Sunday, 25 March 2012

A tale of two cases

Trayvon Martin was shot to death in Florida for buying Skittles in a hoodie. A few weeks before Ramarley Graham was shot to death by cops in his Bronx bathroom for running away from them. The arguments we have and will hear about these cases is that somehow the dead kids acted in a threatening way and caused the shooters some sort of alarm that led them to blast them.

Back in 2006 we had a ‘stand your ground’ case here in the New York area when a suburban homeowner shot at a horde of threatening youths who had chased his son home. One of the attacking gang-bangers died. However, neither detectives, prosecutors nor eventually the jury were impressed with the Floridian idea that people should use firearms for self-defense, and that parent was charged, convicted and did time until he was finally released by the governor.

I intentionally use inflammatory language to describe the particulars of that case because the shooter in this case, one Mr White [below], was black. The ‘gangbangers’ were white kids who had chased White’s son right up to the lawn of his house while calling him ‘nigger’. (That didn’t stop the mother of the dead kid, Daniel Cicciaro, from insisting that ‘Daniel was not a racist’ in her celebration of the guilty verdict.)

It’s sadly not unbelievable that such an egregious double racial standard persists. Slavery was only abolished 150 years ago, and legal segregation was a matter of fact affair within the living memories of some of us. But it’s almost laughable that those reporting on the Trayvon Martin case pretend to tell us something important by relating all the ways in which the trigger-happy shooter does not hate black people.

Earth to base: you don’t have to harbor nostalgia for the Middle Passage to incubate racist attitudes and act upon them. The entire city of New York, for example, puts up with the overtly racist stop-and-frisk practices of the NYPD because the white majority likes the feeling of safety it offers them. Guns for ‘self-defense’ are a matter of holy writ throughout the land, but minority kids—who arguably might actually need them—get prison terms for possessing a firearm. Suburban Mr White found out how many NRA-inspired rights he really has when he utilized a pistol to ‘stand his ground’ while inhabiting dark skin.

One of the many ways in which the current presidential campaign circus is loathsome is the continuous undertone of creepily racist dog-whistling deployed by the favorites of the crazed evangelical/Tea Party right. (The Mitt generally doesn’t tread that ground, which is a rare grace.) The hatred spewed against Obama, who is in fact as faithful a servant of the security-cum-police state as the right-wingers could possibly want, reflects the worst side of our national character. Obama himself, by boosting the powers and limitless resources of the security state and undermining our remaining civil protections, has gone a long way toward empowering these nefarious forces. The next right-wing government we have will point to his precedents with unbridled glee.

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