March 20, 2012

Tim Wise on Trayvon Martin

Talk about the Trayvon Martin shooting is sweeping the country. I was eager to see what author Tim Wise would say about it, and he didn't disappoint.

Trayvon Martin, White Denial and the Unacceptable Burden of Blackness in America

By Tim WiseBy now, you probably know the shameful details, but they are worth repeating, in any event.

On the evening of February 26, George Zimmerman, a self-appointed “neighborhood watch captain” in an Orlando suburb, shot and killed 17-year old Trayvon Martin.

Because Martin was black.
You should read the whole column, but I'll quote some of the choicest lines:It doesn’t take much imagination to size up Zimmerman psychologically. He’s like so many other utterly unaccomplished males who fantasize about being a badass law officer, meting out justice to the ne’er-do-wells. He’s the kind of person who, if he weren’t playing at policeman, would be one of those guys fabricating stories of his war heroism, buying fake military uniforms and medals on eBay and telling strangers in bars how he single-handedly held off insurgents in Kandahar or some such shit.

Had he been white, Martin’s humanity would have been clearly discernible to Zimmerman. But he was black, and male, and that alone inspired Zimmerman to conclude that there was “something wrong with this guy,” and that he appeared to be “on drugs,” a judgment Zimmerman felt qualified to render based on his extensive background in behavioral psychology, bested only by his prodigious law enforcement training, and by extensive and prodigious, in this case, I mean none whatsoever.

Indeed, if you do not know that Martin’s race (and more to the point, Zimmerman’s racism) is central to the former’s death at the hands of the latter, it may well be that you are incapable of ever comprehending even the most obvious manifestations of this nation’s longstanding racial drama.

If you are one, like those firmly ensconced in the pathetic Sanford, Florida police department, trying against all logic and human feeling to square this pernicious circle, just stop it. That there had been a half-dozen or so break-ins in Zimmerman’s community, ostensibly orchestrated by black males matters not a whit. Likewise, that there was a string of robberies in my New Orleans neighborhood during my senior year of college, which were the handiwork of white men, would not have justified my being stopped by police every time I returned home from a late afternoon class, to say nothing of being accosted by some community asshole with a Charles Bronson complex.

If I chase you and jump you, and you resist my assault, and in response to your resistance I kill you, I am the bad guy. Period. End of story. No exceptions, no prevarications, no ifs ands or buts. It’s me. Trayvon Martin is the innocent one here. He is the one who was acting in self-defense, when he resisted the assault of a total stranger, whose purposes for chasing him and accosting him made him rightfully afraid.

Oh, and when you abuse that ill-gotten authority and take the life of a young black man in the process, you don’t get to be taken seriously when you swear that your actions couldn’t have been racist because, after all, you’re Latino (this being the latest fanciful insistence of Zimmerman’s family). Dear merciful Lord, what is that supposed to prove? Racism is not about the identity of the person acting it out so much as those upon whom it is acted, and for what purpose.

Black males are, for far too many in America, a racial Rorschach test, onto which we instantaneously graft our own perceptions and assumptions, virtually none of them good. Look, a black man on your street! Quick, what do you see? A criminal. Look, a black man on the corner! Quick, what do you see? A drug dealer.
And the key point for Newspaper Rock readers:Zimmerman’s culpability, while total and complete, is not solitary.

After all, we are a society in which research has shown quite conclusively that local newscasts overrepresent blacks as criminals, relative to their actual share of total crime, and overrepresent whites as victims, relative to our share of victimization.

A society in which other studies have shown that these racially-skewed newscasts have a direct relationship to widespread negative perceptions of black people. Indeed, a substantial percentage of anti-black racial hostility can be directly traced to media imagery, even after all other factors are considered.
Comment:  The point is that similar thinking applies to American Indians. The only difference is: Americans think of them less as drug-dealing criminals and more as subhuman savages. It's the same basic idea, but a slightly different emphasis.

For more on America's racism, see White Privilege Will End Soon and Conservatives Seek Return to 1957.

Below:  The Bush Doctrine for blacks, Indians, Muslims, and other uppity minorities. "The dark-skinned savages threatened us, so we had to kill them in self-defense."


Anonymous said...

Skittles can be a lethal weapon. If you eat a bag a day, then in a couple decades, you give yourself diabetes and that eventually kills you.

Irony aside, seriously, this is why I hate cops.

Oh, CBS has called Zimmerman Hispanic now. The Cordova Zimmermans or the Barcelona Zimmermans? The bigot can't be white.

Anonymous said...

But...but Zimmerman was a kind person who volunteered at a womans shelter serving many proud African-American Females of color. Treyvon Martin liked to play a "gangsta" as evidenced by some of the pictures floating around of him. I reserve judgement until a judge tells us who was wrong here.

Shadow Wolf said...

"The point is that similiar thinking applies to American Indians"

Tim Wise article doesn't make that "point". That's your own personal objection. And it has nothing to do with America's "thinking" of American Indians. Those are you own personal obesseive "thinking" patterns. Otherwise, give me a valid source that America supports your type of "thinking".

As per usual, these biased opinions of Rob, is nothing short of pure racism towards Native Aericans that he claims to defend against actual racists. Which is why Rob is a "paraphrasing racist" that he is.

Shadow Wolf said...

Oh and by the way, I'm proud to be among the millions of Americans to signed onto the Justice Trayvon Martin online petition on And it's numbers to continue to grow everyday. It doesn't sound like America shares those "thinking" patterns of yours. Whether Black or Native American.

Looks like Dept. of Justice is seeking Hate Crime charges, which is probably good news: