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The Trayvon Martin Shooting Case, Race, and the Media


The shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, an unarmed Florida high school student who was shot and killed by George Zimmerman, a trayvon martin protestself-appointed neighborhood watch captain, has captured national attention.

Petitions and protests calling for justice for Trayvon Martin's death, have exploded amid allegations of racism and scrutiny into how local police handled the investigation. Much to the chagrin of the protestors, George Zimmerman has yet to be charged in the case. And many media pundits believed that race had everything to do with this tragedy.

Even President Obama had something to say about the shooting. Last week at a press conference, President Obama spoke quite personally about Trayvon Martin: "When I think about this boy, I think about my own kids.... If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon.

Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pits claims Trayvon was killed because…” He was black. And when you’re black, white people often don’t see you—they look right through you, at “the dark and scary face that lurks at the open windows of their vivid imaginations.”

Civil rights activist and MSNBC host Al Sharpton has blurred the boundaries between these two roles because the news network host is in the middle of a story he's been featuring every evening on the air – on many occasions he has televised his own show, PolticsNation, directly at rallies supporting justice for Tayvon Martin. Ironically, this network and many on the Left seem to be okay with Sharpton’s conflicting roles of activism and journalism, but were quick to cry foul when Conservative Sean Hannity attempted to broadcast his Fox News show from a Cincinnati Tea Party Rally.

Fox News commentator Geraldo Rivera added fuel to this inferno by suggesting that Martin was targeted because he was wearing a hooded sweatshirt that made him look like a criminal. "Every time you see someone stick up a 7-Eleven, the kid is wearing a hoodie," Rivera said on Fox & Friends. "I think the hoodie is as much responsible for Trayvon Martin's death as George Zimmerman was."

Perhaps because of Rivera’s comments, the apparently lethal garment has now become a kind of symbol of solidarity for Martin sympathizers in the case. Illinois Democratic Rep. Bobby Rush took it so far as to wear a hoodie on the House floor on Wednesday.

Rush began a speech wearing a suit jacket, removing it to reveal a hoodie underneath. "Racial profiling has to stop," Rush said. "Just because someone wears a hoodie, [it] does not make them a hoodlum." He was swiftly forced to leave the House floor because it's against House rules to wear headgear in the chamber.

So as you can see, the media, sports celebrities, members of Congress, and even our President are engrossed with this story.

Yet, we only know about Trayvon Martin only because the man who shot him looks white.  Actually, Zimmerman’s mother is Peruvian, which makes him half Hispanic, a fact you might not have known if you get your news from the usual places.  That would only detract from the storyline: black kid shot by overzealous (and probably racist) white vigilante.

The tale of Trayvon Martin is indeed a tragic one. Yet, black kids like Trayvon Martin are killed routinely, but are rarely covered by most media outlets because it doesn’t fit the PC narrative—the nation is still a dangerous place for black people who are disenfranchised by a privileged white class.

Why else would the New York Times describe George Zimmerman as a “white Hispanic” watchman?  The term, rarely if ever used before this tragedy, is necessary in telling the Martin story in a more comfortable way.

What’s the comfortable way? It’s the way the blame for Martin’s death belongs squarely at the feet of “the system.” And “the system” is a white thing, don’t you know?

Most of us have lost focus that Martin’s tragic death is a statistical outlier. More whites are killed by blacks than blacks killed by whites (or “white Hispanics”).  And far, far more blacks are killed by other blacks.

Indeed, if we’re going to use the prism of race to analyze murder rates, then the real epidemic is that of black murderers. Heather Mac Donald of the Manhattan Institute notes that recent data show black males age 14 to 24 commit homicides at a rate nearly ten times higher than that of young white and Latino males combined.

Former leader of the NAACP, C.L. Bryant, concurs. He explores the topic of black-on-black crime in his new film “Runaway Slave,” and says people like Jackson and Sharpton are being misleading to suggest there is an epidemic of “white men killing black young men.”

“The epidemic is truly black on black crime,” Bryant said. “The greatest danger to the lives of young black men are young black men.

And yet, New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow says “the burden of black boys in America” is fear of racist assaults.


If politicians, celebrities, and media pundits really feel sorry for African-Americans getting killed at a higher rate than people living in war-torn countries like Afghanistan or Iraq, they would stop focusing on this case and address the black on black crime epidemic.

If people would take off their myopic race prisms for a second, they might appreciate other shooting tragedies.

This explains why there are no rallies and no national outcry over Delric Waymon Miller IV.  If you just said, “Who?” you are not alone.  It’s a safe bet that you don’t have the vaguest clue as to who Delric Waymon Miller IV is.

Delric was a 9-month old baby – a 9-month old African American baby – who was sleeping on a couch at home in Detroit a few weeks ago, when in the early morning hours, someone fired 37 shots from an AK-47 into the house.  One shot killed Delric Waymon Miller IV.

So of course there would be no national outcry, no comments from the president, no rallies led by Al Sharpton demanding justice for Delric, no pieties from Jesse Jackson about how “blacks are under attack” in America.  It’s a safe bet the shooter was black.  This was just one more case of black on black crime, the kind of story that gets ink in the local papers but that’s about it.

Such senseless killings unfortunately happen all over urban black America.

For instance, during St. Patrick’s Day weekend, there were 49 shootings that took place in the South side of Chicago. At least 10 people were killed, including a 6-year-old girl. This tragic weekend saw little media coverage—and no national outrage.

Many of the victims were African-American.

Shame that there are no advocates for the minorities living in the South side of Chicago. What a minute, I can think of at least two!

Maybe the people of South side of Chicago can implore their congressional representative for help. This section of the city falls under the territory of the Illinois 1st Congressional District, represented by Representative Bobby Rush.

But he's too busy grandstanding with his hoodie on the floor of the House of Representatives in order to pander to the race-baiters of the media, like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton rather than actually deal with a problem that is literally killing his constituents.

Who is the most famous former community organizer from the South Side of Chicago? —President Barack Obama!

But he is too busy lecturing the nation about the Florida shooting. Heck, Trayvon could have been his son!

President Obama said we need some national “soul searching” in the wake of the tragic death of young Trayvon Martin. Introspection can be a good thing. So let’s have that soul searching.

And while we’re at it, let’s ask ourselves why the death of a young black man in Florida means so much more to Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and so many other concerned Americans than does the death of a baby in Detroit who was murdered in his sleep or 10 more tragic murders in the South Side of Chicago?

Could it be because one shooter had light skin and the other dark?

So much for a post-racial America.

Contact Erik Uliasz at euliasz@philly2philly.com

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Photo Credit: AP