The police slaying of Michael Brown, an unarmed teenager, in Ferguson, Missouri, has riveted the attention of the national media in part for its shock value (Brown was reportedly shot six times, including in the face and top of the head); because of looting and rioting all-too-reminiscent of the race riots in many US cities following the 1968 MLK assassination; and, not least, because of the long and depressing history of slavery, Jim Crow laws in the South, and strained race relations in the North and West – the latter a direct consequence of the latter.
The facts and final verdict in the Michael Brown case await a full investigation and quite possibly a jury trial. Face it: no one really knows exactly what happened, who said what or who provoked whom or who made the first move that led to the rapid chain of events that ended so tragically.
By the same token, George Zimmerman is the only living soul who really knows what happened on that rainy night on February 16, 2012 when he shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. The shooting apparently occurred in the course of a fight. What we do know is that Zimmerman, who allegedly followed and provoked the victim, was acquitted; that it happened in Sanford, Florida; and that during the Jim Crow era, there was no legal protection and no justice for African-Americans in the state Florida. Whites racists who beat, raped, and even murdered blacks enjoyed near-absolute legal immunity.