Manipulating Death: The Nation’s Grievance Industry

From my perch in California, I have watched “hoodie” protest marches in Los Angeles, Oakland, and other cities around the state and the country. This has been a sideshow to the larger circus taking place in Sanford, Florida, a small suburb of Orlando where young Trayvon Martin was shot dead.

Over a month ago, the 17-year-old was killed — under questionable circumstances — by George Zimmerman, a 28-year-old man who was acting as a neighborhood watch captain in the gated community of Sanford. He had a permit to carry a handgun, the weapon that killed Martin.

Allegedly the gated Sanford community had been victimized by numerous burglaries over past months. Zimmerman thought the hoodie-wearing teenager fit the description of black youths identified as the suspects. He made a 911 call to say Martin’s actions were “suspicious.” The dispatcher told him to stop following the teenager — which Zimmerman ignored. As we know, that pursuit ended with the fatal shooting of Martin.

But why did Zimmerman shoot the teenager? Were his actions a tragic mistake, an act of self-defense, or the murderous intentions of a racist? More than one month after the killing, there are no factual revelations that definitively answer these questions.

Whatever the reasons, the grief, anguish, and anger felt by Trayvon’s parents are obviously legitimate, but at this point have become submerged by the larger agenda of what critics (like me) have labeled the “racial grievance industry.”

It was no surprise that the racial opportunists soon mobilized and descended on Florida, raising the stakes of the game. The dead teenager and his family became pawns in the agendas of Al Sharpton, Minister Louis Farrakhan, Jesse Jackson, the New Black Panther Party, and the Congressional Black Caucus, among others. George Zimmerman may soon find himself explaining his actions in court, but Zimmerman is small potatoes to the activists.

Beyond Zimmerman’s hide, the larger aim is to indict America for the killing of Trayvon Martin.

As the hyperbole mounted, the president of the National Urban League compared Martin’s death to the gruesome 1955 Mississippi lynching of another teenager, Emmett Till. Al Sharpton said Sanford could go down in history: “The Birmingham and Selma of the 21st century.” New York Times columnist Charles Blow reduced the complications of the case caused by Zimmerman’s mixed-ethnic heritage to its lowest common denominator: “Trayvon is black. Zimmerman is not.”

Not to be outdone, Jesse Jackson argued that “blacks are under attack” and “killing us is big business.” Even the usually levelheaded mayor of Philadelphia, Michael Nutter, went off the rails, calling the shooting of Trayvon an “assassination.”

Really? Is there a scintilla of evidence showing an “assassination” occurred in Florida?

These bizarre, racially inflammatory outbursts come at a time when the nation is led by a black president, there is significant black presence in the White House, and Obama’s attorney general is a black man. Some of these hackneyed claims of raw, unfettered racism would have sounded absurd and outdated even at the end of the 1970s. Yet, with a straight face, these race-hustlers — some still captives of another era — would like us to believe that George Zimmerman was acting as an agent of Jim Crow-era race policies when he shot Trayvon Martin.

The recurring claim made by an assortment of black leaders is that the lives of black youths are virtually worthless. This was the theme of a recent Time magazine article by Toure, who sets out to instruct black adults on how they should talk about the Martin killing with black youths. He starts by saying they should be told: “It’s unlikely, but possible that you could get killed today. … Or any day.”

Revealing the settings of his own racial compass, even the nation’s president seemingly bought into that perspective. At a Rose Garden press conference, President Obama mused: “You know, if I had a son, he’d look like Treyvon.” Meaning exactly what?

Obama’s racial instincts aren’t surprising. He’s shown a disturbing tendency to whip out the race card. In 2009, Obama awkwardly commented on an incident involving Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates: Gates had been arrested for disorderly conduct by the Cambridge police, and lacking facts, Obama said the Cambridge police had “acted stupidly.” Evidence showed otherwise.

But let’s get back to Toure’s point: For young black men, the frightening reality is that they do face the constant threat of violent death. But what Toure can’t admit is that the danger doesn’t come from some overzealous neighborhood watch-type, a “racist cop,” or from bigoted skinheads or white supremacists. To the contrary, the threat comes most often from other young black males.

As City Journal Contributing Editor Heather Mac Donald has pointed out, and as I have often written about, 93 percent of all black homicide victims from 1980 to 2008 were killed by other blacks.

New evidence may reveal that George Zimmerman has a racist past. But to date, no facts have emerged showing this to be the case, and a court of law will eventually sort out the facts and assign guilt or innocence in the death of Trayvon Martin.

So why have there been such frenetic, desperate attempts by the nation’s race-hustlers to label Zimmerman, a man of mixed-ethnicity, a racist? Obviously, people other than whites can be, and often are, racists. However, the knee-jerk attempts to brand Zimmerman some sort of white racist fits an agenda that — despite astounding racial progress over the landscape of fifty short years — seeks to chain America to its Jim Crow past purely for political and financial purposes.

What else explains black leaders ginned-up apoplexy over the murky shooting death of a black teenager by a half-Latino? The truth: only a handful of black youths like Trayvon Martin are killed annually under such strange circumstances. However, the disproportionate rate at which blacks kill other blacks is an ugly and routine fact in urban areas all across America, yet is simply considered racial “dirty laundry” within America’s race industry.

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