BOSTON (CBS) – Growing up in a racially-mixed neighborhood in Cambridge, I saw it with my own eyes – law-abiding black people harassed by everything from unwarranted stops by police to violent confrontation simply because of their skin color.
Listen to Jon’s commentary:
It’s an unconscionable problem that lingers on – just ask any black person, and chances are they’ll have horror stories to tell.
And if it has people on edge to the point where they’re ready to arrest the neighborhood watch guy down in Florida who killed unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin and charge him with a hate crime before the facts of what happened have been established, that’s understandable.
But that doesn’t make it right.
Al Sharpton, who’s been leading the clamor to prematurely lable this a racial hate crime, says: “Any time you have a pattern of engagement based on someone’s having a particular group in mind, that qualifies for hate crime inquiry,” and I agree with Sharpton on that.
But his conclusion is still premature.
George Zimmerman’s family and friends, people of color among them, insist he’s not a racist.
The housing complex he was unofficially patrolling had been hit by burglaries involving black males.
He says he was attacked by the teen, and that claim has yet to be debunked.
We need the facts, and while it’s pathetic that the local police commanded such little confidence, with state and federal investigators now on the job under intense public scrutiny, I’m sure we’ll get them.
In the meantime, fact-free clamor that assumes the man’s guilt is lynch-mob profiling comparable to what Zimmerman is informally accused of doing.
To see an unarmed kid shot to death is repulsive; if it was a racial hate crime, put me down for no mercy.
But let’s get the facts straight and act on the truth, not our reflexive outrage.
Otherwise, we’re no better than what we’re so outraged about.
You can listen to Keller At Large on WBZ News Radio every weekday at 7:55 a.m. and 12:25 p.m. You can also watch Jon on WBZ-TV News.