Sunday, 06 May 2012

TRAYVON MARTIN AND THE VICTIMHOOD MEME

Ken Berwitz

Leonard Pitts Jr. is a colunnist for the Miami Herald - a Pulitzer Prize winning one at that. But his latest piece, about Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman, is an embarrassment.

Let me show you why.  Here are key excerpts, in rust, with my comments in blue:

The pertinent fact is that Zimmerman found Trayvon suspicious because, as he told the 911 dispatcher, the boy was walking slowly and looking around. That might be the behavior of a boy who was turned around in an unfamiliar neighborhood. Or of a boy enjoying a cell phone conversation with a girl and not overly eager to return to where his sweet nothings might be overheard by his dad.  Or it might be the behavior of a boy casing the neighborhood looking for a good house to rob.  Ironically, the point youre making is the point Im making: Zimmerman did not know.  Therefore it was perfectly reasonable for him to watch Martin carefully.

 

That no such alternate possibilities seem to have occurred to Zimmerman for even an instant suggests the degree to which we as a people have grown comfortable with the belief that black is crime and crime is black. Nor are African Americans immune to the effects of that invidious formulation.   Bull.  That is palpably untrue.  If Zimmerman felt he knew for sure that Trayvon Martin was looking to commit a crime, his statement to the dispatcher would not have been that Martin was just acting suspiciously, it would have been that Martin was about to commit a crime.  Why are you making this stuff up?

 

Indeed, the dirty little secret of the Martin killing is that Zimmerman could easily have been black. True, a black Zimmerman probably would not have been sent home by prosecutors who declined to press charges whiteness still has its privileges but otherwise, yes. It is entirely possible.  I agree that a Black neighborhood watch person seeing what Zimmerman saw might have acted the same way.  Now, would you please stash the I am Black therefore I am an oppressed victim meme long enough to think about why:  Martin was an unfamiliar person in the neighborhood, walking in a rainstorm but seemingly more interested in walking around and looking about than getting out of the rain.  Of courseneighborhood watch person would be concerned, regardless of his/her color.

 

Why not? Blacks watch the same TV news as anyone else. We internalize the same message. We drink the same poison.  What poison is that?

 

Why else do you think black folk flinch when the mug shot goes up on television, hoping the face will not be brown as if we bore some communal responsibility for the suspects misdeeds?  For the same reason Jews flinch if the perp is a money swindler or Italians flinch if the perp is a mafiosa:  because it will reinforce a stereotype some people project to the entire group.  You can't seriously think this happens only to Blacks, can you?  Why else do you think so much of our music is a song of violence and crime? Most of our music as you put it, is written, and performed by Black people.  Why?  Because it sells and, sadly, because violent crime is much more prevalent among Blacks than Whites that it rings true.  Who are you blaming for this?  TV news?   Why else, when I ask an auditorium full of black kids how frequently the individual who murders a white person is black, do they figure it at 75 percent? Why else are they shocked to hear its only 13?  Using mathematical estimates which include same-race crime is a disingenuous game.  Maybe the reason is Black students think correctly that Blacks killing Whites is a much more frequent occurrence than Whites killing Blacks.  Incidentally, Black on White murder (8.8%) actually is almost 3 times as frequent as White on Black (3.2%).so do they really have it that wrong?

 

At some subterranean level, we African Americans still believe the garbage of innate criminality we have so assiduously been fed, and struggle with hating ourselves, as America long ago taught us to do. Heres the victimhood strategy trump card again.  Reality check:  is it the belief in innate criminality or the knowledge that Black neighborhoods tend to be far higher in crime than White ones?

 

This is why I grow impatient with those black, white and otherwise who think the salient social issue here is George Zimmermans character. It is not. Nor is it Trayvons.

 

It is, rather, that ours is a nation so obscenely comfortable in conflating black with crime that a civilian carrying no badge of authority nevertheless feels it his right to require that an American boy walking lawfully upon a public street justify his presence there. And it is the knowledge that at least some black men would have done the same.  AS THEY SHOULD HAVE, for the reasons outlined earlier i.e. an unfamiliar person walking through a rainstorm looking here and there rather than moving along the way someone would if he were trying to get out of the rain. 

 

When do you, and the race hustlers like sharpton et al, stop working so hard at defining this as a racist event? 

 

You can stop now.  Mission accomplished.  You win.  Just about everyone sees it this as a White-Black issue despite the fact that George Zimmerman's background makes it clear he was not anti-Black, that he defines himself as Hispanic", and that he visibly is a light-skinned person of color, not White. 

 

Congratulations.


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