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Ten Things That We’ve Learned from the Trayvon Martin Tragedy


1) So far there has been very little new light shed on exactly what happened on the night of the shooting. It is likely that Mr. Zimmerman will be arrested on some sort of charge, local, state, or federal, and more likely that most will believe that such an arrest is as much a necessary price to soothe racial passions as it is likely to be based on careful review of existing evidence.

2) Identity in this ill society is everything — something to be put on and taken off as one sees advantage. Civil-rights supporters prefer to wear hoodies in rallies and demonstrations in solidarity with the hooded Mr. Martin, but prefer the media to continue to show pictures of a young-looking victim in football attire that better offers a sympathetic portrait to the general public. Hispanic and Democratic George Zimmerman, had he Hispanicized his name (something like a Jorge Zimmerman, or had he used his mother’s Latino maiden name), would have either found a supportive chorus from Latino activists, or the entire case of Latino-black crime would not have had commensurate resonance. If Mr. Zimmerman were applying for a civil-service job, no one would have created the new rubric “white Hispanic.” Even at this late date, if he were to use his mother’s maiden name as part of a hyphenated last name, he would earn more empathy. Unfortunately, he found himself pigeonholed as a white conservative vigilante, not a Hispanic Democrat, and that has made all the difference in his media profile.

3) The hysteria is not just over the death of a young African-American male, because hundreds are tragically killed to near silence every year, 94 percent of them by other African-American males. Nor is the outrage over a supposed white war against black men, given that in incidents of interracial crime, the latter kill the former far more frequently. Nor is it just over the decision, so far, of the police not to arrest and indict George Zimmerman, because hundreds of black assailants of other blacks each year find themselves not charged for capital crimes, because of the proven difficulties of obtaining critical affidavits, and the reluctance of eye-witnesses to come forward in the inner-city. In general, there are no marches or demonstrations over what has become a case of sheer carnage of one particular racial and gender group in our cities, or the frequent inability to bring murder suspects to trial. Finally, if the deceased had been white, and there are numerous whites killed each year in self-defense cases, with the facts as we know them so far unchanged, there would be zero national interest.

#more#4) There are no such things any more as overtly recognized racial smears, at least not in the absolute sense. They now depend on perceptions of who says what and why, a relative condition. The country is obsessed with decoding a scratchy tape to ascertain whether Mr. Zimmerman said “cold, coons, goons, or punks,” with the idea that if the garbled word proves a racial slur, then we have the magical key that will supposedly unlock the case — even as the late Travyon Martin self-identified himself with the N-word on his Twitter account and used it of his friends. No one can explain why Mr. Martin felt a need to so self-identify; no one seems to care; and no one can provide rules of the conditions under which (who says it, and when, why, how) society must deplore the use of such an epithet.

5) The country is unhinged and pays no attention to simple logic. The mother of Trayvon Martin deplores society’s supposed media obsession over her son, even as she seeks to trademark her son’s name for traditional marketing purposes, after avowing her legal efforts are only to protect his legacy. We are to deplore the use of past information about Mr. Martin that might lend background information to the case (past suspensions, possible drug use, alleged possession of possible stolen items, etc.) that seems at odds with the narratives provided by the media, but simultaneously must be told that in the past Mr. Zimmerman was a vigilante, racist, had brushes with the law, was a bad credit risk, etc. In short, we are to accept that background information is a relative issue, and a necessary means only if it leads to proper ends.

6) There really is no law. The Martins have legitimate questions about the absence of an indictment, as do many in this country who are unhappy with the use of self-defense pleas. That said, no one believes the Black Panthers will be charged with a felony for posting an open-season bounty on Mr. Zimmerman; no one believes that Spike Lee’s deliberate attempt to incite a mob reaction at the Zimmerman residence will even be considered a misdemeanor; and no one believes that a crowd of protestors detouring into a pharmacy to loot it will face arrests for theft. Everyone believes that if he were to emulate any of the above behavior in a non-racially-charged case, he would most surely risk some sort of legal repercussions.

7) There can be no more presidential editorializing. In this case, the Gates matter, the Fluke incident, and the Giffords tragedy, the president weighed in only to find his commentary either unsupported by facts, premature, prejudicial, or abjectly partisan. Nor will the attorney general weigh in, given that he has lost credibility after nonsensically calling the nation “cowards” for not wishing for a dialogue on race on his terms, referring to African-Americans as “my people,” and alleging racism as the cause of congressional questioning of his handling of the Fast and Furious debacle.

8) Mr. Zimmerman indeed may be guilty of second-degree murder, some sort of manslaughter, criminal negligence, or innocent by reason of self-defense. But we are at a point now where such considerations have become secondary to the larger agendas of activists. Mr. Sharpton, Mr. Jackson, the Black Panther Party, the Black Caucus, Spike Lee, and others may feel their invective and shoot-from-the-hip allegations are necessary to ensure an indictment, given the history of racial bias in this country; but fairly or not that aim seems secondary to their larger interests in racial scapegoating and acrimony for careerist reasons. Of course, they are not worried about such criticism, but it nonetheless is widely shared, as the opportunism and lack of ethics of the current self-identified civil-rights establishment is becoming a national consensus.

9) Most who editorialize so passionately on this case, black and white, live in cities, but most likely as far away from those neighborhoods and inner-city schools where murder is an epidemic as they can. They are engaging in de facto profiling in every aspect of their and their childrens’ lives, based on general perceptions, personal experience, and statistical data. Profiling and stereotyping are for others; a “good” or “safe” area is for the more sensitive and educated.

10) If an outsider were dispassionately to collate the public statements of the Black Caucus, the number of widely publicized racial controversies, and the charges of racism and counter-racism in the last three years, then one would conclude that racial relations, at least at the media and sensationalized level, from 2009–2012 were both far more emphasized and far worse, and the country far more polarized, than at any time in recent memory. In short, we are entering a dangerous phase in which millions of Americans have resigned themselves to allowing elites to construct one sort of reality, while they disengage from it and privately live quite another.


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