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Works and Days

From the Trayvon Martin Tragedy to a National Travesty

April 1st, 2012 - 4:05 pm

5. Trayvon Martin’s mother, understandably, is upset that unflattering information about her deceased son is publicly aired, contrary to her own portrait (as is true of all mothers in extremis) of him as a model student. She is going to court to trademark the use of his name — not, it is promised, for commercial purposes, but to ensure that others do not. All publicity about the deceased that is positive is now rightly in the public domain and soon to be merchandised; all that is not is scurrilous and blame-the-victim defamation.

6. George Zimmerman is now referred to as “a white Hispanic” on the basis of his Hispanic mother and white father, although he would be classified as “Hispanic” should he have applied for a civil service job. The president of the United States, to my knowledge, is not supposed to be referred to as a “white African-American” due to the fact of one of his parents being white. Apparently the insertion of “white” into racial identification is to lessen the claim of the referent on victimhood. Or is the race industry worried that skin color or nomenclature can fool us into to thinking race is incidental to our personas?

Note that had Zimmerman preferred, as do many of mixed heritage, to Hispanicize his first name (e.g. Jorge) or use his mother’s Peruvian maiden name, he would be de facto “Latino,” and the case would have lost its white/black resonance. It surely would not have made the national news. Latino/black and black/Latino crime either offers no teachable moment in our ill society or provokes a counter-response from the Latino activist community.

7. One can be conscious of the fact that 2-3% of the population (young black males) commits over 30% of the nation’s crime; but if one were to use that information to guide one’s behavior then it is deplorable and degenerates into racial profiling.

The national emphasis is not on ensuring that 2-3% of the population does not commit 30% of the nation’s crime, but that the population not be aware of that fact for any particular use — or that it realize in the collective sense that society is responsible for such inordinate rates of crime. All media pundits and elites who live in New York and Washington (including the president of the United States) deplore racial profiling, but — in the selection of their children’s schools, in their preferred neighborhoods, in the decision where to shop or buy gas after hours, in the advice they give their teenagers who go out on Saturday nights — employ such general profiling and stereotypes hourly. Stranger still, so do young African-American males: black males who might wear cardigan sweaters and ties on the Saturday night street would be safer than those with hoodies and tattoos.

8. When the narrative of the case was first aired in the media — a white vigilante murderer with a Germanic sounding name had gunned down a preteen African-American child with skittles — the nation was outraged. The furor intensified especially when photos aired of the mug shot of Zimmerman, juxtaposed to that of the smiling preteen Martin, even as demonstrators preferred the photos of a hooded 17-teen-year-old, 6’2” Martin. I gather that for purposes of ethnic solidarity, Trayvon was to be portrayed as a defiant hooded 17-year-old; while for purposes of public empathy, he was also to be frozen in amber as a slight preteen in his football uniform. Were we the public not to be aware of that?

9. The New Black Panther Party quite quickly put a bounty out for the arrest of George Zimmerman. The director Spike Lee tweeted his supposed address in apparent hopes that a mob might assemble at his front door. These acts were cries of the heart, not potential felonies to be investigated by state or federal authorities — although should other organizations have emulated their actions in anger over a black suspect in a shooting of a non-black victim, warrants probably would have ensued.

10. In commentary on the case, pleas for patience and caution to ensure a full airing of the facts of the case were said to be symptomatic of callousness, if not racism; demands that immediate arrests and indictments follow from popular agitation were deemed liberal and ethical.

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