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The Conversation About Race That Rich Lowry Wants

Let’s take the advice of Politico contributor Rich Lowry. Let’s have a national non-conversation about race in the wake of the Zimmerman case.

Let’s pretend that no one who is worried by the Trayvon Martin case has ever articulated their concerns reasonably or dispassionately, and use prominent column space to engage with straw men instead.

Let’s offer up the facile argument that, because most young black men in America are not killed by overzealous neighborhood watch volunteers, the circumstances of Trayvon Martin’s death are not worth our discussing. Let’s pretend that unarmed black men are not killed by law enforcement-types all the time.

Let’s spend several paragraphs merely repeating many of the same things Richard Cohen wrote in the Washington Post on Monday—and refuse to engage with any of the measured, unsensational responses to him that have appeared in the interim.

Let’s describe peoples’ concern that black men cannot walk home from the store safely as “insipid, racially charged nonsense to fill the air or the column inches.” After all, Lowry cannot afford to get mired in an exchange of ideas with the many writers out there who are probing what ought to constitute lawful self-defense—and who, really, can claim a right to self-defense?—let alone pretend that such a discussion is ongoing.

Let’s pretend that no prominent writers have ever talked about black-on-black crime or are concerned with endemic murder rates experienced by young black men. (Let’s not simply Google “Ta-Nehisi Coates black on black crime.”) Let’s not ask where we can find Lowry’s efforts to bring the routine slaughter of young black men into the national conversation—because he only seems to talk about those murders when he’s sick of hearing about Trayvon Martin.

Let’s note that New York City once had 2,200 murders a year and now has 400, and erroneously imply that this is thanks to New York’s stop-and-frisk policy. Let’s imply that asking poor black New Yorkers—all blacks, really—to live under a constant cloud of suspicion is for their own good, and tell ourselves that this is an unavoidable, acceptable tradeoff. 

Let’s talk about guns, but let’s dismiss out of hand the first meaningful effort in a decade to fix our nation’s alarmingly weak gun laws.

Like Lowry, let’s ignore that the Stand Your Ground law was a part of the reason the Sanford, Fla., police initially didn’t arrest Zimmerman, and that it had everything to do with the trial, and wish away concrete evidence to the contrary.

In short, let’s take a terrible event and make it a festival for all our ideological and racial ax-grinding and a showcase for our inability or unwillingness to leave our political silos. Let’s not cite any evidence that the conversation about Trayvon Martin has been mostly heedless and blinkered, but pat ourselves on the back about our fearlessness and honesty anyway.

Yes, Rich Lowry, you are right. This conversation is exactly what the country needs.

Molly Redden is a staff writer with The New Republic. Follow her on Twitter @mtredden.