National Commentary

On the Murder Of a Black Youth

nfbentonpicThe murder of young Trayvon Martin was as clear and unambiguous a case of deadly racial profiling as there could be.

All of the obfuscating blither-blather notwithstanding, all the endless nitpicking over the evidence and the way the jury that found his murderer innocent last weekend, does not disguise this fact. Indeed, the interview with one anonymous juror on CNN Tuesday showed the extent to which that jury, all female with not one black person, was dripping with assumptions rooted in a structurally racist view of the world.

There is a paradigm narrative at work, with the help of the pliant major media in this land, that racism is no longer a serious problem in America, part of the advancement of passivity and indifference in the population.

Yet all the twisted exercises and logic to hold that notion together in the Trayvon Martin case has only betrayed its glaring fallacy.

The juror’s interview was a startling apologetic for the defense of George Zimmerman. She called the defendant by his first name, and declared without a doubt that a scream on a 911 recording was Zimmerman’s, even when no expert could come to such a definitive conclusion.

The jury’s embedded presumptions – it was not a jury of Trayvon Martin’s peers – were reinforced by courtroom rules prohibiting race from being introduced as a factor in the case, thus removing the very basis for the crime.

Still, there was no disputing what happened. A frustrated quasi-vigilante with a loaded gun sees a young black man walking through his neighborhood. He tells a 911 operator, “He looks like he’s up to no good,” and draws an assumption, saying, “He looks like he’s on drugs or something,” and adds, “He looks black … these assholes always get away … fucking (garbled).”

The 911 operator asks, “Are you following him?” Zimmerman says, “Yeah.” The operator says, “OK, we don’t need you doing that.”

Zimmerman disobeys the operator, taking his loaded weapon with him out of his vehicle to begin stalking his prey.

Zimmerman did not identify himself or his purpose. He assumed he had the right to stalk his victim. When the victim challenged Zimmerman, the aggressor, an altercation erupted and Zimmerman shot the boy dead.

If anything, the claim to “self defense” belonged with Martin, not Zimmerman. Because Martin did not meekly submit to Zimmerman’s bizarre intimidation, somehow Zimmerman was bestowed the right to claim “self defense.”

“It is terribly frightening that an unarmed teenager walking home from a routine errand, in his own neighborhood, could be confronted and ultimately killed,” read a statement from the United Church of Christ, a progressive national Protestant denomination.

Tavis Smiley, the PBS commentator, said forcefully on ABC Sunday morning, that the jury verdict was “just another piece of evidence of the incontrovertible contempt that this nation often shows and displays for black men.”

He added, “In just a matter of weeks we will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and that wonderful brilliant speech by Dr. King, ‘I Have a Dream’… (Dr. King said) ‘I want my children to one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.’ George Zimmerman knew nothing of Trayvon Martin’s character. All he saw was his color. … Trayvon Martin was a child, racially profiled and gunned down.”

Columnist Eugene Robinson wrote in The Washington Post Tuesday, “Justice failed Trayvon Martin the night he was killed. We should be appalled and outraged but perhaps not surprised that it failed him again Saturday night with a verdict setting his killer free.”

During the trial, there was a deep cultural divide between the court and the world of Trayvon Martin, as evidenced by the court’s inability to appreciate (or even understand, according to the jurist on CNN) the testimony of Martin’s friend, Rachel Jeantel. Being on the phone with Martin when Zimmerman’s stalking ensued, she was the closest thing to an eyewitness of the crime.

That divide, which Americans normally don’t see, is more an economic than a cultural divide, and it is the most endemic problem in America today.

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