Where’s Al Sharpton now? That’s what they want to know, the citizens of Fox Nation. Sharpton raised a stink when a white man killed a black boy in Florida. Why won’t he apologize when blacks kill whites, huh? Huh?
George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin on the night of February 26, 2012, in Sanford, Florida. Police took Zimmerman into custody but held him only five hours, releasing him at 1:00am the next morning. Martin’s parents weren’t informed of their son’s death until several hours later, at 9:20am, after Martin’s father reported him missing. And that was it. Zimmerman went free. Martin stayed dead.
Local media reported the story, but there was no national coverage until March 7, nine days later, when Reuters picked it up. The story quickly became big news. Over the next three weeks, as public outcry intensified, the Sanford police chief explained that under Florida’s “stand your ground” law no crime had been committed, Martin’s parents protested police handling of the case, the NAACP got involved, high-profile black leaders began to speak out (which is where Al Sharpton, a civil rights activist with his own MSNBC news show, came into the picture), the DOJ began an investigation, and the Sanford police chief resigned. President Obama commented on the shooting on March 23. On April 11 Florida state attorney Angela Corey announced that Zimmerman had been charged with second-degree murder, and Zimmerman turned himself in.
So: a man shot and killed an unarmed teenager who was committing no crime, claimed self-defense, and was set free. Had there been no press coverage, no public outcry, no Al Sharptons, he’d have gotten clean away with it. Why didn’t he? Because the failure to arrest and prosecute him for murder was a slap in the face to Americans who believe in laws and equality.
In a nation of laws, regardless of race, here’s what would have happened: police would have arrested and charged the killer with murder. But when the police let Zimmerman go it was impossible to ignore Florida’s racial double standard. That’s the reason high-profile people like Al Sharpton got involved, to force Florida to do something about what was clearly racial favoritism. It worked. It took a while, but eventually the state of Florida overrode the Sanford police and charged Zimmerman with murder. Zimmerman finally had his day in court and last month was found not guilty. Sure, Martin’s family has protested the verdict and will probably press a civil suit against Zimmerman, but the public protest is over … the initial racial injustice was corrected, the crime acknowledged, the criminal tried, the judgment rendered.
How does the Zimmerman case relate to the sudden right-wing focus on black-on-white crime and the cries for Al Sharpton to apologize for it? I think it comes down to this: those who took Zimmerman’s side, those who advocate for “stand your ground” laws, know they come across as ignorant racists to the majority of Americans. And they hate that. Lighting the fires of racial resentment whenever blacks kill or hurt whites is a way to take the heat off themselves. Going after Al Sharpton (or Jesse Jackson, or Eric Holder, or Barack Obama) is another way to take the heat off.
It’s a child’s response: black people kill white people too! And it’s pure misdirection. There’s no equivalency between the Zimmerman case and last week’s black-on-white killing in Oklahoma. When blacks commit crimes against whites they are aggressively pursued, arrested, and charged. Always. Without exception. That’s the way it should be (as it should also be when whites kill blacks). The three kids who murdered Chris Lane in Duncan, Oklahoma last week were tracked down and arrested within hours of the shooting, and I don’t doubt the full resources of the Duncan Police Department were directed toward their capture. The police chief didn’t set them free after a token interrogation. Unlike Mr. Zimmerman, these three will stay in jail until their trial, where they’ll almost certainly be convicted and sentenced to prison, probably for the rest of their lives. Al Sharpton didn’t protest the killing of a black boy by a white man in Florida last year, he protested the state patting the white killer on the back and setting him free. What, indeed, is there for him to protest in Oklahoma?
Media figures and other opinion makers on the right aren’t just responding with childish arguments, they’re intentionally twisting reports of black-on-white crime to suggest that it’s now somehow okay for black Americans to rob, rape, and kill white Americans, that it’s not PC to protest it, that the press and the liberals are afraid to say anything about it, that it may even be a back-door form of reparations. Republican politicians, radio talkers, and TV “reporters” at Fox News know perfectly well this isn’t the case, but they think stirring up racial resentment will energize white voters to vote for GOP candidates.
Yesterday’s Drudge Report provides a perfect example of how black-on-white crime is being reported on the right:
By leaving out the photo of the third suspect—the white one—Drudge makes it clear where he’s coming from. But just in case it’s not clear he adds a link with racially-charged words (thug culture) and another to a Pat Buchanan speech blaming interracial violence on blacks, not whites. He adds two more horrific teaser links, both of which (of course) take you to stories of mindlessly brutal black-on-white crime. In Drudgistan, as in Fox Nation, there is no white-on-black crime, and the only racists are blacks and liberals who pretend there is. Expect to see a whole lot more of this kind of “journalism.”
Are the people these kind of stories are aimed at really so stupid they don’t get the difference between the Trayvon Martin and Chris Lane killings? Yes, I’m afraid they are. The ones trying to stir them up know it, too. They’re playing to ignorance, resentment, and racism. They think they can control it.
I wonder if they can.
© 2013, Paul Woodford. All rights reserved.