Let's be clear.  I am white.  As white as they come: of Swedish and other garden-variety Northern European descent.  I offer the most limited of perspectives--growing up, and still living in liberal paradise (Washington State): the exact opposite of Sanford, Florida.  I have no personal experience, other than watching The Wire, with which to anecdotally provide new insight or clarity.

But we can likely agree, at least in theory, that the color of a person's skin should not trump the content of their character, nor should it preclude them from Equal Protection, especially under the law.  That is to say, a person with some shade of brown skin does not inherently pose a threat; nor is that person more suspect than a person with white-ish skin.  That's the morality of race.  We like to think of ourselves as above such petty inferences.

And yet, the Zimmerman acquittal came as no surprise to most of us: the law provided George Zimmerman the right to kill Trayvon Martin.  It makes no difference whether you think white-ish Zimmerman was morally justified in stalking, confronting and then shooting to death an unarmed, hoodie-wearing, teenage black boy.  The state of Florida failed to eliminate the possibility that Zimmerman could have reason to fear for his life, and then respond in self-defense.  Reasonable Doubt: the single most important legal aspect of the trial.

But isn't the bottom line that George Zimmerman should have just stayed in his car like the 911 operator told him to do?  A little self-restraint would have changed this story entirely.

What is flawed with his character, and our society, is very different than what happened in the courtroom.  Because the courtroom is clearly not the place to find justice.  It is a place to find the law.  It is a mere distraction.  The circus of history proves my point.  We have a long list of codified attempts to make sure that black people remain disenfranchised and under-privileged: fugitive slave laws, poll taxes, literacy tests, registration practices, the many varieties of Jim Crow laws, and now gerrymandering, voter ID laws.  And, of course, Stand Your Ground.

 There is an enormous disconnect between morality and reality. 

What, then, is wrong?  Not our laws.  Our laws are working just fine. 


Restraining Order #2

In any decent discussion, I believe in a sense of context. I have never been to Sanford, Florida as I’m willing to bet that most of you have not. While the incident involving Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman is not wholly unique, the law in question not Florida’s alone, and the systemic injustice in evidence not isolated to that case, it did take place there. Let’s begin, then, with a bit of history.

The city of Sanford was named for and founded by one “General” Henry S. Sanford. In 1870, with dreams of a citrus empire, Sanford purchased the 12,548 acres in East-Central Florida that would become the town. In 1871, several groups of Swedish indentured servants were brought in to provide all of the back-breaking labor of clearing the forest and wetland for settlement and agricultural use. By the next year, the town was begun and a 100 acre orange grove had been planted. For a time, this area was the largest exporter of oranges in the world. 

This would all end after the winters of 1894 and 1895, collectively known as the Great Freeze. 

The orange industry had been devastated and the farmers forced to diversify their crop to include vegetables. So many chose celery that, until 1974, the nickname for Sanford, in fact, became Celery City.

So I give you a drink to sip while you consider these heady issues and their origins. I could hardly ignore the importance of oranges to Florida and Sanford in particular, but I didn’t want to follow too obvious a line of thought. Celery too became a prominent “flavor” for the town, so there was another possibility 

This is adapted from the original cocktail credited to Philadelphia bartender Colin Shearn of the bar Franklin Mortgage & Investment Co. His version is tequila-based and was given a name delightfully appropriate to our discussion, “The Restraining Order.” I substituted Aqavit as a nod to those Swedes who put in all that hard work to get us started. I thought they deserved some recognition. 

And so it became: 

The Restraining Order #2

1.5oz of Aqavit
.75oz of Aperol
3-4 dashes of Celery Bitters
1 Large swath of orange peel

  • Stir all ingredients (except the orange peel) in a mixing class with ice until cold.
  • Strain into a rocks glass over 1 large ice cube.
  • Squeeze the orange peel over the drink, rub the rim of the glass with the peel and drop it in to the glass.