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“Fear Now A License To Kill”: To Those On The Right, People Are Not Racists If They Harm Someone Based On Fear Instead Of Hate

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, or so say conservatives who use the absolute sovereignty of outlook to justify a belief in such perverse ideas as global warming is a hoax, that Saddam Hussein really did have weapons of mass destruction and that President Obama is a foreign born secret Muslim.

It now appears everyone is also entitled to their own fears, which they are at liberty to act upon after George Zimmerman was cleared of all charges for acting on his when he singled out a Skittles and soda-packing Trayvon Martin as a threat to public safety and then tragically shot him dead in the confrontation that followed.

After all, as Geraldo Rivera told the audience of Fox and Friends after the verdict was announced: “You dress like a thug, people are going to treat you like a thug.”

As a matter of fact, Rivera is quite sure that if any of the six women on the Florida jury that cleared Zimmerman of all charges were in the shooter’s shoes that dark and stormy night they, too, would have done exactly at Zimmerman did.

“I submit that if they were armed, they would have shot and killed Trayvon Martin a lot sooner than George Zimmerman did,” said Rivera referring to the jurors. “This is self-defense.”

I guess I’d better tell my son to get rid of all those hooded sweatshirts he has or else he, too, might fall victim to some gun-toting vigilante like George Zimmerman.

It’s not so much the verdict itself that is so shocking and so sad.  Intellectually, I can understand the decision those six women on the jury came to when faced with the sketchy evidence presented and the constraints imposed on them by the limitations of Florida law.

I also wonder if prosecutors made a strategic mistake not going for a lesser charge (such as aggravated assault or reckless endangerment) given the lack of a credible eyewitness and the burden of proof over motive, which may then have left the jury no choice but to set Zimmerman free.

Still, I can’t help agreeing with Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson when he said the fact Zimmerman “recklessly initiated the tragic encounter was enough to establish, at a minimum, guilt of manslaughter.”

Zimmerman’s actions were what started the tragic train of events that resulted in the death of a human being in the first place, and he ought to pay some price for that. Such culpability is the theory that causes the driver of the getaway car to be charged with first degree murder alongside the shooter even though he didn’t pull the trigger that killed the bank guard.

But what I cannot abide, however, is the cynical gloating by the right wing that’s followed once the final verdict was read.

After Zimmerman was set free, the right wing media played its usual role, which was to denounce liberals for waging what they claimed was a racially-motivated “witch hunt” of Zimmerman while at the same time cynically exploiting and inciting the very same racial fears and resentments in their mostly white audience that almost certainly played a key role in Martin’s tragic death.

This is evident in the way efforts by the Department of Justice to ensure protests about the Zimmerman verdict remained peaceful have been portrayed in the right wing media as the government unfairly siding with the black Martin against the white Zimmerman throughout the trial, perpetuating the all too familiar Fox News narrative that the Obama administration is out to persecute white people for the benefit of minorities.

Racists, of course, are convinced there isn’t a racist bone in their body and they bitterly resent whenever anyone says different. But that is mostly because racists habitually define racism too narrowly, limiting bigotry to the rage or physical violence that emerges out of sheer malevolence.

But what about the fear that might reside in someone like a George Zimmerman, who would single out Martin and instinctively see him as a potential threat based on nothing more sinister than a racial stereotype – a prejudice.

To those on the right, people are not racists if they harm someone like Trayvon Martin based on fear instead of hate, even if that fear has racial origins.  All of us have a right to defend ourselves from danger, says the right, even against the imaginary dangers of a young black boy walking home with nothing more lethal than candy and soda.

But according to Daily Beast, this fear of black people had been brewing inside George Zimmerman for some time. Over eight years, Zimmerman made at least 46 calls to the police department in Sanford before those two fateful calls on February 26, 2012, shortly before he confronted and then fatally shot Martin, said the Daily Beast.

All told, the police log of Zimmerman’s calls “paint a picture of an extremely vigilant neighbor,” the Daily Beast reports, whose calls “make him sound more like a curmudgeon than a vigilante” protecting the gated community where he lived and where he shot Martin.

But starting in 2011, the Daily Beast says Zimmerman’s calls began to focus on what he considered to be “suspicious” characters in the neighborhood – “almost all of whom were young black males.”

According to the log in the Daily Beast:

On April 22, 2011, Zimmerman called to report a black male about “7-9” years old, four feet tall, with a “skinny build” and short black hair. There is no indication in the police report of the reason for Zimmerman’s suspicion of the boy.

On Aug. 3 of last year, Zimmerman reported a black male who he believed was “involved in recent” burglaries in the neighborhood.

And on Oct. 1 he reported two black male suspects “20-30” years old, in a white Chevrolet Impala. He told police he did “not recognize” the men or their vehicle and that he was concerned because of the recent burglaries.

The conservative National Review is willing to concede Zimmerman showed “poor judgment” in tailing Martin despite urgent pleas from the 911 dispatcher to leave Martin alone.

But the magazine strongly denies Zimmerman displays any of the behavior of “a bullying white racist circa 1955” when it overlooks the obvious racial profiling that started the tragic sequence of events to begin with. In fact, the magazine’s editors doubt Zimmerman harbored any racial ill-will at all as they pontificate about how glad they are “that people in America are still tried in the courts rather than by left-wing protesters or by the media” who they say waged a “long campaign of defamation against him outside the courtroom.”

To the National Review and to most of Zimmerman’s defenders on the right the only fact that matters is that Martin hit Zimmerman during the altercation that occurred once Martin noticed Zimmerman was following him, and probably lashed out at what he perceived to be a threat.

This fact is all that is required to make this case “a simple matter of self-defense,” says the National Review, despite what it criticized as the “enormous firestorm and campaign of race-hustling political intimidation” waged against Zimmerman.

Zimmerman was innocent in the eyes of his defenders on the right because he honestly believed the Skittles-wielding Martin to be dangerous. And what made Martin dangerous to Zimmerman was the fact he was black and, in the racist view of Geraldo Rivera, because Martin wore the uniform of a “thug.”

If the verdict is not more shocking to more people perhaps it’s because, as the Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson put it: “Our society considers young black men to be dangerous, interchangeable, expendable, guilty until proven innocent.”

That is the way many right wing conservatives like Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly do in fact see young black men as they feed on the racial fears of their audience that America “is a changing country; the demographics are changing; it’s not a traditional America anymore;” and the “white establishment” is the minority.

And they vent their familiar white racist outrage at liberals who would dare to punish someone like George Zimmerman for acting on those fears when he killed a 17 year-old boy who did nothing wrong but look “suspicious” to the man who shot him.


By: Ted Frier, Open Salon Blog, July 16, 2013

July 21, 2013 - Posted by | Racism, Zimmerman Trial | , , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. Well.. Nothing scares me more than a gun-totin’ racist on a mission to clean up the streets.
    Scares the piss out of me.
    Arrogant Fucks. You can’t clean up the streets with the blood of children.


    Comment by angrymanspeaks | July 21, 2013 | Reply

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