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Must-Read Op-Eds: Tuesday, July 16

Updated

D.C.’s PIT OF DESPAIR
FRANK BRUNI
NEW YORK TIMES
Right now, “the world’s greatest deliberative body,” as the Senate has been called, looks a whole lot more like the set of “The Jerry Springer Show.” Is it any wonder that so many prominent pols are taking a pass on membership in the club? … If the Senate is this troubled, what hope exists for the federal government all in all? … On Monday, in a voice of surprising sadness, Reid declared the Senate “broken.” He looked weary, beaten down: a mirror of Americans, whose faith in Washington has ebbed. When we look toward the Potomac, we see posturing in lieu of cooperation, tribalism in place of collaboration. And that’s not what friends are for.

THE TRUTH ABOUT TRAYVON
EKOW N. YANKAH
NEW YORK TIMES
The anger felt by so many African-Americans speaks to the simplest of truths: that race and law cannot be cleanly separated. We are tired of hearing that race is a conversation for another day. We are tired of pretending that “reasonable doubt” is not, in every sense of the word, colored. Every step Mr. Martin took toward the end of his too-short life was defined by his race. I do not have to believe that Mr. Zimmerman is a hate-filled racist to recognize that he would probably not even have noticed Mr. Martin if he had been a casually dressed white teenager. But because Mr. Martin was one of those “punks” who “always get away,” as Mr. Zimmerman characterized him in a call to the police, Mr. Zimmerman felt he was justified in following him. After all, a young black man matched the criminal descriptions, not just in local police reports, but in those most firmly lodged in Mr. Zimmerman’s imagination.

BLACK BOYS DENIED THE RIGHT TO BE YOUNG
EUGENE ROBINSON
WASHINGTON POST
If anyone wonders why African Americans feel so passionately about this case, it’s because we know that our 17-year-old sons are boys, not men. … We know how frightened our sons would be, walking home alone on a rainy night and realizing they were being followed. We know how torn they would be between a child’s fear and a child’s immature idea of manly behavior. … And we know that a skinny boy armed only with candy, no matter how big and bad he tries to seem, does not pose a mortal threat to a healthy adult man who outweighs him by 50 pounds and has had martial arts training… We know that the boy may well have threatened the man’s pride but likely not his life. … The conversation we need to have is about how black men, even black boys, are denied the right to be young, to be vulnerable, to make mistakes. We need to talk about why, for example, black men are no more likely than white men to smoke marijuana but nearly four times as likely to be arrested for it — and condemned to a dead-end cycle of incarceration and unemployment. I call this racism. What do you call it? Trayvon Martin was fighting more than George Zimmerman that night. He was up against prejudices as old as American history, and he never had a chance.

THE WHOLE SYSTEM FAILED
CHARLES BLOW
NEW YORK TIMES
As a parent, particularly a parent of black teenage boys, I am left with the question, “Now, what do I tell my boys?” We used to say not to run in public because that might be seen as suspicious, like they’d stolen something. But according to Zimmerman, Martin drew his suspicion at least in part because he was walking too slowly. So what do I tell my boys now? At what precise pace should a black man walk to avoid suspicion? And can they ever stop walking away, or running away, and simply stand their ground? Can they become righteously indignant without being fatally wounded? Is there any place safe enough, or any cargo innocent enough, for a black man in this country? Martin was where he was supposed to be — in a gated community — carrying candy and a canned drink. The whole system failed Martin. What prevents it from failing my children, or yours? I feel that I must tell my boys that, but I can’t. It’s stuck in my throat. It’s an impossibly heartbreaking conversation to have. So, I sit and watch in silence, and occasionally mouth the word, “breathe,” because I keep forgetting to.

WHY I STOOD UP FOR TEXAS WOMEN
SENATOR WENDY DAVIS, D-TX
WASHINGTON POST
In the end, the filibuster was a means to continue the fight and stand up to Republican leaders. That fight is not a new one for me. As a senator from the only true swing district in the Texas Senate, I’ve been targeted by the GOP for my outspoken criticism of their extremist attacks on public education and voting rights, to name just two examples. My nearly 13-hour stand against the effort to deny women access to basic health care evolved into a people’s filibuster opposing a selfish and out-of-touch leadership that refuses to listen to real families with real hopes.
Texas really is the greatest state in the greatest nation. Texans — and women all over the country — deserve leaders that care, that listen and that work to protect their interests. The people’s filibuster demonstrated that Texans — and women everywhere — are ready and willing to fight back.

THE SPEAKER IS MUTE BUT NOW UNINTELLIGIBLE
JENNIFER SENIOR
NEW YORK MAGAZINE
He’s a conservative, certainly, but also an institutionalist, an old-school politician who likes to do deals; … he has an interest, at 63, in leaving a legacy of bipartisan accomplishments behind him. … [H]is speakership, of late, has become a case study in minefield walking, forcing him to balance one survival instinct against another. If he doesn’t make an attempt at a serious [immigration] bill, he’ll have almost nothing to show for his leadership … But if he tries to forge a deal with the Democrats and let the bill come to the floor, … he’ll face a revolt from his own rather large backbench … Boehner is one of the most beleaguered powerful people in Washington.  … Of course, there’s another powerful leader in Washington who’s inconveniently introverted and allergic to conflict. His name is Barack Obama.

Must-Read Op-Eds: Tuesday, July 16

Updated