The Politics of Race: "Perpetual Victimhood"
The highly sensationalized George Zimmerman case, which ended in his acquittal in the death of Trayvon Martin in the Florida state court, is far from over and could end up in federal court. The NAACP has announced that it will pursue civil rights charges with the department of Justice. The Association's President, Benjamin Jealous, said the group will not rest until racial profiling in all its forms is outlawed. The justice department is now evaluating whether it has enough evidence to support a prosecution of Zimmerman. Although racism and stereotypes exist in America and need to be opposed, the Zimmerman case is not the battleground for this cause, nor is Zimmerman's acquittal a civil rights issue. Instead the emotions of the public have been riled up by the politicization of the case.
Even Al Jazeera joined in the fray of feeding into the politics of race by highlighting the demonstrations in San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York, while quoting its reporter, Andy Gallacher, from Miami:
A subtle characteristic has been interwoven in the Zimmerman case from the onset, one that intrinsically portrayed the tragedy of Trayvon Martin's death as the fight for black equality, for which Martin Luther King fought for during the Civil Rights Movement. Yet young Trayvon Martin -- although flagrantly brandished as an icon for civil rights -- was an ordinary youth, evidently troubled and in need of care and guidance, like many other youths. Here is some of what was revealed about Martin: a photo in which he shows his gold teeth to the camera while pointing upwards his middle fingers; suspension from his school less than a month before his encounter with Zimmerman; texts and photos of firearms associated to Martin and a "U gotta gun?" text sent from his phone eight days before his death; texts referring to marijuana and photos that show him blowing smoke; texts and a video that suggest his involvement in organized fights.
Trayvon Martin's stepmother, Alicia Stanley, stated that although she was personally convinced of Zimmerman's guilt, she did not believe that Trayvon was picked on because of his race; while Trayvon Martin's family attorney, Daryl Parks, affirmed a stronger conviction that the family will move forward to defend the legacy of their son. Parks said that "they won't allow George Zimmerman's bullet to silence Trayvon," and that "no decent thinking person would ever believe that an armed person should ever be allowed to shoot an unarmed child." Park's statement underscores key implications: that Trayvon was silenced when, in fact, he was not advocating any particular message even though one was ascribed to him upon his death, and that the jury was not "decent thinking" in rendering its verdict of Zimmerman's innocence. In other words Park appears to be in unison with the supposition with the NAACP: that racism prevailed in the courtroom and that the case is a civil rights issue.
A neighbourhood-watch captain became the single target of a collective rage, fueled by a zeal that could be likened to the civil rights movement in the 1950s. Zimmerman's brother stated that, "he's going to be looking around his shoulder for the rest of his life." This collective and displaced rage is being impelled by political strata right up the chain to the White House, displayed when Barack Obama issued his calculated statement: "If I had a son he would look like Trayvon," followed by further egging on by the icons of black activism, Reverends Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. Jackson declared, "There is power in blood . . . we must turn a moment into a movement." Then in what amounted to an interference of the justice system in March 2012, Democratic lawmakers on Capitol Hill , who hosted Trayvon Martin's parents at a high profile briefing, declared his shooting to be a "murder" and the result of "racial profiling." Black Georgia Democrat, Rep. Hank Johnson, stated that, "Trayvon was murdered for walking while black in a gated community." Then came a moment of silence called for by Michigan Democrat, Rep. John Conyers. Such moments of silence are typically reserved for large scale tragedies or to honor the legacy of heroes. At this point, Trayvon was virtually inaugurated into the status of a modern day martyr to spark momentum in what is being presented, wrongly, as a revived civil rights movement.
Under law Zimmerman was innocent until proven guilty, yet there was no outrage for what amounted to an interference with justice as Zimmerman was, in effect, determined to be guilty in the "court" of Capitol Hill Democrats.
Racism and stereotyping need to be vehemently opposed in all their forms, it also needs to be publicly recognized that racism is not only practiced by whites against non-whites, but, contrary to popular Western assumptions, it is massively found among diverse groups as well. Even though Arab Muslims are alleged to be more racist than Europeans, and black slavery is still widespread among the Muslims of Mauritania, now the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee has joined the NAACP to demand federal charges against Zimmerman.
Racism has become a Western populist conflagration, propelled by the political left. An article, "Why the Left Needs Racism", published in the Wall Street Journal, points out that although the political left claims to love racial diversity, it is really a disingenuous cover to play politics. According to statistics, blacks, since 1964, have overwhelmingly voted Democratic. In 2008, when Obama won the presidency, thanks to the black vote, the voter endorsement for Democrats showed the best presidential year since 1964; so to keep the black vote, the party and its supporters use racism as a tool to portray Republicans and opponents of Democrats, such as the tea-party movement, as racists. It is a grave injustice to the cause of racism to see words in mainstream print such as these:
Rev. Al Sharpton even compared Trayvon Martin to Jesus Christ being crucified:
Al Sharpton et al ignore a tragic reality among African Americans who are in urgent need of helpful solutions rather than having their leaders exploiting their plight for American votes. This reality was revealed in a 2007 special report by the Bureau of Justice statistics. It showed that between eight and nine thousand African Americans are murdered every year in America -- and not by whites and not due to racism. 93% of these murders were perpetrated by other African Americans.
To contrast and counter the politics of racism, author and Senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution, Shelby Steele, rendered a profound and sensible account in 1999 of the black plight in America. Steele's mother was white and his father was black. While he acknowledges racism, Steele vividly portrayed the message of the civil rights movement through a picket sign that was his personal favorite. It stated only four words: "I am a man." To him, this sign represented a freedom for the individual that made up the group, but not the group itself. Steel goes on to give a constructive analysis of how a visible minority group can evolve and come to be viewed differently by mainstream society:
Steele's ideology gives clear instruction to what black activists in America should be focusing on to advance their communities: individual responsibility, rendering expectations upon their own visible minority group, and living in harmony with mainstream society. Yet most tragic is what Steele further points out: that " civil-rights victories and black identity became more carefully calculated around the pursuit of power."
The NAACP's announcement that it was calling for the Justice Department to conduct an investigation into the civil rights violations committed against Trayvon Martin represents quite the shift from the role of the NAACP during the Civil Rights movement.
In revisiting a little history: it was a Republican, Dwight Eisenhower, who, in 1954, worked cooperatively with the NAACP in what became a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case, when the court declared unconstitutional the separation of black students and white students in public schools in Brown v. the Board of Education, thus ordering the states to desegregate public schools. This victory for African-Americans was the result of the class-action lawsuit filed against the Board of Education in the city of Topeka, Kansas. The plaintiffs were thirteen Topeka parents representing their twenty children, recruited by the leadership of the NAACP. The case stemmed from Linda Brown, a 7 year old black girl who walked 20 blocks to school daily to attend a black school in the days of public school segregation. There was a "white school" only two blocks from her house, so the NAACP helped her father to bring a legal case against the Board.
It was also Eisenhower who proposed civil rights legislation that led to the Civil Rights Act of 1957, and established the Civil Rights Section of the Justice Department. Under it, any interference with the black population's right to vote could be prosecuted. The Act also established a federal Civil Rights Commission with powers to investigate "discriminatory conditions and recommend corrective measures." Eisenhower also fully desegregated the military.
This was the era of institutional and systemic racism that America overcame through the powerful but peaceful Civil Rights movement. Today, racism still exists undeniably, in more subtle forms, but there are those who have -- according to Shelby Steele -- turned a " protest identity" into "a career advantage for an entire generation of black intellectuals" and politicians, as we see evidenced today. He sums up this phenomenon by explaining the evolution from the long "dark age of racism" to the age of "white guilt" and points to a harsh truth: that today, the black man is a victim, rarely victimized by racism. Instead, he says, it is perpetual victimhood that is a "little gulag:" it entraps the black man, he is popular with white institutions as part of a group, but he is unaccepted and unsupported as an individual.
The civil rights movement was about defending real victims of real racism, not about politicking and the creation of the "little gulag" for African-Americans. In the midst of the turbo-charged politics surrounding the half-Hispanic Zimmerman , how disheartening it was to see the renowned, iconic black author, poet, and activist Maya Angelou comment in a Time interview: "how far we have to go" as a country. "That one man, armed with a gun can actually profile a young man because he is black and end up shooting him dead…It is so painful". Meanwhile a white man from Georgia suffered a violent death after being gang-beaten by four blacks and left to die on the highway, where he was hit by a car. In an article printed in the Daily Caller, Why is Joshua Chellew less important than Trayvon Martin?, the question was asked concerning Barack Obama: "If Obama had four more sons…." And a comment was made in Top Conservative News that if the races had been reversed, the Chellew story would have knocked Zimmerman out of the news to become the biggest story in the U.S. In another abhorrent instance, MSNBC Contributor Michael Eric Dyson issued the ghastly statement during an interview that America will not understand the racism of the Zimmerman verdict until "the number of white kids die that approximate the numbers of black and other kids who die." Instead, in battling ongoing forms of racism, African American activists should be applying what Martin Luther King espoused:
If black activists have been searching for a major event to propel a noble cause against racism and the Trayvon Martin case is what they found, their convictions and approach lack legitimacy. Sadly, as racism continues to be fought on all levels, black youths are being murdered daily across America, mainly at the hands of those within their own communities. The dignity and discipline of what Martin Luther King envisioned for African-Americans as individuals are in need of development. The death of Trayvon Martin was indeed tragic, yet the politicking from his death is wrong. This is not what the civil rights movement was about.
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