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Elliot: Death of a teen

BY BEAU ELLIOT | JULY 16, 2013 5:00 AM

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Why does the meaning of “allude” elude so many people who are, presumably, native English speakers?

Just wondering.

Because I don’t want to wonder about the death of Trayvon Martin and the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the slaying of Martin, a 17-year-old African American walking back to his father’s house with Skittles and a soda.

Skittles and sodas might, possibly, have turned out to be a deadly diet some years down the line for Martin if he had kept it up, but there’s no evidence that B) he would have continued such a diet or that it would have been deadly, and, A) more importantly, that he should be shot and killed for such a dietary foray.

The case, the trial, the verdict — especially the verdict — has sparked tons of vigils and rallies and metric tons of discussion covering racial profiling, bigotry, stand-your-ground laws; you name it, it got talked about.

And, of course, race.

It’s funny how we measure human beings and try to find degrees of separation, not degrees of similarity — and not funny ha-ha. Though if you take a gander at Stephen Jay Gould’s The Mismeasurement of Man, the bizarre twists and Byzantine “reasoning” that Europeans employed to categorize the other peoples of the world, you might be tempted to laugh at the Europeans’ ignorance.

Race.

The human genome project would seem to suggest that there’s only one race, given our genetic similarities. But when I note this in conversation, there are always people (almost exclusively white people) who point out that African Americans are susceptible to sickle cell anemia and thus must be a different race.

Well, if that’s how you measure it. But. Greeks (those people from Greece, not those in fraternities and sororities) are also susceptible to sickle cell anemia, I remember reading somewhere, and so, by that measurement, African Americans and Greeks are the same race.

Um.

And then there’s this tidbit from the American Heritage Dictionary: “… many cultural anthropologists now consider race to be more a social or mental construct than an objective biological fact.”

We probably know a lot less about race than we think we do.

In the aftermath of the Zimmerman verdict and the slaying of Martin, I’m with Charles Blow of the New York Times — I just feel tremendous sadness, sadness for his family, his loved ones, his friends.
A teenager is dead, and he shouldn’t be dead.

That’s a tragedy. Not necessarily an African American tragedy, not necessarily an American tragedy.

It’s a human tragedy.


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