Setting aside the willful racism of the smear campaign against Trayvon Martin, the public response to his murder has exposed a lot about America’s issues with race, much of it disappointing.
Others have pointed out the ugly implications of the mass online outcry over “Kony 2012,” juxtaposed with the lukewarm response to Trayvon’s murder. Trayvon was killed two weeks before the Kony video’s incredible viral surge, and the news story about his death first got widespread public attention about a month after the incident. I’m not convinced the parallel is warranted – the Kony video is a half-hour of masterful propaganda* designed to play on every point of the rhetorical triangle, while Trayvon’s killing came through the lens of “impartial” news reports. That said, it has been a learning experience to see many of my friends, people I would never label as ‘racists,’ many of whom seemed ready to buy tickets to Uganda and personally beat Joseph Kony to death, respond to the Trayvon story with reserve, often “waiting to see more facts” before they settle on an opinion.
Let me be clear: I believe in the right to due process, and George Zimmerman is, for all legal purposes, innocent until proven guilty. I would never expect a jury to be anything but impartial, or for an alleged perpetrator to face justice outside the courts. But everyone has an opinion, drawn from the facts available to us. Many of the peers I see complaining about “the court of public opinion” were the same people recently condemning the acquittals of Casey Anthony and Amanda Knox as evidence that the justice system is dead. It’s hard for me to understand how anyone following the Trayvon Martin case (or is that lack of case?) could possibly see anything except an innocent child murdered because of his race.
What’s happening, I think, is that people refuse to give up the dream of “post-racial America.” Despite evidence to the contrary, they refuse to believe that racism could be such a problem in America that ‘Walking While Black’ can be fatal.** Confronted with circumstances that say otherwise, they assume there must be some deeper explanation, some fact as yet unrelieved that will prove racism was not the sole motive behind the murder of a 17-year-old boy. It’s this refusal to accept reality, the refusal to admit that our nation might have a very serious problem with race – serious as a gunshot – that allows the water to be muddied by smear campaigns and deceptive reporting. Continue Reading