5 x 8: Racism never came up in Zimmerman jury deliberations

1) A QUESTION OF RACE. OR NOT

Niesha Ifonlaja, right, listens to speakers Monday evening, July 15, 2013 in downtown Minneapolis during a rally to protest George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. (MPR Photo/Jennifer Simonson)

Nobody picked up on my request in yesterday’s 5×8 for a little introspection in the wake of the Zimmerman trial’s conclusion. Specifically, President Obama’s question asking “if we’re doing all we can to widen the circle of compassion and understanding in our own communities.” It’s probably too early for introspection. At some point, the focus of the national dialogue has to expand to larger questions.

Today probably isn’t going to be that day.

Last evening, CNN’s Anderson Cooper interviewed a juror in the case, who made an important point. “Nobody knew exactly what happened,” she said.

“Anybody would think anybody walking down the road, stopping and turning and looking — if that’s exactly what happened — is suspicious,” she said.

“I think all of us thought race did not play a role,” the juror said . “We never had that discussion.”

Never?

“I don’t know if the jury, which included no African Americans, consciously or unconsciously bought into this racist way of thinking — there’s really no other word. But it hardly matters, because police and prosecutors initially did,” Eugene Robinson writes in the Washington Post.

In the same paper, Richard Cohen sees it differently.

“It does mean, though, that the public knows young black males commit a disproportionate amount of crime,” he writes. “In New York City, blacks make up a quarter of the population, yet they represent 78 percent of all shooting suspects — almost all of them young men. We know them from the nightly news.”

And there you have it.

Yesterday, the Star Tribune editorialized a celebration of due process in the case.

“Due process? What due process?” commentator Jay Larson of St. Bonifacius responded today.

There was no due process in that courtroom. The only process exhibited there was the Jim Crow process of the old South. Granted, this wasn’t the lynching of a black man after a quicky trial. Rather it was the unlynching of a white man who murdered a black child.

But it’s a bigger story than just the case of what happened in Florida. MPR’s Annie Baxter raised it in her story this morning about a protest in Minneapolis last night.

Anderson said he has been followed by workers in stores or by the police. He recalls one occasion when an officer acted aggressively with him for no apparent reason. Anderson said his girlfriend, who is also black, had not understood how often this kind of thing happened to him until she witnessed the incident.

“Once it happened and she saw it, it gave awareness to her that it’s just not a story people are making up,” Anderson said. “This is really happening.”

Anderson’s girlfriend, Shameka Myers, 29, of New Brighton, was indeed taken aback, saying it “was surprising because I would think that people would be better than that in 2012-2013.”

2) WHAT KIDS KNOW THAT ADULTS DON’T

Remember that Cheerios ad that General Mills started running a couple of months ago that featured a biracial family? YouTube had to shut down the comments on the online commercial because of all of the racist comments.

Adults saw a white woman and a black man. Kids, it turns out, saw a Cheerios ad.

3) THE ELECTRIC LINDBERGH

Chip Yates talks with Bob Collins at the 2012 AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wis.

When electric motors replace kerosene-guzzling jet engines — it’s only a matter of time — Chip Yates is going to be a big reason why. Yates set a speed record (200 mph) in an electric plane last summer, just days after he got his pilot’s license. Now he’s going to try to break it again — 250 mph, preferably without almost blowing himself up this time.

Wired.com profiled Yates and his other quest recently: to be the first pilot to fly non-stop to Europe in an electric plane.

You could argue he’s nuts, but the same was said of the early pioneers of flight, who, through trial and error and sheer force of will flew further and faster than anyone thought safe or sane. And while some are discounting Yates as a crackpot, he has the Pentagon’s attention. Electric aircraft have very little acoustic or thermal signature, making them well-suited to reconnaissance missions. The Navy recently signed a cooperative research agreement allowing Yates to work with the branch’s China Lake testing facility in southern California.

Not everyone is convinced that Yates is anything but a hot-rodder in an airplane, and his track record thus far – which includes a dead stick landing six days after getting his pilot’s license – has some calling him reckless.

“He’s not typical of the aviation industry,” concedes Erik Lindbergh, a pilot who is the legendary aviator’s grandson and a proponent of electric aircraft. “He’s young and he’s a breath of fresh air in that he’s willing to risk it all and do what he sets his mind to.”

I interviewed Yates on a talk show I hosted at the air show in Oshkosh last summer, shortly after his record-setting flight.

  1. Listen Bob Collins interviews Chip Yates

4) TALES OF THE FRANKENSTEIN RABBIT

Gunnar Boettcher

Gunnar Boettcher’s video of the “Frankenstein rabbit” in Mankato set the Internet on fire, but now it’s created a dilemma: Should he try to capture it and maybe have an expert figure out what caused his obvious problems or just let it be?

“I’m going back and forth,” he tells the Mankato Free Press. “I’ve been reading a lot of articles, trying to see what I could do.”

He’s leaning toward letting it mind its own business, to the outcry of some people on the Internet.

5) THE BAMBOO MENACE

Between the Emerald Ash Borer, buckthorn, garlic mustard, zebra mussels, and gypsy moths, the fight against invasive species feels like shoveling sand against the tide. Now, we’ve got one more to worry about: bamboo.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources says Japanese knotweed is spreading from Maine to Minnesota and as far south as Louisiana, according to the Duluth News Tribune.

You can’t burn the stuff. If you cut it down, it grows back even faster.

How it got here is a familiar story. Japanese knotweed was imported to the U.S. from Asia in the 1800s. People always seem to want wherever they are to be somewhere else.

Bonus I: What is the attraction of fantasy sports? It’s the fourth most popular sport in the U.S. That’s 13 percent of Americans playing it, NPR says.

Bonus II: Jack Handey is the envy of every comedy writer in America, the New York Times says. Handey is a real person, Al Franken insists.

Bonus III: You may recall a couple of weeks ago when meteorologists speculated the hottest temperature ever recorded on earth — 134 in Death Valley — might be broken in a 2013 heat wave. That record is probably bogus.

Bonus IV: ‘The Newsroom,’ Season 2, Ep. 1: HBO journodrama jumps the snark (WBUR Cognoscenti).

Bonus V: Baseball’s All Star Game will be played tonight in New York. Mets’ pitcher Matt Harvey will start the game for the National League.

Bonus VI: The man with no memory: Navy vet wakes up, speaks only Swedish (CNN).

TODAY’S QUESTION
Is two hours of screen time a day a reasonable limit for children? How about for you?

WHAT WE’RE DOING

Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: Taking a breather abroad.

Second hour: A Pew report Report looks at how digital tools affect student writing. Plus: The life of a public defender.

Third hour: Paul Nicklen, photographer.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): “Where does President Obama go from here?” Panelists are E. J. Dionne, Ron Brownstein and Andrew Revkin.

The Takeaway (1-2 p.m.) – Neighborhood watch members react to Zimmerman verdict | California prison system under scrutiny | Florida’s stand your ground law & race relations.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - A new novel from Minneapolis-based Coffee House Press blends elements of a spy thriller, a romance, history, philosophy and environmental concerns. The New York Times raved about “Submergence ” by author J.M. Ledgard. The national publishing houses reportedly passed over the book, but it’s exactly the material Coffee House seeks. MPR’s Euan Kerr will have the story.