No need to make issue about race

The random fatal shooting of a young college student in Oklahoma is bad enough without trying to make it worse by casting it as a racial incident.

The false narrative surrounding the tragic shooting death in Florida of black teen Trayvon Martin sparked months of angry debate about the state of race relations in this country.

Now a viciously random fatal shooting of a young Australian man attending college in Oklahoma threatens to spark another similarly pointless exchange.

That's why it's important that people understand the facts of what occurred Aug. 16 in Duncan, Okla., and what the incident does and, almost equally important, does not represent.

Although many people still do not seem to accept it, the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin was not an incident that symbolized white racism. For starters, the shooter, George Zimmerman, is Hispanic. That's the most salient of the many facts knocking down the media spin that was quickly attached to a physical confrontation that ended with Zimmerman shooting Martin.

A jury found Zimmerman not guilty of murder based on his claim of self-defense. But the emotion engendered by the facts of the case and the senseless loss of life that occurred cause many people to view that verdict as illegitimate.

Just as the facts demonstrate that the Martin shooting was not an example of white racism, the facts surrounding the shooting death of Christopher Lane, a college baseball player out for a jog, demonstrate that it was not motivated by black racism.

Three teens have been charged in the Lane shooting. One is black, one is white and the third is of mixed race. Much attention has been paid to racial insults one of the defendants, 15-year-old James Francis Edwards Jr., spewed on social media websites, and those comments speak for themselves about Edwards' perspective.

But given his associations that day, they say little about the specific motive for the shooting.

The three teens themselves explained that they killed Lane because they were "bored" and looking for some excitement. The father of a fourth youth who was threatened by the trio claims they were motivated by some sort of gang initiation effort.

There is much that is outrageous about what occurred in Oklahoma. The frightening lack of empathy raise serious questions about the social conditions that produce young men like this. No doubt, many factors contribute — social and family disintegration, a culture that casts grotesque acts of violence as entertainment, social media that encourages young people to pose as thug wannabes and easy access to firearms by criminals.

Instead of having a discussion about those real contributors, there has been much media discussion raising questions about why President Obama has not expressed the same personal outrage about the Lane shooting that he did about the Martin shooting. A White House spokesman did not help matters on that point when he said he was unaware of the Lane shooting.

President Obama did himself no favors in the Trayvon Martin case when he appeared to parrot the white racism angle of the story. He told Americans they needed to do some "soul searching" about what had happened and commented that if he had a son that son would have looked like Trayvon Martin.

Having made that mistake once, there is no need for Obama to do the same thing again in the Lane case.

For some to suggest he's being hypocritical for raising the racism issue in Martin and not raising the black racism issue in Lane reveals a lack of understanding of the facts in play.

Obama, like all decent people, abhors senseless loss of life, particularly as it relates to crime for sport and whatever the race of those who are injured or killed.

But there is no equivalence in the Martin and Lane shootings for him to address, except the false equivalence of racial motivation attributed by third parties to these tragic events.

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