by BAR executive editor Glen Ford
“’Shoot the Blacks’ is a winning political platform.” That’s the message brought home to African Americans by the Trayvon Martin murder and George Zimmerman’s Stand Your Ground defense. Far from a post-racial society, the U.S. is, in many ways, devolving. “So bold have the racists become, they now seek to empower white citizens in general with lethal privileges to defend white space, wherever it is claimed – a reversion to lynch law, on top of police terror.”
Trayvon Killing Reveals Unreconstructed White Nationalism on the March
by BAR executive editor Glen Ford
“Politicians find success in marketing Stand Your Ground as freeing their constituents from prohibitions against the use of deadly force against non-whites.”
“This is a moment when America should be proud,” wrote New York Times in-house Negro columnist Charles M. Blow, last Saturday, after George Zimmerman was finally charged with second degree murder in the death of Trayvon Martin. “America,” in Blow’s interpretation of events, “has heard the calls for justice from a Florida family.” Blow celebrates an “America” that “rose up” to do the right thing by marching in the streets and signing petitions. “With the force of public pressure at its back, the system kicked into high gear” – albeit more than 40 days after the Sanford police department had shrugged off Trayvon’s killing as an inconsequentiality. Blow acknowledges that Zimmerman still might not go to trial, and could be acquitted under Florida’s Stand Your Ground law. Nevertheless, he says, “satisfaction must be taken in the fact that the system recognized the value of Trayvon’s life and the tragic circumstances of his death.”
In this fawning and grateful Negro’s view, “America” has acquitted itself well. Having credited the whole of “America” and “the State of Florida” for taking “up the cause of the dead boy,” the Timesman appends his piece with two incomplete sets of data from an ABC/Washington Post poll, to show how “Americans” assess the quality of justice in Trayon’s shooting, and the criminal justice system’s overall treatment of Blacks and other minorities.
“In this fawning and grateful Negro’s view, “America” has acquitted itself well.”
Blow displays only the poll’s results for the combined opinions of Blacks and whites: a fictional America in which 51 percent “don’t know enough” about Trayvon’s death to have an opinion, 44 percent feel the shooting was unjustified, and 4 percent believe Zimmerman had the right to kill him. However, the full poll details the real America, the profoundly racist society in which Blacks and whites have vastly different worldviews. The racial breakdown shows 8 out of 10 Blacks believe the shooting was unjustified, with just 19 percent saying they don’t know enough to have an opinion, while only 38 percent of whites – slightly over 1 out of 3 – are willing to call the killing unjustified, and 56 percent claim lack of sufficient knowledge.
In the real America, it was overwhelmingly Blacks, joined by a distinct minority of whites, that “rose up” for Trayvon – not a collective “nation who refused to forget him,” as Blow wrote. Blow also tagged his drooling piece with incomplete survey responses to the question, “Do you think blacks and other minorities receive equal treatment as whites in the criminal justice system or not?” When Black and white answers are combined, 55 percent agree that non-whites are not accorded equal treatment, while 37 percent believe the system is fair. But the racial breakdown shows 84 percent of African Americans see the criminal justice system as racially biased, while slightly less than half of whites do.
“Only 38 percent of whites – slightly over 1 out of 3 – are willing to call the killing unjustified, and 56 percent claim lack of sufficient knowledge.”
Blow finds the basic facts of a racially differentiated America inconvenient to his ode to the nation’s infinite powers of redemption – because it’s all a lie. What white American majorities have been collectively attempting to redeem for the past 40 years, is a White Man’s Country. That’s why they have voted Republican in presidential elections since 1968, with Richard Nixon’s Southern Strategy. That’s why, in the wake of the Black Freedom Movement of the Sixties, white electorates in every state put in office politicians that methodically constructed an overwhelmingly non-white Prison Gulag that now warehouses 1 out of every 4 incarcerated persons on the planet, half of them African American. That’s the essential truth of Michelle Alexander’s New Jim Crow, under which Blacks are criminalized as a people in order to return them to the status of a subjugated class.
The Stand Your Ground-like laws that have been enacted by more than two-dozen states are very public manifestations of unreconstructed white nationalism on the offensive. It is true that the legal templates are drawn up by ALEC, the right wing legislative collective, and the National Rifle Association. However, these are anything but backroom conspiracies. The speed with which such laws have swept much of the nation is proof that they are popular vote-getters among whites. Politicians find success in marketing Stand Your Ground as freeing their constituents from prohibitions against the use of deadly force against non-whites. “Shoot the Blacks” is a winning political platform.
“What white American majorities have been collectively attempting to redeem for the past 40 years, is a White Man’s Country.”
Anybody that speaks of the U.S. as on a trajectory to a post-racial society is setting non-whites up for racist attack. Groveling Black mouthpieces for white corporate media like Charles Blow are among that group. At the top of the list is Barack Obama, whose campaign trail “Philadelphia Speech” baldly stated that racism was not endemic to American life and history, and characterized those Blacks who disagreed as having been psychologically damaged by past battles. That a Black president can be gratefully applauded by African Americans – and publicly pilloried by some whites – for deigning to acknowledge the humanity of his own, hypothetical child (“If I had son, he’d look like Trayvon”) says volumes on the devaluation of Black life in America.
Resistance to white nationalist resurgence must take many forms. It will require a movement that surpasses the mobilizations of the Sixties, which defeated de jure apartheid only to see the erection of a vast police state based on the organizing principle of racial containment and oppression. So bold have the racists become, they now seek to empower white citizens in general with lethal privileges to defend white space, wherever it is claimed – a reversion to lynch law, on top of police terror.
African American perceptions of the growing racial threat crystallized with the Trayvon Martin murder, as the groundswell of protest – most significantly, among Black youth – attests. Zimmerman’s invocation of the Stand Your Ground Law brought it all home: white electorates have put in place legal mechanisms allowing them to kill African Americans at will. It is the specter most horrifically depicted in the photo of two young Black men lynched by a jubilant mob of thousands in Marion, Indiana, in 1930. Those same folks are still out there, in numbers large enough to tear down barriers to freelance lynch law in at least half the states. Welcome (back) to America.
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at [email protected].