The tragic murder of Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old Florida lad, has quickly become a national sensation and cause celebre, sparking simultaneous outrage and protests not only from ordinary people, but also from civil rights activists, politicians, superstar athletes and even the president of the United States.
However, the sheer magnitude of the media coverage and public demonstrations now threatens to obscure and essentially trivialize the heartbreaking killing of an innocent young boy who did absolutely nothing wrong.
At its very core, the depressing saga is about a black teenager who was shot and killed in Sanford, Fla., by a man named George Zimmerman (who has been described as either white or Hispanic), who believed Trayvon looked “suspicious” and acted in self-defense.
There are at least two major factors that make this murder such a huge story -- the first, of course, relates to race and racism (the profiling of a black teenager by a white/Hispanic shooter). The second is that Florida has something called a “Stand Your Ground Law” which makes it difficult for police and the courts to prosecute someone who can prove that they killed because they felt physically threatened by the victim.
As a result, Zimmerman has not yet been charged in the killing and is reportedly in hiding.
Thus, at its essence, it is a murder that occurred in a small town in central Florida …. but, somehow it has become a national obsession.
Predictably, the “Reverends” Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson have become involved in the case -- whether they were “invited” to or not.
When self-promoting people of dubious motivation like Sharpton and Jackson get involved in any issue, its legitimacy vanishes and soon turns into a media circus designed solely to benefit a handful of people who have a stake in exploiting the tragedy.
The Sanford case is a perfect scenario for Jackson and Sharpton to wade into. If Zimmerman was black, believe me, Jesse and Al wouldn't give a damn about Trayvon -- nor would they have flown down to Florida to ”involve” themselves in this drama and (of course) get their aging faces on television.
Moreover, Messrs. Jackson and Sharpton seem oblivious to the fact that violent crime (including gun crimes and murder) has actually been declining in the United States for at least the past decade. However, one segment of the American population -- young, poor, urban black men -- are killing each other at a genocidal rate.
Do Jesse and Al care about that tragedy? Perhaps, but black-on-black homicide doesn't generate the kind of headlines that Trayvon Martin’s case does.
Also, consider the behavior of Trayvon's parents, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton. Not only have they enthusiastically attended rallies and spoken to the media, but reports emerged late Monday that Fulton has actually filed papers with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to “trademark” two slogans related to her son's murder: I Am Trayvon and Justice For Trayvon (two phrases chanted by protesters at demonstrations).
Does this sound like the behavior of parents who are in “mourning”?
I thought about what my own parents would have done if I had suffered the terrible fate of Trayvon when I was a boy.
My folks -- especially my mother -- would be so devastated that they would suffer in silent and private mourning, with only family members and very close friends in proximity.
Yes, they would demand that the murderer be brought to justice, but they would not appear and speak at rallies around the country, hobnob with athletes and celebrities, and they definitely would not seek to “trademark” any slogans chanted by protesters (if there were any).
Moreover, they would have nothing whatsoever to do with charlatans like Sharpton and Jackson.
But, of course, my parents are old-fashioned and come from a culture where modesty, decency and privacy are cherished – in stark contrast to contemporary society that encourages self-promotion, vulgar aggrandizement and exploitation.
I can think of few things more despicable than parents who seek “gain” by capitalizing and exploiting their child's tragic death.
Another aspect to this sad case is the hooded sweatshirt – or “hoodie” – that Trayvon wore when he died. Protesters have jumped on the hoodie as a “symbol” of this tragedy – many demonstrators have worn this piece of clothing in rallies. Even Lebron James and Dwayne Wade of the Miami Heat basketball club tweeted a photograph of their teammates wearing hoodies in “solidarity” with Trayvon.
Forgive me, but I find this “hoodie” element completely tawdry and a meaningless distraction.
Even had Trayvon worn a tuxedo and bowler hat, Zimmerman probably still would have shot him just because he was a black teenager in a predominantly white gated neighborhood
Based on available reports, it seems clear that Zimmerman killed Trayvon in cold blood – and I sincerely hope Zimmerman goes to jail for life.
However, the essential tragedy at the very heart of this tale – the senseless killing of an innocent boy – is in danger of becoming subsumed by the volume of noisy protests, excessive media coverage and all the special interests seeking to capture a moment in the public eye by using the murder to promote their own various agendas.
According to the U.S. census, there were almost 14,000 murders in the United States in 2009 (down from a peak of nearly 25,000 killings in 1991), and almost none of them attracted any kind of media interest (for a variety of reasons). Of the homicides in 2009, roughly half the victims were black -- despite the fact that African-Americans account for only 13 percent of the population. Most of their killers were also black.
This is the real tragedy – blacks are killing other blacks in astounding numbers.
For example, in the city of Philadelphia, there were 324 murders in 2011, up from 306 in 2010 – and almost all of the victims were black or Hispanic. This translates to almost one killing every single day (and none of these victims’ names are as well known as Trayvon Martin). Are their lives not as precious or important as Trayvon?
Indeed, the mayor of Philadelphia, Michael Nutter, even bizarrely commented that Trayvon was “assassinated.” Perhaps Nutter should consider the carnage in his own backyard before he comments on events a thousand miles away.
While Philadelphia has a horrid crisis on its hands, the violent crime situation in cities like New Orleans, St. Louis and Baltimore are far worse – in some cases, the murder rate in these places are double Philadelphia’s grim tally. Again, most of this bloodshed involved blacks killing other blacks.
Trayvon Martin's death was indeed a tragedy – but he has already been reduced to a symbol, not a flesh-and-blood human being. The real catastrophe lies with all the unknown black youths who are dying across the country with almost assembly-line-like regularity… and in complete anonymity.