Ta-Nehisi Coates does a great job of debunking the idea—which has become prevalent on the right, in the wake of Trayvon Martin and surrounding activism—that African American leaders are somehow indifferent to crime within their communities. With a simple Google search, he offers examples—drawn from the last three years—of rallies and protests in support of efforts to curtail violence in predominantly black neighborhoods. Here he is with a little commentary:
If Trayvon Martin showed us that wearing a hoodie and walking in a gated community is enough to get killed as long as you’re an African American male, then Kenneth Chamberlain will shows us that death is also a fitting punishment if you’re an elderly veteran, sitting in your home, who had the misfortune of accidentally calling for help:
This, from YouGov, tells you everything you need to know about contemporary race relations in a single, compact chart:
For 66 percent of white Americans to agree with this statement—“Irish, Italian, Jewish, and many other minorities overcame prejudice and worked their way up. Blacks should do the same without any special favors”—there needs to be either large scale amnesia or willful ignorance about what happened in the previous 150 years of this country’s history.
I’m furious that Trayvon Martin is getting blamed for his own murder. If smoking pot in high school were an executable offense, as the Miami Herald seems to suggest, we would cut the U.S. population by about a third. Add tardiness to the list—again, as the Miami Herald seems to be doing—and I believe we could eliminate Social Security entirely.
The Trayvon Martin case is both an individual tragedy and a symbol of a larger problem, the way some people are treated as "suspicious," as George Zimmerman described Martin, and the myriad consequences that suspicion brings. Lots of conservatives don't really think that larger problem is much of a big deal, and apparently, the way they've decided to make that case is by focusing on this individual incident, namely by trying to convince everyone that Trayvon Martin was a no-good punk who had it coming.
It’s amazing to me that I would even have to point this out—it should be common knowledge—but one big reason for why the killing of Trayvon Martin has generated so much outrage among African Americans is that it evokes a long history of violence toward black males suspected of criminality. Isabelle Wilkerson, author of The Warmth of Other Suns—a Pulitzer Prize-winning book on the black migration to the North—details a little bit of this history in a column for CNN:
No matter the state, the circumstances are eerily familiar: a slaying. Minimal police investigation. A suspect known to authorities. No arrest. Protests and outrage in a racially charged atmosphere. […]
The National Review’s Jonah Goldberg argues that there is a “black upper class bubble” that explains the focus on white racism as a source of ills in the black community:
It seems plausible that at least some of these people are as removed from lower class black America as many white commentators are from lower class white America. In that context, I could see how the Trayvon Martin story would hit closer to home than the vastly more numerous tragedies involving black-on-black homicide. […]
You may have already been outraged to hear that Geraldo is blaming the hoodie for Trayvon Martin’s death. Of course he’s wrong. Short skirts don’t rape women; men rape women. Hoodies don’t shoot Skittles-toting teenagers; overzealous neighborhood watch guys shoot teenagers. The blame lies squarely with the rapist or killer, not the victim. And it lies with the racism that keeps getting passed on through our culture, just below the radar. I am regularly appalled when, on family movie night, we watch some children’s movie that friends recommended—and realize that the only African Americans are the bad guys.
One of the key aspects of rape culture is to place the blame for sexual assault on the women who are attacked, and not the actual rapists. Statements like “You shouldn’t have been wearing that,” and questions like “why were you walking alone,” are all variations on “you were asking for it.” If Geraldo Rivera is any indication, it seems that this logic also applies to violence against black boys:
Particularly after Charles Blow devoted his column last week to the subject, the so-far unprosecuted shooting of Trayvon Martin has deservedly gotten a lot of attention. For good reason, much of this attention has focused on Florida's odious 2005 revisions to its law of self-defense.
Like many people, I’ve been following the Trayvon Martin case with sadness and horror. If you’re not aware of the facts of the case, I recommend Ta-Nehisi Coates’s blogging on the subject, as well as work from The Huffington Post and The New York Times.
One thing that has gone unremarked upon in the continuing story of Latino disdain for the Republican Party—and its desperate attempt at damage control—is the degree to which Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination to the Supreme Court was a pivotal event for the GOP’s relationship to the Latino community.