April 5 2012

Using Trayvon

Charlotte Hays

Marc Lamont Hill, one of my least favorite commentators, outdoes himself on Trayvon Martin:

The truth is that we live in a nation that desperately wants to deny its most painful truths. We find no problem with 12 months of Casey Anthony media coverage but can't stand three weeks of Trayvon Martin coverage because the latter forces us to come to terms with white supremacy and police misconduct.

White supremacy? George Zimmerman, the man who killed Trayvon, is Hispanic, though the New York Times described him as a “white Hispanic,” a heretofore unknown racial designation. We do not know if there has been police misconduct: was there enough evidence to arrest Zimmerman, or did the evidence indicate that Zimmerman  fired in self-defense?

Should Zimmerman have been arrested at the scene, even if evidence indicated self-defense, merely to placate people like Mr. Hill? Would that have been proper police conduct?

I don’t know anybody who wasn’t saddened by the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. But the fanning of racial hatred occasioned by this tragedy is sickening. Most of us sense that this is the product of something other than a quest for justice for Trayvon.

In a devastating critique of the civil rights establishment, Shelby Steele puts his finger on something disburbing:

Trayvon's sad fate clearly sent a quiver of perverse happiness all across America's civil rights establishment, and throughout the mainstream media as well. His death was vindication of the "poetic truth" that these establishments live by.

Poetic truth is like poetic license where one breaks grammatical rules for effect. Better to break the rule than lose the effect. Poetic truth lies just a little; it bends the actual truth in order to highlight what it believes is a larger and more important truth.

The poetic truth is that young, black males are frequently victims of violence by whites. But such killings today are the anomaly, not the ordinary happening. The commonplace is black-on-black violence. If the civil rights establishment focused on the safety of young black men, they would talk more about this phenomenon. They might even be able to come up with ways to save some lives.

Modern civil rights activists are nostalgic for the era when it took courage to stand up for the rights of African Americans, says Steele. They want to ennoble themselves and see this protest as a way to stand tall. But it’s phony: If they were really courageous, instead of trying to recapture the magic of the past, civil rights activists would be talking about the black on black crime that claims the lives of too many young men.

Of course, there are others who are more interested in power than personal ennoblement and the death of Trayvon Martin gives them an opportunity.

I'm not naming names, but you probably have some suggestions if I were.

 

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