Jackie Gingrich Cushman
A little less rhetoric and a little more reflection might make the national conversation about race more productive.

The conversation regarding race followed this month's decision by a Florida jury to acquit George Zimmerman in the killing of Trayvon Martin -- and it is continuing.

In watching the media coverage of the responses, it might appear that the conversations are more heated than thoughtful.

President Obama waded into the topic last Friday. "You know, when Trayvon Martin was first shot, I said that this could have been my son," he told reporters. "Another way of saying that is Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago. And when you think about why, in the African-American community at least, there's a lot of pain around what happened here. I think it's important to recognize that the African-American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that doesn't go away."

Obama articulated the answer to the first-level why question, but the whys should be asked in a deeper context. Why is the why?

Why does the African-American community have a history that does not go away?

Why does Obama identify with a teenager who was found by a jury to have been shot in self-defense while beating Zimmerman? The Zimmerman legal defense team responded with a statement on its website, gzlegalcase.com.

"While we acknowledge and understand the racial context of this case, we challenge people to look closely and dispassionately at the facts. We believe those who look at the facts of the case without prejudice will see that it is a clear case of self-defense, and we are certain that those who take a closer look at the kind of person George Zimmerman is -- something we understand the Department of Justice is currently doing -- we are confident they will find a young man with a diverse ethnic and racial background who is not a racist, a man who is, in fact, sensitive to the complex racial history of our country. ... Before you judge George Zimmerman or disparage the verdict of the citizen jury, understand the facts in full. Agree not to listen to just what meets your predisposition, but to accept what exists."

Why?

Why are the facts in this case hard to accept?

Zimmerman's fight with Martin left him with a broken nose, two black eyes and two cuts on the back of his head.

Do various groups agree on the facts in the case? If not, why?


Jackie Gingrich Cushman

Jackie Gingrich Cushman is a speaker, syndicated columnist, socialpreneur, and author of "The Essential American: 25 Documents and Speeches Every American Should Own," and co-author of “The 5 Principles for a Successful Life: From Our Family to Yours”.