Untruth at The New Yorker
A column on the Trayvon Martin case elicits an egregious attack.


Victor Davis Hanson

7) The nonsense continues: “But Hanson is wrong to act as if the anguish over Martin’s death is a mere distraction from concerns about crime in black America. This was, in some ways, a freak shooting, but it created an outpouring of mourning and anger inspired, in part, by all the other shootings that have come to seem normal.”

This is incoherent. Sanneh terms the Martin case a “freak shooting.” How then does something atypical create an outpouring of mourning and anger inspired, in part, by all the other shootings that have come to seem normal if not predictable?

Does he mean by “all the other shootings” the 93 percent of African-American homicide victims killed by other African-Americans — on the grounds that a fatal altercation between a Latino of mixed heritage and an African-American suddenly caused understandable outrage over thousands slain annually in our large cities? Or does he mean that Zimmerman prompted “anger” over the 7 percent of African-American homicide victims who were killed by non-African-Americans?

8) Sanneh writes, “He [Hanson] might find that African-American parents are as worried about their children as he is about his — probably more so.”

I think that is why I used the word “tragedy” in the piece, and why I noted that it is far more likely for African-American parents to lose their children in homicides to African-American perpetrators than to those who resemble George Zimmerman — hence my worry that the civil-rights community fixated on a case that had little to with the conditions responsible for an epidemic of violence among African-American youth.

Finally, I don’t know what Sanneh’s “probably more so” is supposed to mean, but I have a guess that it reflects the disturbing themes of his essay.

*     *     *

Nothing in Sanneh’s attack addressed the chief point I made: Both the president of the United States and the attorney general, who both have an unfortunate history of employing racially insensitive terminology or references (“typical white person,” “punish our enemies,” acted “stupidly,” “my people,” “cowards,” etc.), waded clumsily into a racially charged case — one that is currently under review by the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department — in ways that were not only misleading but, in their timing and aims, unethical.

Again, the case had nothing to do with Stand Your Ground laws; George Zimmerman’s mixed ethnic heritage was not a factor in the tragic shooting; and a jury found Zimmerman not guilty of murder or manslaughter.

That the president opined that the son whom he did not have might outwardly have resembled the late Trayvon Martin was about as racially and legally appropriate as if, on the eve of the racially charged O. J. Simpson trial, President Bill Clinton had remarked that the second daughter he never had might have outwardly resembled the slain Nicole Simpson.

In sum, by his distortions and untruths Kelefa Sanneh ended up affirming all that I wrote.

NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. His latest book is The Savior Generals, published this spring by Bloomsbury Books.