DEMONIZING FOR THE KILL: Trayvon Martin and the Racial Profiling of Blacks

Tracy Martin shown with Trayvon

[Speaking Truth To Power]

Last week, the father of slain Florida teenager Trayvon Martin spoke before members of Congress about his son and the topic that has resulted in the mass criminalization and premature death of many African-American males by the hands of police, and others: racial profiling.

Trayvon Martin’s father, Tracy Martin, spoke last Wednesday before Congressional leaders who convened the newly formed Congressional Caucus on Blacks and Boys—which includes a panel of experts that will be examining issues that disproportionately affect the lives of African-American men and boys. 

Mr. Martin said he is dedicating to setting the record straight about his son who was shot to death by George Zimmerman. Mr. Zimmerman was acquitted of second-degree and manslaughter charges on July 13—a decision that has sparked non-violent protests across the country.

“To have his name slandered and demonized, I think as a father it’s really important that my message to the world, we won’t let this verdict sum up who Trayvon was,” Martin said to the committee which met for the first time on Wednesday. “I vow to do everything in my power to not give up the fight for him not only the fight for Trayvon but for so many other young Black and Brown boys in this country.”

Martin also spoke about losing his beloved son. “When we talk about one of the greatest gifts that a man can receive from a woman, I think that greatest gift is a son,” Martin said. “I always said that Trayvon was my hero, he saved my life.”

Mr. Martin’s Congressional testimony came days after President Barack Obama held an impromptu press conference in the White House briefing room where he acknowledged that as a young Black man he too had to face the indignities of racial profiling. The president’s comments surprised, and pleased, many Blacks who were outraged at the acquittal of George Zimmerman.

During his speech, Mr. Martin articulated his hope that the tragedy of his son’s death could, nonetheless, help improve race relations. “With everything that I have left in me, we’re going to try to make sure his name won’t be dragged through the mud, that his legacy is that Trayvon helped bridge the gap of America,” the father said.

He also said he would like to see legislation in his son’s name that would challenge the controversial “Stand Your Ground” laws. “I think 50 years from now, when I’m dead and gone, I would like to see that Trayvon Martin’s name is attached to some type of statute or amendment that says you can’t simply profile our children, shoot them in the heart, kill them and say that you were defending yourself,” Martin said.

The Trayvon Martin tragedy has sparked a nation discussion on racial profiling, the likes of which we haven’t seen in some time. In the Black community, Trayvon’s killer, George Zimmerman, has been roundly denounced as a reckless racist killer. However, we must remember that George Zimmerman is a product of the racist, segregated society he identifies with and epitomizes. A society that is, itself, often busy brutalizing and killing the people they love to hate: Black people. Racial profiling as President Obama pointed out happens routinely in America every day.

Question: how can we expect to stop citizens, like George Zimmerman, from engaging in racial profiling if we allow police officers across the country to continue doing it?

As a wannabe cop—who studied criminal law, and whose father was a judge—Mr. Zimmerman’s racist profiling perception of Trayvon is exactly the perception being drilled into police and law enforcement officials all across America. Ironically, those who are the offspring of the genocidal killers of Native Americans and enslaved Africans—those who raped many and murdered millions—now have the chutzpah to point the finger of criminality at African-Americans.

Last week, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg vetoed the Community Safety Act—legislation that New York City Council passed to address the racial profiling that has been running amuck within the NYPD. Mr. Bloomberg and his apologist supporters maintain randomly stopping Blacks is necessary in reducing crime. Recently, the good mayor said statistics show African-Americans are identified as the disproportionate perpetrators of murder —and, recently, Fox News’ big-mouth buffoon Bill O’Reilly said Blacks are disproportionately the ones committing crime.

We must continue to challenge this big lie.

Unfortunately, many in law enforcement often use certain statistics to justify their war against people of color, especially, in urban America. But statistics are only as good as the methodology being used to obtain said statistics—for statistics can be manipulated to reach erroneous conclusions. For example, we know Blacks and Latinos represent the vast majority of those who are being arrested for the use of marijuana.

If we accept these statistics, at face value, it may seem irrefutable that Blacks and Latinos are the disproportionate users of marijuana. Yet, we know that isn’t the case. Study after study has shown that marijuana use among Blacks and Whites are virtually the same—in fact, studies show younger Whites use, and sell, marijuana more. So, why don’t arrest statistics reflect this reality?

The answer is simple: Whites are not targets for police harassment and arrest. There is no war on White America, as there is on Black America. So when Mayor Bloomberg—and ideological imbeciles like Bill O’Reilly—talk about Blacks being the “disproportionate” perpetrators of crime they’re doing nothing more than propagating insidious falsehoods that have arisen since the end of slavery to whitewash the crimes White America inflicted—and is now compounding—upon Black America. 

Now, let’s admit something: there is indeed an unacceptable level of criminality in the Black community that must be tackled. But contrary to the insinuations of some, the criminality in our community has nothing to do genetics. It has everything to do with, primarily, two things: economic deprivation—built upon a solid foundation of institutional racism and living in a criminogenic society.

The level of economic chaos in our communities is a direct result of the neglect of America’s larger body politic. Politicians, like Mayor Bloomberg, tell us they are trying to fight crime, but, they are doing largely nothing about the desperate level of unemployment and economic carnage that is devaluing our people and producing the very crime politicians give much lip service too. If they care so much about reducing crime in the Black community we should ask them: where is the commitment—the policies and programs —necessary to creating economic empowerment in Black and Brown communities?

While Bloomberg is quick with press conferences to announce reduction in crime statistics, when is the last time you saw him boast about lowering unemployment rates or poverty levels in African American or Latino communities?

Frederick Douglass once said America’s crimes “would disgrace a nation of savages.” Indeed, this nation’s history is filled with stories of Native-American genocide, the enslaving of Africans, lynchings of African-Americans, along with an assortment of those serial rapists and murderers so indigenous to America’s White society—including those legislating “perpetual war” around the world. Who are the real criminals again?

For too long, America has orchestrated situations—through social Darwinism methods and economic desperation—to make us appear as a “race” of criminal brutes. Mass media and propaganda movies— especially since the infamous “Birth of a Nation”—have been utilized to create this false image of our people. The current climate in America where African-Americans get profiled daily by police, and the larger White public, is connected to this larger history of bigotry and institutional racism. America has a much longer way to go before we can call this a “post-racial society.”



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