Friday, 12 July 2013

“Whoever debases others is debasing himself.” Ann Coulter has an interesting column on the George Zimmerman case — and I say “interesting” because its sole concern is to indict Trayvon Martin for crimes committed by “young black males” who aren’t him. They may not even be themselves. To wit: A few days later, another house was burglarized. The thieves made off with jewelry and a new laptop. Roofers working across the street had seen two black teenagers near the house at the time of the robbery. When they spotted one of the teens the next day, they called the police. This time, the roofers followed the suspect so he wouldn’t get away. The cops arrived and found the stolen laptop in his backpack. This was the same black teenager Zimmerman had seen looking in a neighbor’s window. I understand how the roofers could recognize one of the people they saw “near the house,” and that the police could positively identify him as one of the robbers because he’s in possession of stolen property. But how exactly does Coulter know that the black teenager arrested with the laptop is the same one Zimmerman saw? Especially given that—if nothing else—this trial’s proven that George Zimmerman is utter shit at identifying and assessing the relative threat of young black males. Given that this unnamed black teen was presumably convicted on the strength of the possession charge, from a legal standpoint it’s immaterial whether Zimmerman testified against him. But given the perspective of his current defense strategy—which amounts to him having been “socialized” by young black criminals to assume that all young black males are criminals—it seems odd that Coulter would defend Zimmerman by demonstrating that his profiling is vindicated. “He may be a racist who believes all young black males are criminals,” she essentially argues, “but Trayvon Martin was exception, and as a vigorously law-abiding citizen, Zimmerman had no choice but to abide by the rule.” And here—and the following is graphic and I advise you not to click through if such things disturb you—here is what happens when men like Zimmerman treat an “exception” like the “rule.” The defense has released countless images of a teenage Martin puffing his chest in his bathroom mirror like every other kid his age, but this is the image of Martin that matters. A young man, dead in the wet grass, his life cut short because Zimmerman mistook Skittles for a deadly weapon. The defense’s reliance on those images of Martin posing like a “thug” points to the perfidy of their logic: Zimmerman hadn’t seen those images when he started following Martin, nor did he know anything about Martin being involved with the insidious crime of enjoying marijuana. He just saw the kid who’d been in that dead body and decided he needed to be taught a lesson. Say what you will about the legal maneuvering about lesser charges, but it’s clear that Zimmerman’s guilty of a premeditated action, and if his defense manages to convince the jury that “sensible” racial animus...
“Yo, word up: shit’s getting Riehl up in this house, shorty.”* Dan Riehl’s so cute when he’s being racist: Put directly and too harshly, the tragic reality is that Trayvon Martin got, not only what he deserved, but what he sought, with or without realizing it, on the night of his encounter with George Zimmerman. Less bluntly, thug-life and even wannabe thug-life is not a good life, rarely a long life and never a life that any young man — or woman — of any color or race should want to pursue. Now, I know he’s saying that no person of any “color or race” should want to be a thug, but we all know that Dan Riehl has a long history of cowering in corners: Dan Riehl recently encountered some black people who “were technically thugs.” What did these “technically thug[gish]” black people do? “There was no confrontation,” Riehl informs his readers, but “there were maybe ten or so” of them in the bus, which is about nine or so more than is required to trigger a flight-or-flight response in folks like Riehl. Somehow, he managed to keep it together long enough to hear what these “pretty young, not that big” black “kids” were saying. Re-reading that post, I’m struck by the similarities: a white man’s confronted by “pretty young, not that big” kids who he considers “technically thugs,” but luckily for all involved, “it [by which he means, not insignificantly, the black kids] went on but not really to a level that was so loud, or so confrontational that it needed to be addressed.” The implicit question is, of course, “Addressed by whom?” In the wake of Trayvon Martin’s death, for Dan Riehl the answer is “By the likes of George Zimmerman.” Because Zimmerman’s going to become a folk hero in the style of Bernard Goetz, someone white people call out to in their moment of desperation when a black kid approaches them on a sidewalk, armed with concrete. Or maybe he’ll become an Arthurian figure who will rise again in their hour of greatest need when the kids behind the counter at McDonald’s have tattoos and wear their caps crooked. Or maybe the next time Dan Riehl finds his ass on a bus with some black kids it won’t be so clenched because, like his hero, he’ll be carrying concealed heat. Because maybe next time those kids won’t “get away” with threatening Riehl with their youth and blackness, but will get “not only what [they] deserved, but what [they] sought, with or without realizing it, on the night of [their] encounter with [Dan Riehl].” *Actual quotation from the article: “That’s life in the big city, or just another day in the hood if you prefer, bro. Deal with it.” UPDATE: According to Robert Stacy McCain, "Nobody is saying Trayvon Martin 'deserved it,' and it is astonishing that the Tampa Bay Times would employ a reporter who would write such a dishonest sentence, or editors who would let that lie appear in print."

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