Long-term readers of this blog and Black Entertainment USA are familiar with our consistent and comprehensive coverage of cases where abuse of justice has been coupled with racial tensions and prejudice. Over the years we have spoken out clearly and loudly about Oscar Grant, Sean Bell, Adolph Grimes, Amadou Diallo, Robbie Tolan and Megan Williams among other cases and situations.
While many of these events and names may be uncommon in most households, they are all emblemic of a problem in the nation. That problem is the use of deadly force against Black men and women and other forms of abuse, based entirely on race. It’s a problem that has existed long before even the oldest reader was born, and continues today from Los Angeles to New York, from Philadelphia to New Orleans. On rare occassion the major news media will pick up a story for a day or so, in extremely rare cases the item becomes national and lasts longer.
Given the above, covering the Trayvon Martin case in Florida seems obvious. At least this was what one reader mentioned to us. So why the silence?
Because this is not the same thing. Trayvon Martin has become a tool, a political tool, and the case has little to do with justice anymore.
In each case that we have followed and spoken about there were clear, or at least reasonably clear facts. Some cases had video proof. Several had eyewitness reports. There were police reports and alterations, even sometimes flubbed attempts to cover-up actions by police and other officials. Trayvon Martin’s case does not have this.
There are 911 tapes, which NBC doctored – intentionally or otherwise. There are obfuscations of facts, like whether or not George Zimmermann was injured and to what extent – that was ABC’s coverage. There is the sudden outbursts of rage by politicians that have no more access to fact than anyone else. These are all reasons to pause.
Perhaps the thing that was most troubling was that the Trayvon Martin shooting was so well engineered by the news media. Images of Trayvon as an angelic pre-teen and a rowdy mugshot of Zimmermann were abundantly available on a case that needed no prompting for national coverage. It just doesn’t happen like that. Not in the years of our coverage and paying attention. Which made us wonder what details were incorrect.
The better part of early 2009 was spent following the Oscar Grant case. There was video on Youtube from more than a half dozen withnesses, plus on-scene video from security cameras. There were riots in the streets of Oakland. It eventually got about a day and a half of coverage nationally. Yet to this day most people still can’t tell you what significance the name Oscar Grant has. But the Trayvon case was so huge that members of Congress were suddenly acting out based on the case?
Name another case where menmbers of Congress declared how “he was hunted like a dog”, or was “chased down”. Name another case where the media rallied around the thought that you ” can’t defend yourself against a pack of Skittles”. The Oscar Grant case had video of the actual murder with literally dozens of witnesses and members of Congress remained silent.
Then details started to come out in the Trayvon case. That there was a fight before the shooting. That there was 911 tapes. That George Zimmermann was injured, as well as being half Peruvian (not that nationality matters, but Zimmermann is not just “White” as was being pushed by the media). This was not a clear case of wrongful death – not on the basis of race and perhaps not at all.
This did not stop some from using the sad situation. Rev Al Sharpton led an event, the chants from the rally covered that they wanted justice, and would not be satisfied until they get it – without facts and with demands for Zimmermann in chains. Even the President chimed in – which he would not do for the Oscar Grant case that happened just 19 days before he was sworn in.
Worse yet is that with the distortions of fact by news media, and overreaction by politicians, there are the actions of individuals that are outrageous. The Black Panthers putting a bounty on Zimmermann, and Spike Lee publishing the (false) address for the man. Where were all these people in all these other cases that we have addressed? Where was the outrage in each item that was written about here? Where are the authorities reaching out to stop the cries for vigilante justice. Because, if Spike Lee had the right address, and someone killed Zimmermann for the Panthers bounty, would members of Congress applaud the action on the floor of Congress? Would they be liable in the murder as they helped to incite the rage that led to the murder?
But this is digression.
When issues of race, especially where a lack of justice has occured, we will always speak out. But we will do so responsibly – presenting facts, video, witness testimony, and pertinent data. Because enflaming the masses does not create justice, it creates a mob. But highlighting injustice can lead to corrections and perhaps prevent such events from happening in the future. This is not the Trayvon case.
The Trayvon Martin case is about politics (Congress), about people trying to defeat a law they don’t like outside of the courts (Stand Your Ground law), and the media making a boatload of money on the back of a dead young man. This may have been a search for justice at the start, it may well be a case of wrongful death or justified homicide – no one has enough facts yet to be sure. However this case was at its start, today it is anything but.
In the end, no matter how it ends, the Trayvon Martin case will likely have its final moments in a riot. With the manipulations of the news media, the misstated facts from politicians, the injection of the President, the calls for violence (Panthers) and irresponsible actions of celebrities how can this case end in anything else? No matter what the outcome, it will never be enough.
Thus we have been silent. Because we do not advocate violence. We do not support bounties, nor try cases (or offer opinon) without reasonable fact or proof. We don’t enflame masses with rhetoric that can never be sated.
If Trayvon Martin was killed for any reason other than self-defense, George Zimmermann should go to jail. If justice is the desired outcome and the facts are clear-cut, there should be no need to taint the public’s information about the matter. If that is not enough, if the media must gerrymander the public reaction, then it is not justice that is being sought.
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