Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Rushing to judgment is not a noble impulse

It is a noble impulse to be outraged when a perpetrator targets a victim because of his or her perceived membership in a certain social group. The instances in our recent history are too many to chronicle, from the Holocaust to the Bosnian and Rwandan Genocides to the lynch mobs of the Old South to Matthew Shepard, and a thousand -- no, a million -- others. Rational people recognize such injustices as particularly heinous.

But it is neither just nor noble to assume that such targeting occurred before we have all the facts. It is wrong because it isn't fair to the alleged perpetrator.

In the Trayvon Martin case, fact allegations are emerging that paint the case as more complicated, and less clear, than many are portraying it. See here: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2012/03/26/MN0R1NQC9D.DTL. It is not only unclear whether Mr. Martin was targeted because of his race, it is unclear what happened, period.

Thomas Sowell put it this way:

"The man who shot the black teenager in Florida may be as guilty as sin, for all I know — or he may be innocent. We pay taxes so that there can be judges and jurors who sort out the facts. We do not need Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton or the president of the United States spouting off before the trial has even begun. Have we forgotten the media’s rush to judgment in the Duke University 'rape' case that blew up completely when the facts came out?

"If the facts show that a teenager who was no threat to anyone was shot and killed, it will be time to call for the death penalty. But if the facts show that the shooter was innocent, then it will be time to call for people in the media and in politics to keep their big mouths shut until they know what they are talking about.

"Playing with racial polarization is playing with fire."