Florida: Getting Away With Child Murder

Trayvon Martin was murdered in a shocking act of violence clearly motivated by racial bias, yet it looks like he won’t even get a slap on the wrist.

It appears that George Zimmerman drove up to Trayvon when the 17 year old was returning from a shopping trip with an iced tea and some skittles, got out of his car, attacked the youth, and shot him (emphasis mine):

According to 911 recordings released late Friday by Sanford police, Zimmerman said the person was walking slowly, looked drugged and appeared to be looking at people’s houses. Police would later learn that Trayvon had gone to 7-Eleven during the NBA All Star game halftime to get Skittles and Arizona iced tea.

These a–holes always get away,” Zimmerman complained.

What happened next is unclear, and has already reverberated nationwide. Calls to 911 alerted police to a scuffle and someone crying for help. In one, the chilling howl stopped after the clear, crisp blast of a bullet. Trayvon was lying face down on the ground near a pathway that runs through the townhouse community.

One 911 caller sobbed to the dispatcher over not having helped the young man who wailed.

Zimmerman told police that was him crying for help and that Trayvon started the fight. He claimed self-defense and was not charged

The history of consequence free violence against black people in this community suggests a systemic problem (emphasis mine):

n 2010, police waited seven weeks to arrest a lieutenant’s son who was caught on video sucker-punching a homeless black man.

In 2005, two security guards — one the son of a longtime Sanford police officer and the other a department volunteer — killed a black man they said was trying to run them over. Black leaders complained of a lackluster investigation. The guards ultimately were acquitted.

Police Chief Bill Lee is not helping the situation with his comments (emphasis mine):

“We are taking a beating over this,” said Lee, who defends the investigation. “This is all very unsettling. I’m sure if George Zimmerman had the opportunity to relive Sunday, Feb. 26, he’d probably do things differently. I’m sure Trayvon would, too.”

What the hell could Trayvon have done differently?

George Zimmerman has no need of going back in time to do things differently.  He apparently killed a child – and from the looks of things – will get away with it.

Brief Update and Two Recommended Posts

Shortly (I hope) I’ll be announcing a new education blog related to my nonprofit.  In the meantime I’d like to recommend two exceptionally insightful posts…

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CNN Political Ticker:

(CNN) — Conservative talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh Monday strongly defended his recent remark that Colin Powell endorsed Barack Obama largely because of race, and lashed out at members of the media and Democrats for appearing to take issue with his comment.

“So what if it’s race?” Limbaugh said on his radio show. “Why is it so hard to admit that it’s race…What’s so problematic about admitting it?”

Nice reframe.  It isn’t about the problem of “admitting” its about race.  Its about how fucking slimy it is to attempt to cut down the endorsement of a highly respected public official by appealing to paranoid racists.

I can understand why Rush did it.  The endorsement is a final nail in McCain’s coffin.  A very respected Republican who enjoys high approval ratings across party affiliation with a distinguished career of public and military service absolutely gutted McCain’s rationale for running.

The Republicans have nothing left to except finally trot out Palin for a surprise press conference and hope her incoherent babbling distracts us.  Barring that kind of surprise, I suppose Rush though racist appeals were a good stand in.

The Audacity of Bravery

When you consider the risks Barack Obama is taking, just by being Black and running for President, and further by taking progressive political stands, it puts his earnestness front and center.  There is a reason people feel they can trust this man.

My friend Brad, (who when pressed is full of insightful yet cuttingly cynical remarks about politics), is not someone I’d consider johnny Democratic volunteer.  I haven’t really given Obama’s speech a critical once through yet, but I’m heading into it impressed through the eyes of my friends.  Brad’s impressions foremost among them.

In the face of eliminationist rhetoric against Barack Obama escalating into actual assasination attempts, a lot of the political culture Obama is running in becomes easier to comprehend.  Right wingers are desperately trying to pin white supremacy on liberals (see the comment thread for examples).  Conservatives love their crazies when they vote, and do their best to either distance themselves from or ignore the crazies who act out.

In spite of all of this, Barack Obama is running to be president.

When looking at opposition candidates in third world countries, its hard to image how devastatingly difficult it is to run in the face of life ending violence.  While our own government is thankfully not corrupt enough to kill politicians, some of our citizens are murderous and hateful enough to try and take our vote away from us by force.  There are people out there seething at the possibility of a black president.  I think all the talk in the various supremacist and neonazi forums about wanting a black president so he can fail is bullshit.  Not simply because Obama (who has been surrounding himself with some increasingly impressive allies) is geared to succeed (and he will).  But because the kind of psuedo-intellectual urine soaked cowardice that drives racists cannot stand the fact that their hated enemy will hold a position of incredible symbolic power.  As definitely as their paranoia extends to additional worries beyond Obama’s victory in November, they are surely worrying that his victory will represent a powerful blow to the cause of white supremacy.  They’d be right there.  When Barack Obama shatters the glass ceiling, the symbolism of a black statesman on JFK’s level showering the oval office with the alien sensation of competency will drive a nail into the coffin of racial inferiority in such a public way it knocks the coffin into the ground and buries it all at once.

The focal point is Barack’s sheer skill.  He literally lifted himself onto the national stage with a speech at a convention most reporters and politicians routinely mock as a mere informercial for the parties.  His speeches aren’t simply articulate or effective, they are electric.  He’s what Cicero had in mind when he wrote “On the Ideal Orator”.  The laughable criticism of Obama as a “rock star” is an incredible boost:  The man is a rock star because of his oratory.  He’s not a rock star like Prince or Nickleback.  He’s a rock star in the sense of Bob Dylan or Pete Seeger.  You cannot energize and uplift a crowd with empty words.  That’s why his supporters know in both brain and gut that the weak attacks on his “lack of substance” are innately pathetic.  You can’t make that argument in good faith having actually listened to his speeches.

This is why the violent underbelly of American culture, racism, is a source of violence aimed at the Democratic presidential nominee.  Because at their core white supremacists, nazis, and racists run on fear.  And they fear being shown completely wrong their twisted take on humanity is.  If they could only let go of that fear, they’d find the world a much more loving place than they imagine.

Barack Obama is an embodiment of the America Martin Luther King Jr had the audacity to hope for, and the bravery to work for.  The Senator shares that hope and bravery in the face of a boiling undercurrent of hate and violence.  It is a deep honor to support and believe in such a person.

Good Reads 07-27

Today’s Good Reads are brought to you by the letter COOKIE:

Been arguing with people who think free market health care will solve everything?  This is a caustic counterpoint (The Unapologetic Mexican).

Bloggernista exhorts us all to stand up for Gay rights and fight hard come November.

It is a deeply compassionate wisdom which invites us to remember that because the world is so violent we have the fire to change it.  It always always pays to remember that (docstrangelove).

CNN misleadingly quotes A pro-eugenics racist in a column on race and Barack Obama (Hatewatch).

Newscat clues us on in the dribbling insanity passing for opinion at the Wall Street Journal (hint: major Bush worship is still very much in fashion, but comparing him to batman?!  WTF?!!)

Good Reads

I’m starting a semi regular feature (ideally this will be once daily) listing interesting pieces of news and curiosity I come across.  Things that hit home, piss me off, or make really important arguments.  Thanks to Marco for the idea!

The anti-immigrant group the Minutemen and the racist CCC are formally working together now.  For an organization that has gone to lengths to protest accusations of racism, this is huge.  (Source: SPLC Hatewatch).

Kay clears up a lot of the smoke being blown around the Obama campaign (including noting that the abortion move I thought was a change was not).

This is heartbreaking.

Even the compliant Iraqis we put in power now want a timetable for withdrawal.

Jesse Helms remembered accurately.

McCain now having protestors who accurately compare him to Bush arrested.  Those ne’er-do-wells.

Its good to take time and remember the deaths of those brave enough to stand and fight.  In this case an activist journalist working in Mexico.

McCain’s short list for VP keeps getting crazier.

There is chess boxing.  It has a new world champion.  Sometimes the world is magical.

[Update:  You can find these posts here (rss feed here).]

Anti Obama Racists: You Will Lose

It looks like racists have been crawling out of the gutter to leave some helpful comments on an old post I wrote.

Which I’ve decided I am fine with.  I want them to be out in the light and paying attention when they lose.

Discourse and Assassination: McCain/Clinton vs Obama

Hillary Clinton’s assassination quote is far more problematic than I originally thought.

Frankly I was willing to give her the benefit of the doubt in the light of what I felt where more serious offenses, but I think I was wrong to do so. Kevin noticed some interesting trends in terms of how people responded to her quote:

At the primarily white blogs, there is much debate over whether or not what she has said is offensive (I won’t bother repeating it here since it’s been posted everywhere) and yet when you look at black bloggers, and other bloggers of color, there is an almost unanimous agreement that her remarks were reprehensible. I also noticed that in the links being provided by blog authors and commentators at the primarily white blogs, to support their agreement or disagreement with the offensiveness of Sen. Clinton’s statements, all are to other primarily white blogs and white bloggers. I find this problematic because I’ve seen a lot of comments on these blogs to the effect of “anyone who thinks that her statement was truly offensive is paranoid, a nut case, delusional, incapable of rational thought, etc,” and this leads me to think that a lot of people just aren’t taking into consideration, let alone even reading and listening to the black and other bloggers of color that Clinton’s statement has affected not only on a political level, but on a deeply personal level.

As I was writing a comment, I saw something I hadn’t seen before. In spite of whether or not her quote had ill intention behind it, or whether she was referring to herself or Obama as RFK, her comment has helped push the idea of assassination further into mainstream discourse. Fox is apparently making cracks along the same lines (although they are decidedly more “fringe” in terms of content, in terms of reach they are effectively mainstream).

The other problem with Clinton’s remark is that it shares something reprehensible in common with John McCain’s jabs about who he imagines Hamas would like to see elected. The one thing that was utterly clear and unmistakable about Hillary Clinton’s comment was that she was saying we should structure our primaries based on the possible actions of violent racists. That we should be moved to action by fear, that is the lowest sort of pandering. It is the lowest sort of pandering because it debases us. It reduces us to animals, to prey, scrambling to avoid the predators without any care for who we scratch, bite, or leave behind in the process. It appeals to our feral nature.

When it comes down to it Barack Obama began as a candidate of convenience for me, the person I judged least likely to utterly betray Democratic ideals (and given his past support (with Clinton) of Lieberman during his primary, I was quite wary). But the man is doing what he can to elevate the national discourse. What Hillary ignores and McCain *sometimes* pretends to do, Barack Obama accomplishes.

When I think of the notions of liberty, and what it means to be an American, I think of bravery and an unwavering commitment to human rights and ethical principles. I don’t ascribe to the “what it should mean to be an American” school on this. This is what it has always meant to be an American, even if only a relative few people throughout history have seen it and lived it. If ever anything was un-American, it is an appeal to be ruled by fear. It is that appeal, in both McCain’s Bush-like “the terrorists want you to vote Democrat” and Clinton’s “we should have a backup candidate in case one is shot”, that is offensive on a visceral level.

We can do far better than that. We can appeal to hope and raise up our spirits and our innate courage. And we can win.

[Edit: Oops, the post was written by guest blogger Kevin, not Nezua.]

What is Hillary Clinton Doing?

As Hillary Clinton heads into a meaningless victory in West Virginia (in terms of the primary), Democrats across the nation can be heard whispering “please don’t stab us in the back!“.  Which is understandable, given her past statements that she considered McCain a better candidate than Obama!  (And we wonder why some of her supporters have threatened to vote for George W Bush’s heir).

Onetime Democratic contender John Edwards was more delicate in his warning that Clinton be careful how she campaigns in the few remaining primaries.

“She has to be really careful she’s not damaging our prospects, the Democratic Party and our cause for the fall,” Edwards said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

The hilarity doesn’t stop there.  Hillary is literally shooting herself in as many feet as possible.  If she’s left standing after this election, it’ll be a testament to the cynical power of entitlement within the ruling class.

Privilege: Seeing the Invisible

A comment by PortlyDyke responding to the Marcotte Book Imagery issue got me thinking (emphasis mine):

I honestly cannot believe the number of people here who have claimed that the use of racist imagery was some form of intentional irony, and who have chided others for not getting “the joke”, or to “lighten up”.

In order for something to be intentionally ironic/satirical, you have to consciously use a hyperbolic image or concept to point out an absurdity. That is not the case here. Seal Press has already said that they missed the racism — that they “were not thinking”. Amanda has said that she didn’t “catch it”.

That’s not ironic/satiric use of racist imagery.

It is blindness to racist imagery, which is based in white privilege — and blindness to white privilege has been precisely at the heart of all the issues about the cover, appropriation, and now, the artwork.

As I’ve watched this thread evolve over the past few days, the demonstrations of white defensiveness in the face of confrontation have actually surprised me (although I suppose they should not have) — it is simply astounding to me that progressives or feminists would defend these images in any way, much less in the ways that they have.

(Note: I myself defended Amanda specifically, not the images).  What’s interesting is the practical problem faced when discussing any sort of privilege.  Take male privilege.  A fairly blatant example comes mind.  In college there was a pathway through the woods between two dorms.  The path was narrow, poorly lighted, and filled with bushes and trees.  It was known colloquially as “The Rape Trail”.  While people generally walked across it in groups, I’d traverse it at night, by myself.  While at times I do confess to getting a sudden start from a quick movement in my periphery, by and large I did so with confidence.  Contrast that to worrying about walking home alone across a well-lit campus.  That stark difference in perception is one many men are not aware of.  Further, the socialization that produces that fear is one that is outside the realm of experience for most males.  Hence we might say their privilege blinds them.

On the flip side, its something I’ve experienced as a non-Christian.  I was raised as a conservative Jew (note: conservative Judaism is, intensity wise, in between reform and orthodox, and has nothing to do with politics).  So singing songs about Jesus in elementary school might seem normal to most other kids, while to me I was worrying about whether I could fake singing, or if I needed to abstain entirely.  A music teacher insisting I sing along did so blind to the idea that forcing someone to sing Christmas songs might slightly problematic.  The same might be said for the district in New Hampshire that scheduled school picture day on Yom Kippur (I like to think that was blindness).

In any case, if the problem of privilege is blindness, the natural question becomes, how do we find sight?  Generally there are a number of barriers to overcome to even get anyone with privilege to accept the concept, let alone that it applies to them and they need to make an effort to begin to see how it does.  The thing is, privilege is simply the natural mask of perception mixed with societal norms.  We live in a society that elevates rich, white, christian males.  Thus there is a corresponding privilege for each group, a sense in which their perceptual blind spot is supported by society.  Some of the outrage at the racist imagery in Amanda’s book came from the response.  The publication of the images was one thing, but the automatic defense of the images themselves was a textbook outbreak of privilege.

So if privilege consists of the uniqueness of individual perception combined with the support of society for the resulting blind spots, then both provide potential break points in the chain.

We are ultimately lucky to find privilege at work in a community that is, essentially, a community of allies.  Lucky because we have the most receptive audience possible outside of people who already understand and agree.  Therefore we ought to take care in bridging the gap within the feminist community.  Not only to engage in a rhetorical style that invites and empowers (and learning about privilege, especially your own biases and blindness, is an empowering experience), but to take notes.  Because the larger task facing us all is to address the societal support for privilege, and that means we’ll have to find a way to make the same case to people who are openly hostile to everything we stand for.

Let’s start with our friends.

Marcotte’s Jungle: People Make Mistakes

We have such a deeply ingrained “gotcha” culture that the natural response to an asshole move, whether intentional or not on the part of the guilty, is to condemn that person as a whole and eschew their contributions entirely. This is a grave mistake to make, as it sacrifices what that person might have accomplished, but also our own integrity. Are we without awful mistakes?

I know I am not.

Therefore when someone makes an honest mistake, I am most likely to take a step back and consider it fully. When I read this over at Our Descent Into Madness, I was shocked:

Via Off Our Pedestals, this is absolutely unbelievable.

Let me just say, to the people (coughMARCOTTEcoughSEALcough) responsible for that particular bit of total bullshit: don’t you fucking dare claim ignorance of this one. This isn’t an oversight, this isn’t a failure to acknowledge someone. This is an obvious act of racism. Someone proposed this. Other considered and approved it. This is deliberate, or, if not deliberate, such a massive blunder that those responsible are as culpable as if it has been intentional. This is so blatantly racist, I cannot respect anyone involved. Ever. Again.

Thank you, though, for finally being upfront about the fact that when you say “women” you really do only mean “white women,” if not an even narrower group than that.

So I read. I read Jill’s take on Feministe, Amanda’s apology, and Seal Press’s Apology (emphasis mine):

We also extend this apology to the author, Amanda Marcotte, who did not select these images for her book. Writing humor is very difficult. While our intention was to complement your words, we see that these images have had the opposite effect, and for that, we are sorry.

I’ll say it right now, that Amanda’s book is too important a starting point to let fail because of a slip up like this. We need to be training each other to be more effective and aggressive in hostile environments to survive and thrive as progressives, as liberals. That said, the issues raised by this fuck up are as important to deal with as they are difficult (Karnythia, emphasis mine):

I’ve made no bones in the past about my feelings that feminism by and large has very little to do with actually helping all women and is really just for white women. Oh, I know it espouses anti-racist ideology, but it has never failed to escape my attention (or the attention of other WOC) that feminism has a distressing tendency to focus on the concerns of middle class white women while ignoring the realities of racism and colonialism and anything remotely to do with intersectionality between gender and race. It doesn’t help that I’ve seen white feminists assume a very paternalistic attitude with WOC particularly when it came to discussions about issues involving MOC while ignoring their own internalized racism.

I suppose that depends on which feminists we are talking about.

She continues:

So where does that leave WOC and feminism? Frankly we’re at a point where it’s time for feminism to either get it together, or for us to leave it where it is and continue on with our own progressive movements. There’s been some talk for years about how feminism is comprised of multiple movements and until now that’s been enough for me. But I think that I’ve been deluding myself by thinking that the behavior of the allies that do get it trumps the hurt spawned by the bigots calling themselves feminists. I can’t take calls for sisterhood or solidarity seriously from white feminists at this point and I’m sure someone is going to call that attitude racist. And that’s their lookout, but I can’t stand in sisterhood with someone that’s (maybe) willing to knife me in the back and it’s taking too much effort to try to weed out the ones that are really allies from the ones that are only claiming the title.

I feel like this is the wrong approach. Feminism shouldn’t become a dirty word because the final straw to break the camel’s back was a publisher including racist images in a book, and the author failing to catch it. Rather, this should be an invitation to open up those aspects of feminism Karynthia correctly sees as underserved. Pam writes:

Well since the train has already left the station — with Amanda’s forthright, all-laid bare apology already out there, all I can say is yes, those images are inappropriate, and certainly would have been called out if, say, someone on the right used them in a tome. The difference, since Amanda obviously wasn’t attempting to promote a white supremacy theme in the book, is the blind spot of white privilege, in this case Seal Press, which has an apology on its site.

Please know that neither the cover, nor the interior images, were meant to make any serious statement. We were hoping for a campy, retro package to complement the author’s humor. That is all. We were not thinking.As an organization, we need to look seriously at the effects of white privilege. We will be looking for anti-racist trainings offered here in the Bay Area. We want to incorporate race analysis into our work.

As folks know, I discuss race matters a lot and this deserves some attention because this kind of blind spot occurs all the time, and it’s not only in the context of race (or, as we also see in the imagery, gender). The blind spot is that some white progressives, in their zeal to believe we are a post-racial society, in this case the publisher, just assumed everyone only sees camp in the images.

Rather then condemning allies for having a blind spot, we ought to be pointing it out:

What’s most important is that people need to keep discussing race in an open and honest way, instead of sweeping it under the rug or automatically running to defensive corners.

When it comes down to it we are allies, all of us progressives. We are here to strengthen each other and aid each other in making the world a more just and compassionate place. Jill hits on the same point Pam makes (emphasis mine):

When that didn’t happen, she should have listened to the valid concerns of women of color instead of coming in with her dukes up. The initial article could have shared the wealth of such a wide audience by spreading the word about the WOC-run organizations and the WOC-penned articles and ideas that have laid the foundation for this work; after the article ran and concerns were raised, they could have been responded to with care, not anger and defensiveness.

Amanda Marcotte is a person of rare strength and good character. She is not defended lightly or reflexively. I’m standing in her corner because of that character and her work, and what it means for the progressive community. But I am also doing so to warmly invite further discussion and analysis of the problems our community as a whole has with issues outside our direct expertise or even interest. If we can figure out that balance between inclusiveness and focus, and use this as an opportunity to grow closer together as a movement, then we’ll emerge stronger and better prepared to affect change. I sincerely hope we can do that.

Racism and Search Terms


“does racism still exist” and “nigger president”.  Wow.

Oh Please No

No No No No No:

The greatest saga in the history of mankind that is Late Night Shots continues, as they strike a deal with a “reality TV” production company to film rich, stupid, racist, white, Republican Georgetown douchebags in their semi-natural habitat of one of three bars in the District they all attend to perform their horrid, horrid mating rituals. Also, I did the illustration, but seriously- I read it for the articles.

Damn it all!

O’Reilly: Context is Everything

That’s Bill O’Reilly’s late apology for his lynching remarks:

O’Reilly’s exact words:

“While talking to a radio caller, I said there should be no lynching in the case, that comment off Clarence Thomas saying he was the victim of a high tech lynching (he said that on 60 Minutes, you may remember). I’m sorry if my statement offended anybody. That, of course, was not the intention. Context is everything.”

What context could possibly make this look good?

finally, the apology: on his show last night, Bill O’Reilly apologized for saying, “I don’t want to go on a lynching party against Michelle Obama unless there’s evidence.”

Let’s use the magic of blogging technology to find out! First, the full quote:

“I don’t want to go on a lynching party against Michelle Obama unless there’s evidence, hard facts, that say this is how the woman really feels. If that’s how she really feels — that America is a bad country or a flawed nation, whatever — then that’s legit. We’ll track it down.”

(note: context is utterly made up from this point onwards)

Hmmm. That still seems kinda racist Billo. Let’s try again:

Billo: Lynching was great for our system of Justice, only problem was a lack of evidence. You see, we needed a trial first, then the lynching. The dixie’s just got the order out of whack, that’s all. I don’t want to go on a lynching party against Michelle Obama unless there’s evidence, hard facts, that say this is how the woman really feels. So we have a trial for “unpatriotic speech”, and then an execution if she is found guilty.

Guest: By a jury of her peers?

Billo: Hell no. A jury of white Christian male media pundits.

Ok ok. How about:

Billo: Lynching is a metaphor, see, for killing a person’s respectability, their reputation. Dig? It’s all about perception man. I don’t want to go on a lynching party against Michelle Obama unless there’s evidence, hard facts, that say this is how the woman really feels. Then see, why should we like, listen to her?

Guest: Could that tact possibly backfire on you Bill?

Billo: Cut his mike!

There’s just gotta be some context that clears Bill O’Reilly’s good name. Golly gee wilikers, I’ve got it!

Billo: Given the disturbing amount of white supremacist activity aimed at Obama’s run for office, using language that applies that bigotry and hatred to the candidate is unforgivable. The media ought to be on the lookout for such perversions and “mistakes” made by high profile pundits, who are actually fueling the fire of extremists so afraid of Democracy they’d happily resort to the language and actions of fascism. How would your recognize this kind of attack? It could, for example, be couched as a defense of the intended victim, as follows: I don’t want to go on a lynching party against Michelle Obama unless there’s evidence, hard facts, that say this is how the woman really feels. See? See how that seems like I’m defending Mrs. Obama, when I’m actually engaging in wink-nod racism and eliminationism?

Guest: Shit, that’s clever!

Billo: Exactly. Oh God…. What if the liberal media take my media criticism of racist rhetoric out of context? My hard won reputation as a serious critic and unbiased, hard nosed opinion maker would be ruined!

And that must be what happened.

Fight Racism in Dulles VA

Are any readers near Dulles Virginia?  Want to take a stand against racism and white supremacy?  This weekend cowards and haters are holding their meeting in Dulles, near the airport (via Pam):

I guess the Crowne Plaza Dulles Airport Hotel is hard up for bucks if it’s decided that hosting a conference for white supremacists is a good business move.

The three-star Herndon, Virginia hotel will welcome the benign-sounding American Renaissance Conference (no, I’m not linking)  Feb. 22-Feb. 24. Subtitled “In the Name of Our People,” attendees can gather for an extraordinary weekend on “racial-realist thought” (I guess the whole supremacy thing has fallen out of favor). Read about it and see some of the speakers after the jump.

Resistance and Solidarity plans to fight back:

Resistance and Solidarity, a DC-based collective, plans to show up at the conference.
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