QOTD: Eugene Robinson

QOTD: Eugene Robinson

by digby

This is so right:

The assumption underlying [the original police and prosecution] ho-hum approach to the case was that Zimmerman had the right to self-defense but Martin — young, male, black — did not. The assumption was that Zimmerman would fear for his life in a hand-to-hand struggle but Martin — young, male, black — would not.

If anyone wonders why African Americans feel so passionately about this case, it’s because we know that our 17-year-old sons are boys, not men. It’s because we know their adolescent bravura is just that — an imitation of manhood, not the real thing.

We know how frightened our sons would be, walking home alone on a rainy night and realizing they were being followed. We know how torn they would be between a child’s fear and a child’s immature idea of manly behavior. We know how they would struggle to decide the right course of action, flight or fight.

And we know that a skinny boy armed only with candy, no matter how big and bad he tries to seem, does not pose a mortal threat to a healthy adult man who outweighs him by 50 pounds and has had martial arts training (even if the lessons were mostly a waste of money). We know that the boy may well have threatened the man’s pride but likely not his life. How many murders-by-sidewalk have you heard of recently? Or ever?

The conversation we need to have is about how black men, even black boys, are denied the right to be young, to be vulnerable, to make mistakes. We need to talk about why, for example, black men are no more likely than white men to smoke marijuana but nearly four times as likely to be arrested for it — and condemned to a dead-end cycle of incarceration and unemployment. I call this racism. What do you call it?

I'm old enough to remember John DiIullio "super-predator" meme of a couple of decades ago when the right wing ginned up a major freak-out over gang violence that painted young black males as monsters. This Weekly Standard article from 1995 is fairly typical:

While the trouble will be greatest in black inner-city neighborhoods, other places are also certain to have burgeoning youth-crime problems that will spill over into upscale central-city districts, inner-ring suburbs, and even the rural heartland. To under-score this point, Abraham recounted a recent townhall meeting in a white working-class section of the city that has fallen on hard times: "They're becoming afraid of their own children. There were some big beefy guys there, too. And they're asking me what am I going to do to control their children." I interviewed Abraham, just as I have interviewed other justice-system officials and prison inmates, as a reality check on the incredibly frightening picture that emerges from recent academic research on youth crime and violence. All of the research indicates that Americans are sitting atop a demographic crime bomb. And all of those who are closest to the problem hear the bomb ticking.

To cite just a few examples, following my May 1995 address to the district attorneys
association, big-city prosecutors inundated me with war stories about the ever-growing
numbers of hardened, remorseless juveniles who were showing up in the system. "They kill or maim on impulse, without any intelligible motive," said one. Likewise, a, eteran beat policeman confided: " I never used to be scared. Now I say a quick Hail Mary every time I get a call at night involving juveniles. I pray I go home in one piece to my own kids." On a recent visit to a New Jersey maximum-security prison, I spoke to a group of life-term inmates, many of them black males from inner-city Newark and Camden. In a typical remark, one prisoner fretted, "I was a bad-ass street gladiator, but these kids are stone-cold predators."

There's always some dark threat for these people, isn't there?

That thesis was crap then and proved to be even more so as time went on. But never let the facts get in the way of white fear and loathing of black males --- especially young ones. It seems to be imprinted in our American DNA.

The interesting little bit of progress is that wingnuts are now being forced to unctuously express a phony concern for "black on black" crime to make their point. Nothing could be more disingenuous, but it goes part in parcel with their obscene appropriation of Martin Luther King as someone who shares their own values. Check this abomination from Ted Nugent:

Martin Luther King Jr. is rolling over in his grave that he sacrificed his life for the cause of judging people by the content of their character instead of the color of their skin, as so many of his own race carry [on] in self-destructive behavior while professional race mongers blame everything on racism. It is painful and heartbreaking to say and write this, but horrifically it is true. Blacks kill more blacks in a weekend in Chicago than the evil, vile Ku Klux Klan idiots did in 50 years. Truly earth shattering insane. And not a peep from Obama or Holder. Tragic.

Ted is the black man's real friend, dontcha know? His heart is breaking.

I suppose that's better than when they were shrieking about how nobody cares about the little old white ladies being raped killed in their beds by 12 year olds. But I'm going to guess that most of his audience understands that subtext. Because they certainly don't care about dead black kids one way or the other.