George Zimmerman is a contemptible human being.
In court, Zimmerman apologized to Trayvon Martin’s parents because their child ran into the bullet that he fired. Doubling down, Zimmerman, appearing on Fox News last night, had the unmitigated gall to offer up the following statement:
“My wife and I don’t have any children… I love my children even though they aren’t born yet, and I am sorry that they buried their child. I can’t imagine what it must feel like, and I pray for them daily.”
Zimmerman is possessed of a type of self-righteous narcissism and faux-empathy for those people whose lives he has ruined. In keeping with his belief that he was a tool of prophetic vengeance, Zimmerman also suggested that it was “god’s plan” that he killed Trayvon Martin.
I do not know who is worse: Is Zimmerman the true villain here, a killer, perhaps mentally unbalanced and a child molester, with a cop fetish priapism who played Dirty Harry because he couldn’t let one of “the blacks” get away again?
Or are those Right-wing reactionary conservatives like Sean Hannity who worship, coddle, and protect Zimmerman doing so because they wish that they were him, a trigger man, one who got to engage in the most dangerous game, hunting down and killing an innocent person of color for sport?
The role of George Zimmerman as an idol, victim, and martyr for the Right is both absurd and freakish.
Unfortunately, for many people who live in a society where political ideology and racial attitudes form a type of Gordian knot, they see justice for Trayvon Martin through a lens which views all people of color, and young blacks in particular, as perpetual suspects whose lives, citizenship, and safety are contingent and not absolute.
Criminality is a precondition of our existence for folks like George Zimmerman and his allies. This is especially true when black folks are confronted by White authority…and those who are overly identified with it.
In all, Zimmerman is likely surprised that he was arrested for the murder of Trayvon Martin. He intimately understands that black life is cheap in America. As such, what is the fuss over shooting dead a black teenager in the street? Zimmerman still does not have an answer to that question. Likewise, his supporters also do not have an answer to that question either.
This is the source of their love for Zimmerman, and sincere rage at his arrest and prosecution. If anything, the murder of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman should have just been a minor inconvenience for all involved–except of course the victim, his family, and community. He is just a black anyway, so what’s the big deal? They die everyday in America and no one cares either way.
Consequently, how dare anyone suggest that legal and personal accountability should interfere with George Zimmerman’s fantasy play and rent-a-cop, amusement park, joyride of death.
By: Chauncey DeVega, Open Salon Blog, July 19, 2012
On the wonderful night of November 4, 2008, thousands of people, white, black, and Latino, gathered in Grant Park in Chicago to celebrate the election of our first black president. For many Americans, Barack Obama’s election was the beginning of a new era when there would be cooperation not conflict between races. Finally the racial conflict which had plagued America for centuries would come to an end. Fat chance!
The truth is that racial relations now seem to be even worse than they were before election day in 2008. The ugly truth is that Barack Obama’s election brought the bigots and haters out in full force.
The dream ended for me when I watched a Tea Party rally in Washington where several of the protestors carried posters that pictured the president of the United States as a witch doctor with a bone through his nose. Then there was the infamous incident when white Tea Party protesters at the Capitol hurled racial epithets at black members of Congress.
The Republican candidates for president have made overt and covert racial appeals. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a smart man who should know better, once said President Obama’s views on foreign policy were shaped during his childhood in Africa. During this year’s presidential campaign, Gingrich and former Sen. Rick Santorum both urged black Americans to end their dependence on federal entitlement programs. Pointedly, neither candidate offered the same advice to the millions of white Americans who receive federal benefits. Former Gov. Mitt Romney criticized his primary opponents for just about every reason under the sun, but he never called his opponents out for their racism.
The Republican race baiting filtered down through the ranks. An official of the Orange County Republican Party in California sent out an E-mail that showed the president of the United States as the child of chimpanzees. A Republican mayor in California sent an E-mail that depicted the White House lawn as a watermelon patch.
The final straw was the tragic death of Trayvon Martin.
It’s hard for me to see how Martin could have been a threat to George Zimmerman. Zimmerman had a gun and Martin was armed with a bag of Skittles. Not really a fair fight. My kids used to eat Skittles and fortunately no one shot them. But my kids are white and Trayvon Martin was black. The Republican indifference to Martin’s murder is shocking. The Pew Center released a national poll on Tuesday that indicated that a majority of Republicans believed the media had paid too much attention to the Martin tragedy. They would not think that way if the victim had been a white kid.
The question facing America is whether racial hatred is getting worse or whether it is a rear guard action by people trying to hold back the racial changes in America. I think it’s the last gasp of a dying breed of racial dinosaurs. In their book Millennial Makeover Morley Winograd and Mike Hais demonstrate that the millennial generation of young Americans, who will set the course for American politics for the next generation, is remarkably free of racial basis. And there’s a good reason for this according to the authors. Four out of every 10 Americans between the ages of 18 and 30 are black, Latino, Asian, or Arab. Many young white Americans have black and Latino friends, a situation that has created a generation almost free of racial hate.
If Republicans do win this year, it would be a classic example of winning ugly. But if they win ugly in 2012, they will pay a political price in a few years when millennials replace baby boomers as the dominant force in American politics. Don’t say I didn’t warn them.
By: Brad Bannon, U. S. News and World Report, April 5, 2012
In Stephen Colbert’s ongoing spoof of conservative punditry, he often insists that he cannot see color. As if to prove that he’s a spot on satirist, Rush Limbaugh has titled a Monday web item about the Trayvon Martin case, “The Left’s Obsession with Race,” wherein he explains to his audience:
This is one of those things I can’t relate to. I don’t look at people and see a race or a sexual orientation or whatever… I don’t see black-versus-white or anything. The left is the ones who do this.
A lot of conservatives honestly believe this — that the left is obsessed with race, while the right is assiduously colorblind, and wouldn’t think about the subject, let alone discuss it in public, if its adherents were in charge. It’s time that someone explain to them why the rest of America isn’t buying it.
The right’s race problem is a lot bigger than its most popular talk radio host, but he’s a good place to begin. Remember when he briefly got a gig as an NFL commentator? If you watch Monday Night Football or Sports Center, you don’t see much critical race theory creeping into the analysis. But bring in Rush Limbaugh and suddenly a conversation about Donovan McNabb’s performance turned into what, if it were submitted as a term paper in a black studies class, might be titled, “How Racial Expectations Affect The Post-Civil Rights-Era Treatment of Black Quarterbacks In Mass Media.” Whatever you think about Limbaugh’s comments, he is the one who deliberately and needlessly brought McNabb’s race into the conversation. He’s also the man who won the 2009 award for accusing more people than anyone else of racism. And the man who responded to an obscure news item about a white kid getting beat up by a black kid on a school bus by saying that sort of black-on-white violence is perfectly kosher in Barack Obama’s America. And who can forget his mocking mimicry of the way that Chinese people speak? If a black talk show host treated whites like Limbaugh treats minorities, conservatives would go ballistic.
But as I said, it isn’t just about talk radio. It’s also about politicians like Newt Gingrich. In his latest foray into racial commentary, he took President Obama to task for his comments about the Trayvon Martin case.
Here’s what Obama said:
I’ve got to be careful about my statements to make sure we’re not impairing any investigation… But obviously this is a tragedy. I can only imagine what these parents are going through. And when I think about this boy, I think about my own kids. I think that every parent in America should be able to understand why it is absolutely imperative that we investigate every aspect of this, and that everybody pulls together, federal, state and local to figure out exactly how this tragedy happened…
My main message is to the parents of Trayvon Martin. If I had a son, he would look like Trayvon. I think they are right to expect that all of us as Americans are going to take this with the seriousness it deserves.
To me, that’s as pitch perfect as an off-the-cuff statement gets.
Here’s how Gingrich reacted to it:
What the president said in a sense is disgraceful. It is not a question of who that young man looked like. Any young American of any ethnic background should be safe. Period. And trying to turn it into a racial issue is fundamentally wrong. I find it appalling.
See what he did there? In the course of criticizing Obama for engaging in supposed racial demagoguery, Gingrich implies that the president cares less when white kids are shot by strangers, despite the fact that reading his statement that way is the sort of mistake only an overly literal idiot (or poorly programmed computer) would actually make. Gingrich is no idiot. And he is far too undisciplined to be a computer. Given his insistence that invoking identity is needlessly divisive, he’s certainly a hypocrite. This is a guy who says the best way to understand Obama is through the prism of his alleged Kenyan anti-colonialism; a guy who says that American Muslims shouldn’t be able to build mosques in Manhattan until Saudi Arabia permits churches on its territory; someone who thinks the widespread conservative belief that Obama is a Muslim is both something Obama ought to be embarrassed about (apparently he thinks there’s something wrong with being a Muslim) and that the rumor is Obama’s fault!
It would be one thing if Limbaugh and Gingrich were jeered by fellow conservatives for their long-running forays into racial demagoguery. Instead the prevailing attitude is something like “turnabout is fair play.” Ask a conservative why they don’t call these guys out. The answer is often, “but Al Sharpton is worse.” Even if that were true, the fact that somewhere a liberal is behaving badly hardly justifies the behavior of their conservative analogues; but the uncomfortable truth conservatives refuse to face is that Sharpton’s low point happened two decades ago. Look at the past decade. Limbaugh and Gingrich are the bigger racial demagogues today.
Writing at Forbes, Josh Barro explains what’s wrong with the insistence of some conservatives that Obama’s comments in the Martin case were objectionable:
The claim running through these objections is that black Americans cannot have any special concerns in need of airing. Many of the issues raised in the Trayvon Martin case–was Trayvon Martin singled out for suspicion because he was black? Did race influence the Sanford police’s handling of the case? What is the burden of profiling on young black men?–are therefore off limits.
Barro goes on to say something the right must confront if its ever going to change its reputation on racial matters:
Conservatives, almost universally, feel like they get a bad rap on race. They catch heat when they point out improvements over the last several decades in race relations and in the material well being of minorities in America, even though those phenomena are real. They catch heat when they contend that government programs intended to help the poor have led to problems with dependency in minority communities, even though those critiques are sometimes correct. They catch heat when they criticize Affirmative Action, even when in some cases (as at the University of California) Affirmative Action was clearly dis-serving minority communities.
Why do conservatives catch such heat? It’s probably because there is still so much racism on the Right to go alongside valid arguments on issues relating to race and ethnicity. Conservatives so often get unfairly pounded on race because, so often, conservatives get fairly pounded on race. And this is the Right’s own fault, because conservatives are not serious about draining the swamp… There has been a clear strategic calculation here among Republican elites. Better to leverage or at least accept the racism of much of the Republican base than try to clean it up.
His post, complete with examples and lots more analysis, is worth reading in full. And the conclusion is spot on:
My challenge to conservatives who feel they get a bum rap on race is this. Stand up for yourself and your colleagues when you feel that a criticism is unfair. At the same time, criticize other conservatives who say racist things, cynically tolerate racism in the Republican base, or deny the mere existence of racial issues in America today. The conservative movement desperately needs self-policing on racial issues, if it ever hopes to have credibility on them.
Quite right. It is in fact the case that conservatives are sometimes attacked unfairly on racial matters, and that some conservatives are attacked because they’re obvious racial demagogues. The best “strategy” for grappling with this situation is to just call ‘em how you see ‘em.
By: Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic, March 27, 2012
The debate over the shooting death of Trayvon Martin seems to be devolving into an argument about the right to wear hoodies, but it really does not appear to be a promising development.
Congress, which never draws any serious conclusions from terrible tragedies involving gunplay, did have time on Wednesday to fight about whether Representative Bobby Rush of Chicago violated the House dress code when he took off his suit jacket, revealing a gray sweater he was wearing underneath, and pulled the hood up over his head.
You may remember that Geraldo Rivera took measure of the Martin case and determined that the moral was: young men, throw out your hoodies. Even Rivera’s son said he was embarrassed. But, hey, we’re talking about it. Mission accomplished.
“Just because someone wears a hoodie does not make them a hoodlum,” Congressman Rush said, before he was hustled off for violating the rule against wearing hats on the House floor.
This is pretty much par for the course. Whenever there is a terrible shooting incident somewhere in America, our politicians talk about everything except whether the tragedy could have been avoided if the gunman had not been allowed to carry a firearm.
You would think that this would be a great time to address the question of handgun proliferation, but it has hardly come up in Washington at all. This is because most politicians are terrified of the National Rifle Association. Also, the small band of gun control advocates are busy with slightly less sweeping issues, such as their ongoing but still utterly futile effort to make it illegal to sell a weapon to anyone on the terror watch list.
The only serious debate Congress is likely to have this year on the subject of guns involves whether to allow people with concealed weapons permits to carry their handguns into other states.
Say you were from — oh, maybe Florida, where George Zimmerman was carrying a legal, loaded pistol while he was driving around his gated community, looking for suspicious characters. In Florida, even non-Floridians can get a concealed carry permit. You can get the application online. From the Department of Agriculture. (“Fresh from Florida.”)
Under a bill sponsored by Senator Mark Begich, Democrat of Alaska, you could take your Florida permit and your Florida loaded handgun and travel anyplace in the country, including the states where the police investigate every permit application, and say yes to relatively few. “If this law existed today, George Zimmerman could carry a loaded hidden handgun in Times Square. Today,” said Dan Gross, the president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.
And that would be the moderate version.
Senators John Thune of South Dakota and David Vitter of Louisiana have a competing bill that would relieve residents of states like Vermont and Arizona — which don’t require concealed weapons permits at all — from the cumbersome process of actually putting in some paperwork before they tote their handguns to, say, California or New Jersey. Under this one, Jared Loughner, who shot Representative Gabrielle Giffords, a judge, a small child and four other innocent Arizonans, could have brought his loaded handgun to Times Square.
There is a serious trend toward states letting their residents carry concealed weapons with no more background check than you need to carry a concealed nutcracker. All of this is based on the gun rights lobby’s argument that the more armed law-abiding people we have on our streets, the safer everybody will be. Under this line of thinking, George Zimmerman’s gated community was safer because Zimmerman was driving around with his legal gun. You can bet that future Trayvon Martins who go to the store to buy Skittles after dark will seriously consider increasing their own safety by packing heat. The next confrontation along these lines may well involve a pair of legally armed individuals, legally responding to perceived, albeit nonexistent, threats by sending a bullet through somebody’s living room window and hitting a senior citizen watching the evening weather report.
The Violence Policy Center has a list of 11 police officers and 391 private citizens who have been killed over the last five years by people carrying concealed weapons for which they had a permit. That includes a man in Florida who killed four women, including his estranged wife, in a restaurant in 2010 and another Floridian who opened fire at Thanksgiving, killing four relatives.
You would think all of this would cause states to stop and rethink. But no. And, personally, I’m worn down from arguing. Florida, follow your own star. Arizona, arm your kindergarteners. Just stop trying to impose your values on places where the thinking is dramatically different.
Really, just leave us alone. If you don’t like our rules, don’t come here. Is that too much to ask?
By: Gail Collins, Op Ed Columnist, The New York Times, March 28, 2012
The heart just given to Dick Cheney…was Trayvon Martin’s. One is 71, the other 17.
What if that were literally true?
Let’s just say the metaphor tells a bitter truth: We are a nation safe for mean old white men in frail health. However, healthy black youths (most of all in the South) may be in peril with every breath and step they take out on the streets alone and unarmed. Just for living in black skin.
Apparently, wearing a hoodie further ratchets up the risk of being a black youth. The 17-year-old black slaying victim, Trayvon, was wearing one as he fell to the ground. “Hoodie protests” in New York, Philadelphia, Washington, and other cities in his memory have pointed to the loaded pack of prejudices associated with a simple sartorial style.
Oh, did I mention his fatal encounter was in a “gated community” (an oxymoron)? While they tend to be suspicious of dark teenage strangers, the message they send to all comers is “keep out,” not “come in.”
In the saddest story of 2012, a neighborhood watch “volunteer,” George Zimmerman, apparently concluded young Trayvon had no right nor reason to be walking the streets of Sanford, Fla., by himself with just a can of iced tea and some Skittles candy.
Zimmerman, an armed civilian, took the law into his own hands, reportedly starting a confrontation with Trayvon, even as he was told by a dispatcher to stop following the youth tagged as trouble. But it was Zimmerman who spelled trouble, in my reading of the facts. (No charges have been pressed against Zimmerman as of now.) Federal authorities are going to step in and investigate, thank goodness—a little late better than never.
In other words, if Zimmerman wasn’t looking for a fight, spoiling for one with his gun, this tragedy would not have come to pass. As it was, Trayvon knew he was facing serious danger and begged for his life—his very short life, I might add. All that he never got to see: “Gleams that untravelled world,” as the poet Lord Alfred Tennyson put it. It all ended with a bullet wound to the chest in February in Florida.
Florida bears blame for the outrage by having a vigilante justice system under a sitting Republican governor. The law they call “stand your ground” sanctions weapons of law enforcement to trigger-happy civilians like Zimmerman who have none of the training, scrutiny, code of conduct, or judgment of sworn police officers. Very nice, Florida, you’ve done it again. The year 2000 seems like yesterday.
I’ve seen law experts compare this case to the brutal murder of a 14-year-old Emmett Till in 1955, down South in the Mississippi Delta. Emmett, a black youth from Chicago, was a city boy visiting relatives that summer in a small town named Money. He didn’t know what he was up against in the strict code of conduct between whites and Negroes. Seen by some as a boy who stepped out of his place, he paid the ultimate price for it.
No question Till’s murder was a race-related hate crime in 1955, the year after Jim Crow laws were struck down by the Supreme Court. Yes, he was out of place, far from home when he lost his life for nothing.
But here’s the rub in 2012: Tall Trayvon was just a soon-to-be dead boy walking, on the way to becoming a young man. He got caught in racial crossfire on his own southern state’s home ground, not while visiting a strange land of hateful segregation. And yet he still got gunned down, in the eyes of multitudes, and for the color of his skin.
Meanwhile Cheney, doctors say, is doing “exceedingly well” in his white skin after a heart transplant. In his time, he’s been known to get aggressive in starting some scrapes, but they never left a mark on him. They are known as wars of choice in far-off lands. You can’t see the blood, but it’s on his hands.
By: Jamie Stiehm, U. S. News and World Report, March 27, 2012