we are (black, white, brown ... etc.), and yet we are all human. The murderers I've interviewed were human, as was a rapist and the perpetrator of a hate crime whom I tracked down at his church. The champions I've met -- including Nelson Mandela and a white Southerner who stood up to his local Klan members in the '50s -- are human, too. We're all human -- a mix of fabulous and messed up.

People call flash points like the Trayvon Martin case "teachable moments," but to remix a line from a former president, "Is our adults learning?" Well, here are five things we can learn from the Trayvon case and the aftermath.

 

1. First, Do No Harm

There was no excuse for Spike Lee retweeting what he thought was the address of George Zimmerman's family. It was an incitement to vigilantism that sent a family (not the family of the shooter, mind you) into hiding. Lee has subsequently apologized. Let's be clear: Even if it were Zimmerman's family, providing any information that could lead to tit-for-tat violence is unacceptable.

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