Ah, the crickets are chirping.
I believe that’s my cue to enter the fray.
All the knee-jerk liberals have, for the most part, finished expressing their outrage over the wrongful death of a black young man who might have been discriminated against on an individual basis before his life was tragically cut short, and certainly institutionally in the aftermath.
Financial conservatives have vented their economically-couched racism through the lead up and outcome of the subsequent botched court case, and have since found outlets in the form of character assassination of the aforementioned white-on-black-crime poster-child.
I am, of course, referring to Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman.
Some liberals I call acquaintances have become terse, upset, even shocked at the tack I’ve taken with this case. My attempt to remain less biased has been considered an affront and put me squarely in the camp of ‘the enemy.’ I think the phrase goes, ‘You’re either with us or against us.’ A Bushist concoction applied by liberals. < -- I believe that is a correctly identified instance of irony, including the Greek literary variety, where the reader is fully aware of the full actions/beliefs of the character while the character remains in ignorance.
Some folks are downright angry that I didn’t jump on board the ‘Crucify Zimmerman’ bandwagon. A couple of my Latino acquaintances are ready to flay me. Apparently, I’m supposed to believe that Zimmerman went after Martin because he was black. I’m also supposed to subscribe to the notion that because Zimmerman pursued Martin, no amount of escalation from an unarmed young man could turn the tables and put Zimmerman into the role of victim, to the point that deadly force was the only way to repel an attack gone wrong.
To be clear, we are a nation replete with racial profiling. We live in societies filled with white people who are afraid of blacks and hispanics (but white folk don’t admit to or talk about it. It’s… a secret, lest white folk get branded racists and/or the collective black and brown body rises up and figures this out, resulting in one almighty flex of raw power).
And there’s an argument for the idea that white people should be afraid of people of color. Look what has been done to them, from the time Columbus rounded them up from the beaches of the Bahamas to today’s current form of systemic, economic slavery. In addition to the hate we’ve heard from right-wing extremists and clandestine Aryan race enthusiasts when Obama was making inroads to the presidency, we also heard fear. Fear of what a black person in power might do for black people, and against white people in retribution. Fear of what legally sanctioned black power looks like. Fear of what the reality of black equality looks like. Fear of what a black planet looks like. That’s right, Fear of a Black Planet. Extra credit if anyone knows that reference without consulting Google.
Many blacks and latinos land on the side of liberals in favor of justice for Martin in the form of nailing Zimmerman with a premeditated murder charge. It’s, frankly, obvious why the black community has embraced Martin as their rallying point. But it’s interesting to see the hispanic community embrace the plight of a black young man, despite a long history of discord between blacks and latinos. I wonder if Zimmerman would have gotten more support from the Hispanic community had his name been Jorge Zapata or Jose Gonzalez. It’s like the latino community banded together with other minorities and white liberals in exhibiting Wounded Animal Syndrome. In fact, it’s a lot like what happened in the black community with O.J. Simpson – who tried for years to be as white as he could be, but once he became a murdering criminal, and the white community turned their back on him (with plenty of good reason), it was the black community that rallied around him and made him a beacon of hope for justice. The years of injustice became stronger than the guilt or innocence of the accused/wronged. It’s not an exact comparison because it would be a gross misrepresentation to say that Trayvon Martin did anything wrong in this instance. The biggest travesty is that ‘Stand Your Ground’ didn’t first, or at least also, apply to Martin in the moment he felt threatened by a pursuing Zimmerman.
Why liberals have chosen to rally around Martin is transparent, if one recognizes that it wasn’t so much a choice as it was a leading around by the nose. Mainstream media has become adept at influencing public opinion. < -- That isn't a conspiracy theory, describing a group of people who by design have plotted each move to an eventual outcome, but rather it has become the culture of the media and therefore individuals within it, to craft their spin and present an angle designed to garner response, contention and Internet traffic (which replaces number of hardcopies purchased), instead of approaching from an information gathering perspective.
Here are some main factors to consider regarding the media’s approach to the Martin/Zimmerman case (links provided not because I think anyone will actually click on them, but in case anyone thinks I’m just making this up to suit my preconceived notions:
1) A five years younger, innocent-looking picture of Trayvon Martin is attached to the news reports < -- enter liberal support for Martin.
2) Journalists label Zimmerman as white as possible and ignore his hispanic heritage < -- causing liberals to lump the case into white-on-black race-driven hate crimes, and garnering Zimmerman support from gun ownership enthusiasts who harbor covert racism.
3) A TV journalist’s dishonest splicing and airing of voice recordings to make Zimmerman sound like he was racially profiling < -- resulting in people who abhor white-on-black crimes to enter the fray in favor of Martin, and gun-toting fiscal-conservatives harboring secret racism to enter on the side of whoever wasn't black in the situation (and carrying a gun).
* * read –> Media manipulating Racism in the Martin Zimmerman Case
* * read –>Obama’s knee-jerk reaction to Trayvon Martin
5) CNN journalist claims Zimmerman uttered a racial slur on garbled recording: ‘effing coon’ (CNN later recanted, as the comment was really about the weather, but damage done and opinions formed to great impact on this case) < -- resulting in wide-spread liberal support reaching fever pitch, beyond the reach of logic or even real evidence.
All of these factors created strong, popular support for the white-on-black, race-driven crime of Zimmerman killing Martin, despite the lack of evidence that this was a race-driven crime.
And with such liberal bias in the media, conservatives also reacted to the manipulation, rallying around the opposing side with a gusto, the likes of which haven’t been seen since… well, Newtown, Connecticut, but let’s not create excessive tangency here.
After all this leading around, no Martin supporter will hear that there is zero proof or indication that Zimmerman went after black thugs in his neighborhood. Their gut instinct, hopelessly skewed after years of white-on-black crimes (yet curiously uninformed in cases like Kenneth Chamberlain Sr.); they can’t hear that Zimmerman went after thugs, regardless of their skin color. They certainly can’t hear that Martin was the one between the two, to exhibited racism in calling Zimmerman a cracker in a text to his girlfriend that night (which has no relevancy on the case, but demonstrates racism on both sides of that coin).
Martin supporters become incensed at the suggestion that the young man became the aggressor at some point, appearing to be the more accomplished fighter, besting Zimmerman physically and strategically up until Zimmerman pulled his gun and removed any notion of a level playing field. Without that gun, Martin probably would have been charged with and even guilty of battery in crossing the line from fending off an aggressor to committing a violent crime. Sounds an awful lot like Stand-Your-Ground. Without that gun, at what point should Martin have stopped? At what point does someone who is being bullied fight back and then cease, prior to becoming the bully himself? Can a guy who picks a fight become the victim? This is where idealist visions of self-actualization become swallowed by the reality of the human condition.
Another media manipulation factor comes on the heels of the trail verdict, again from Obama, saying Trayvon Martin could have been him 35 years ago. As thrilled as I am that we’ve finally broken that white ceiling on the presidency, I’m disappointed that Obama hasn’t been able to rise above the knee-jerk reactions and point his intellect to a better thought-through perspective. I’ve seen him weigh in too quickly on three instances of race-based issues: Henry Louis Gates (he got this one wrong), Trayvon Martin prior to the court case (adding fuel to the misinformation), and Trayvon Martin after the court case (adding more fuel to misinformation). He has shown himself to be short-sighted and hopelessly biased while sitting in the highest position of influence in the nation. But I digress.
Zimmerman backers can’t bring themselves to openly admit that race did play a factor the moment law officers came upon the scene and found yet another dead black body and a bleeding white man claiming self-defense, which they readily believed was as it should be. Zimmerman backers can’t openly admit that it’s important that the majority of gun owners remain white out of fear of what a legally armed black community would do to their reality.
In trying to remain objective, I’ve come to this opinion: George Zimmerman was correctly exonerated of premeditated murder and erroneously acquitted of manslaughter. The notion that Stand-Your-Ground doesn’t apply to Martin is a load of bollocks < -- there's your institutional racism in the case. Zimmerman is an overzealous idiot with a gun and a hard-on to catch bad guys, and become a local hero. And if he'd chosen a thug who was actually doing something wrong that night, he would be a hero today, in the white, black and hispanic communities. But he happened to choose a cute, black young man, shrouded in a typical thug-wear hoodie who was minding his own business. That makes Zimmerman a problem, and very much throws gun-toting back into the national spotlight for yet another round of evenly matched tug-o-war.
I’m careful about where I go for news, cross-checking multiple sources, and always keeping a lookout for slants and leans in anything I read. There’s been so much sloppy reporting and manipulation with this case, that it’s tough to wade through and find some truth out there. But somewhere in between Charles Barkley, Martin Bashir, Romany Malco and Cornel West is an appropriate short, mid and long term vision on race in today’s society.
In the short term, Barkley, yes, the former basketball all-star, Charles Barkley, has correctly identified that race has less role in this case than the media has portrayed. Not bad for a hot-headed, black sports persona.
Bashir has singled out the Martin character assassinations perpetuated by the covertly racist gun-toters who label themselves conservative. He rightly shames people for entering that space and calls on the public to allow the Martin family to grieve with dignity. I agree with him, despite Martin’s mother shamelessly using her son’s tragic demise to catapult her profile in the media, and to make a buck or two in her relentless pursuit of copyrighting her son’s image and name, as well as sporting those incredibly tacky sweatshirts under the banner of ‘Justice for Trayvon.’
In the midterm, Malco calls directly upon the black community to elevate their standing in society by gaining personal accountability for the negative aspects of popular black culture perpetuated through music, movies and television shows -it’s tough to swallow from an actor who has made a living portraying some of those stereotypes, but perhaps that’s why his perspective is particularly stinging. An unfortunate outcome of his article is that many right-wing gun-toters have lifted his perspective for their own purposes: Using it as a springboard to say, ‘It’s the fault of the black community that white people are killing them.’ He’s become the token black guy the white right is using to further their agenda.
And for the longterm perspective, far-reaching both backward and forward, Cornel West connects the dots, Noam Chomsky style, with a stunning assessment of institutional racism and economic slavery: the new Jim Crow. He brings Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. smack into this conversation, but his intellectualism is so far beyond most peoples’ capacity for understanding, that even his soft, pleasing style doesn’t bridge the gap, and I’m afraid his message isn’t going to land on enough people to really provide a roadmap for the way forward for the common people. Brother Cornel understands what Howard Zinn understood – the same thing that Warren Beaty expressed in his scathing commentary on U.S. politics, buried in the movie Bulworth: White people have more in common with black people than they do rich people. You bust your ass until they put you in your grave, you don’t have to be black to be living like a slave.
Much like the O. J. Simpson case, the Martin-Zimmerman case has shown the latest spotlight on race relations in the United States. And from what I can see, we haven’t made much progress. We’ve just gotten really good at hiding racism and really lousy at spotting it.