4 Unhinged, Offensive Reactions to the Zimmerman Verdict

Following a six-person, all-female jury's acquittal of Trayvon Martin's klller George Zimmerman this weekend, media and individuals on the both the right and left have responded with a hail storm of insensitivity that amounts to an outright white-supremacist defense of the racial profiling that killed not just one, but countless Black teenagers presumed guilty by racist enforcers of "justice." While families across America are grieving and worrying about the safety of their Black sons, plenty of other Americans are showing up to make sure they know they damn well should be afraid, because stereotypes about Black criminality are not going anywhere soon. 

1. Ted Nugent

Known racist and gun advocate Ted Nugent took some time away from his "Black Power" tour to smear Black America's reactions to George Zimmerman's acquittal. Ranting on the right-wing site Rare, Nugent writes that Trayvon Martin was a "dope smoking, racist gangsta wannabe” who deserved the bullet Zimmerman shot into his chest. 

Here's what the bigoted country star wrote in full:

"The race-baiting industry saw an opportunity to further the racist careers of Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, the Black Panthers, President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder, et al, who then swept down on the Florida community refusing to admit that the 17-year-old dope smoking, racist gangsta wannabe Trayvon Martin was at all responsible for his bad decisions and standard modus operendi of always taking the violent route."

Martin had trace amounts of marijuana in his system at the time of his death, which neuroscientist Dr. Carl Hart pointed out could not possibly have contributed to any aggression (not that marijuana use is linked to as much, anyway) the night he was killed. Rather than acknowledge this reality (and that whites use marijuana at much higher rates), Nugent peddles the racism-fueled myth linking drug use to bad behavior in Black people.

Putting aside that there is no evidence Martin was a "gangsta wannabe," Nugent also senselessly links Martin's death to tragic, unrelated gun violence in Chicago.  “Trayvon had no reason not to attack, because it was the standard thug thing to do. See Chicago any day of the week," said Nugent. This callous statement suggests that Blacks are inherently violent, intentionally denying the grave circumstances that cause the so-called "black-on-black"crime to which he is alluding. The American Prospect explains the flaws and narrow-mindedness of this kind of "Black crime" rhetoric here. 

Clearly, Nugent is not concerned with Zimmerman's antagonistic behavior -- stalking a teenager -- or Martin's own sense of fear.  Zimmerman always had the upper-hand when it comes to force, a reality of which he must have been made aware by the weight of the weapon at his side. If anyone acted aggressively and is responsible for Martin's death, it is the armed man who went out looking for trouble, and initiated the interaction by racially profiling, stalking, and shooting a teenager in the heart simply because of a hunch he was "up to no good."

2. Washington Post

Think Progress points out that the Washington Post ran two articles defending the racial profiling that caused Trayvon Martin's death in just two days. On Monday, the Post ran a colum asserting that George Zimmerman “understandably suspected” Trayvon Martin were a criminal “because he was black”. One day later, a different writer also argued that Zimmerman was right to assume that, simply because Martin was Black, he were probably committing a crime. "African Americans are right to perceive that Martin was followed because he was black, but it is wrong to presume that recognizing a racial characteristic is necessarily racist," writes Kathleen Parker, because "It has been established that several burglaries in Zimmerman’s neighborhood primarily involved young black males."

She goes on to evoke the protection of white women rhetoric that was once used to justify lynchings:

Picture Zimmerman’s neighbor Olivia Bertalan, a defense witness, hiding in her locked bedroom with her infant and a pair of rusty scissors while two young males, later identified as African American, burglarized her home. They ran when police arrived.

Parker concludes that, "if we are honest, we know that human nature includes the accumulation of evolved biases based on experience and survival. In the courtroom, it’s called profiling. In the real world, it’s called common sense.” In the real world, actually, racial profiling is an ineffective tool that applies behavior among a minority of a group to an entire people. Rather than allow police -- or vigilantes -- to zero-in on real criminals, racial profiling wastes time and resources assuming everyone whose skin is dark is a criminal. Of course, this kind of reckless policing comes at a cost, not only to law enforcement, but particularly to the Black communities treated as if they are guilty until proven innocent. In New York City, the racial profiling tool stop-and-frisk has increased exponentially (more than 600% under Mayor Michael Bloomberg), and while so many young, Black men are felt-up in public, hassled, humiliated, and sometimes arrested for the color of their skin, shootings have remained stable.

3. David Sirota

Over at the left-leaning website Salon, columnist David Sirota has continued his well-known appropriation with an article linking the killing of Trayvon Martin to drone strikes in Yemen. "Zimmerman’s presumption of guilt and his subsequent actions mimic those of his own government, and therefore reflect a larger attitudinal shift in the nation at large," says Sirota, who goes onto compare the vigilante killer to Obama. "Whereas Zimmerman told non-emergency responders that Martin 'looks like he’s up to no good,' the New York Times reported that Obama’s indiscriminate drone bombing, which 'counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants,' presumes that people in a targeted area are 'probably up to no good.' In other words, when it comes to military policy, the Obama administration is George Zimmerman perceiving the world as filled with Trayvon Martins supposedly 'up to no good' — and who supposedly therefore deserve to die."

Considering the racial undertones applied to the president here, it is worth noting that it was actually counterterrorism officials the New York Times quoted, not Obama. In any event, Black Twitter responded to the piece with a full affront of criticism for Sirota's failure to understand how the presumed criminality of Black men in America is linked to a history of racism and enslavement completely separate from the government's foreign policy and more recent War on Terror.  Bloggers, tweeters, and pundits called Sirota out for recklessly appropriatiing a tragedy to elevate his own schtick, thus ignoring history while belittling Martin's death and denying Martin and the victims who really are like him the thoughtful commentary they deserve. Sirota responded to accusations of insensitivity by "whitesplaining" his critics, sending Martin Luther King, Jr. quotes to renowned Black intellectuals like Elon James White.  Rather than accept critcism and honestly consider why his analysis were offensive and tone-deaf, Sirota insisted that the people of color coming at him are too privileged or uninformed to understand his analogy. It was, over all, an epic fail, storified here and here

4. Jimmy Carter

Jimmy Carter also joined in on the post-verdict grave-stomping, telling WXIA "the jury made the right decision based in the evidence presented," and opined that he does not believe race -- just "evidence" -- affected their decision.  Carter made his own race problems even more clear when he compared peaceful protests that swept the nation to "race riots" following the LAPD's brutal beating of Rodney King. 

 “I’ve seen outbreaks of this before, in California, when the black man was being beat up by the police” Carter told WXIA-TV, “And when Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. There were terrible race riots. And I think, eventually, no matter how deep the moral and personal feelings might be among African Americans or others, with time passing, they start saying, ‘What can we do about the present and future?’ and put aside their feelings about the past.” Yep, Carter thinks Black people should just "put aside" feelings about hundreds of years of slavery and ongoing institutional racism (even the deadly kind) and just get over it because all that racist stuff is old news. That pretty much sums of white apologia in the wake of a seventeen-year-old's tragic death.


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