Saturday, April 07, 2012

Confederate "Heritage" Month 2012, April 7: Trayvon Martin (4)

As it happened this year, the national controversy over the Trayvon Martin coincided with the start of April, when I do my annual anti-observance of Confederate "Heritage" Month. The case itself will hopefully be tried in court. Or, if not, will be the subject of a decent federal Department of Justice report. It sure looks like a racially-motivated murder to me, even a lynch-murder. But that's why we have laws and courts, so that these things can be dealt with the state under the law and sensible rules of evidence.

But it has also become an issue that wound up highlighting once again the continued racism in the United States, particularly against African-Americans. And the white racist rhetoric that the shooter George Zimmerman's defenders have come up with has been a strong reminder of how so much of the segregation period has survived intact in the hearts and minds of many, many white people in the United States.

The pseudonymous Chauncey DeVega at his We Are Respectable Negroes (WARN) blog has been doing a particularly interesting job in connecting the current case and the reactions to it to the history of white racism against blacks in the US. He's maintaining a critical-minded stance toward the particulars of the case, as we all should. In My Greatest Fear Made Real: Piers Morgan's Ownage of Toure on CNN 04/04/2012, he presents an example of how an advocate for Trayvon Martin's cause got sloppy in an interview with CNN's Piers Morgan over an interview that Morgan did with Zimmerman's brother. Gene Lyons in his most recent two columns at National Memo of 03/28/2012 and 04/04/2012 expressed concern about the sloppiness of some of the coverage of the case, particularly on the part of MSNBC.

The Orlando Sentinel has been doing extensive local coverage of the case. Beth Kassab of the Sentinel discusses some of the claims being made about the case in this recent Hardball appearance. Here is an interesting piece by Jeff Weiner from the Sentinel, Trayvon Martin: Controversy, racial strife familiar for attorney Benjamin Crump 04/06/2012, about an attorney who was involved as an advocate for the victims both in the Trayvon Martin case and in an earlier Florida case involving another black teenager, Martin Lee Anderson, who was murdered in a particularly brutal way in a "boot camp" detention center by the guards. In the earlier case, the victim's family won a legal settlement, but the murderers managed to get acquitted on the legal charges:

The guards were videotaped in January 2006 hitting and kicking Anderson, a 14-year-old inmate at the Bay County Boot Camp youth-detention center, while the nurse watched. Martin died, and the video recording, which Crump sued to have released, sparked national outcry.

Almost five years after the acquittals, the topic is still an emotional one for Crump, who says he'll never forget seeing an all-white jury come back in less than two hours of deliberations.

"I will go to my grave feeling that justice didn't happen for Martin Lee Anderson's family," he said.
Chauncey DeVega addressed some of those historical trends in two recent posts, Sanford Holds Its Breath! Negroes Plot Uprising Against Whites in Revenge for Trayvon Martin's Murder! 04/06/2012 and Who Fears Who? Sanford, Florida Prepares to "Explode" Over Trayvon Martin Case vs. The Tulsa, Oklahoma Racial Pogrom WARN 04/06/2012. He talks about how white extremists are fantasizing about the immanence of some racial uprising in the city of Sanford over the Trayvon Martin murder:

This story is bubbling up on the white supremacist websites. The mainstream media is floating the black people ready to riot story as it is a classic "if it bleeds it leads" narrative. And now with the arrival of neo-Nazis in Sanford, Florida (who are there to "protect" the white community) matters are only made worst. I love a good dust up. I also smile whenever groups like the National Socialist Movement take one on the chin. However, now is not the time for such shenanigans.

As I pointed out in an earlier post, historical context matters. As the news media frame another story about negro uprisings and rebellions, it is important to push back and to highlight how riots and organized violence have been 1) almost the exclusive domain of whites against people of color in the United States, and 2) as the late Joel Olson pointed out, a primary means of both creating, as well as reinforcing, herrenvolk White Democracy in the American Republic.

Who should fear who in this context? How many more tens of thousands of African Americans have been killed by whites in organized acts of racial violence than the other way around?

Never forget.
And this can of fear goes all the way back to slavery days, as an increasingly embattled South experienced periodic scares of slave uprisings, sometimes connected to actual incidents and sometimes more like just mindless panic. DeVega's point is well taken: far more blacks have been killed by whites in race riots than vice versa. In the earlier of the two posts, he writes:

Memory echoes across time: our collective conscience is trans-historical. White supremacy, what is a changing thing, reaches back to the past to find life in the Age of Obama. While the temptation is to focus on the Southern Strategy of the 1960s in order to explain the virulent anti-black and anti-brown animus of the New Right and the Republican Party at present, the roots are in fact much older.

The Conservatives who instinctively rally to defend George Zimmerman are actually the intellectual and emotive kin of racist White populists who lived centuries before. In all, matters would be much improved if the reactionary Right owned their philosophical and intellectual wellsprings in the hanging tree, chain gangs, and press gangs of post-Reconstruction America.

History is real; the past is present in the year 2012. This is true for all black folks. It applied to Trayvon Martin. It also applies to someone as powerful as the President of the United States of America. [my emphasis]
Tags: , ,

No comments: