– read this on my twitter feed today
During the Trayvon Martin trial I could tell who was being Prosecuted George Zimmerman or Trayvon Martin. The Zimmerman defense team has done a great job depicting George Zimmerman as the victim not only to the jury but to the American public. AS far as I know Trayvon martin, the unarmed 17 year old African American child was never convicted of a crime by a jury, but over the course of the trail Trayvon was a thug, a soon to be arms dealer, drug dealer. You also couldn’t tell from his pictures but he was one of the world’s most dangerous 17 year old, even unarmed he could strike fear into the heart of an armed adult who ignore police suggestions to confront Trayvon.
Unfortunately at this moment almost an exact week from the not guilty verdict, there is no discussion or debate. What we have is a shouting match. Some people like Anne Coulter cried Hallelujah when the verdict was announced. Rush Limbaugh said the verdict has given him the right to use the word nigger in common day parlance. Cries of white privilege, racial bias and discrimination are ignored, and silence by the same argument:
- People who disagree with the verdict are un-American.
- Blacks, or at least the ones who do not believe that George Zimmerman should have been acquitted, those who dared to talk of the existence of racial bias in this country and the continued existence of racism, were lazy, ignorant of the facts of the trial, and refuse to take accountability for not only their action but for those for their race at large.
I saw for myself on Twitter today that for many more people that I imagined it is easier to dismiss the issue that affects a significant percentage of the population as horse=shit than to even entertain the thought for a second that there could be a reason why people are taking to the streets through major cities in the United States. It would not strike me as odd at all if these were the same people who brushed off the Marches for Abner Louima, for Amadou Diallo, or for the calls to end the stop and frisk program in NYC or to call into the question the militarization of the police around the nation, and of course the crown jewel of capitalism the prison Industrial complex.
Catching the Thread
Last week I read a few blog post on How Great a Nation is that ignored the history of the people that didn’t inhabit the same racial or socio-economic bracket. I was angered by the gratuitous use of the word “we”, I was quick to point out that the “we” the way it was used didn’t represent African Americans, Native Americans, certain parts of this country’s Asian American or Hispanic demographic.
When the truth is determined solely by the loudness and ascerbicity of one’s argument democracy is threatened. According to the post-modernist thinker Jean Baudrillard the real is produced from miniaturized cells, matrices, and memory banks, models of control — and it can be reproduced an indefinite number of times from these. It no longer needs to be rational, because it no longer measures itself against either an ideal or negative instance. It is no longer anything but operational.
Let me give you an example. The Yale Political Quarterly published an article by Stephen Balkaran called “Mass Media and Racism. He asserts that as media have played and will continue to play a crucial role in the way white Americans perceive African-Americans. As a result of the overwhelming media focus on crime, drug use, gang violence, and other forms of anti-social behavior among African-Americans, the media have fostered a distorted and pernicious public perception of African-Americans. The history of African-Americans is a centuries old struggle against oppression and discrimination. The media have played a key role in perpetuating the effects of this historical oppression and in contributing to African-Americans’ continuing status as second-class citizens.
Talking about the media, there is unfortunately more to be said: Many of these negative [African American]stereotypes spill over into news media portrayals of minorities. Scholars agree that news stereotypes of people of color are pervasive (e.g., Dates & Barlow, 1993; Martindale, 1990; Collins, 2004; Poindexter, Smith, & Heider, 2003; Rowley, 2003; West, 2001). For instance, Entman (2000) found that African Americans were more likely to appear as perpetrators in drug and violent crime stories on network news. In the 1980s and 1990s, stereotypes of black men shifted and the primary images were of drug lords, crack victims, the underclass, the homeless, and subway muggers (Drummond, 1990). Similarly, Douglas (1995), who looked at O. J. Simpson, Louis Farrakhan, and the Million Man March, found that media placed African-American men on a spectrum of good versus evil.
This begs the question as guilty as George Zimmerman is for the death of Trayvon Martin how much of a role did society’s mass media portrayals play a role in Zimmerman viewing Trayvon as thug? Negative stereotype of African Americans have existed in this country since its inception and beyond. In his book Home and Exile Chinua Achebe writes very beautifully about the narrative that the European told themselves to justify slavery, the exploitation and subjugation of other peoples. Achebe says on page 28, in Home and Exile: As early as the 1700’s British trade in Africa had shifted entirely to slaves. Basil Davidson makes the point that by this time “men in Europe were accustomed to seeing Africans only in chains, captives without power. The belief in African inferiority was already in full bloom. But the eighteenth century did more than habituate Europeans to the spectacle of Africans as “men in chains” it also presented an abundance of literature tailored to explain or justify that spectacle.” A writer of that time (Dalzel) prefaced his book with an apologia for slavery: Whatever evils the slave trade may be attended with … it is mercy to poor wretches, who … would otherwise suffer from the butcher’s knife.
The complexity of the Situation
So many years of propaganda do not die over night. My father was a teenager during the Civil Rights movement. My generation has inherited much from the workings of the previous two generations. I have felt that this inheritance required me to sit down and think for a long time on how to best use this inheritance.
The best way to honor this inheritance for me is to expose its complexity. We cannot talk about racial bias in the United States without talking about the economic policies that disenfranchise many Americans. We must talk about immigration, and sexual discrimination. My generation was the generation that experience interconnectedness through the internet and other technologies in ways that other generations could no dream of. It is my belief that we should speak not only for the causes we each are affected by, but we should show how deeply related n our social ills have become. The Trayvon Martin case could have been a spring board to discuss gun control, racism, drug use and legislation, racial identity, law enforcement policies, inhumane laws like the stand your own ground law in Florida that sentences a black women who fired warning shots to keep an abusive husband at bay (no one was harmed) to 20 years while letting George Zimmerman go free. This trial was a wakeup call about our nation’s health that we failed to address.
Stay tuned for part 2, tomorrow
- [Watch] President Obama’s Speech On the Trayvon Martin Verdict (reinaroyale.com)
- Fox News To African Americans: Blame Yourselves, Not George Zimmerman, For Trayvon Martin’s Death (newshounds.us)
- Obama Speaks About Trayvon Martin (bet.com)
- Barack Obama: Trayvon Martin Could Have Been Me 35 Years Ago (thehollywoodgossip.com)
- President Obama: ‘Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago’ (washingtontimes.com)
- Watch: President Obama Addresses George Zimmerman Verdict: ‘Trayvon Could’ve Been Me’ (mediaite.com)
- Iran Demands Justice for Trayvon Martin (theroot.com)
- Protests in US at Zimmerman verdict (bbc.co.uk)
- ‘Trayvon Martin could have been me,’ says Obama (tv.msnbc.com)