It’s the Police Inaction, Stupid, Pt. II

Shelby Steele criticizes the exploitation of Trayvon Martin because, you know, there’s nothing to see here.

Two tragedies are apparent in the Trayvon Martin case. The first is obvious: A teenager—unarmed and committing no crime—was shot dead. Dressed in a “hoodie,” a costume of menace, he crossed paths with a man on the hunt for precisely such clichés of menace. Added to this—and here is the rub—was the fact of his dark skin.

Maybe it was more the hood than the dark skin, but who could argue that the skin did not enhance the menace of the hood at night and in the eyes of someone watching for crime. (Fifty-five percent of all federal prisoners are black though we are only 12% of the population.) Would Trayvon be alive today had he been walking home—Skittles and ice tea in hand—wearing a polo shirt with an alligator logo? Possibly. And does this make the ugly point that dark skin late at night needs to have its menace softened by some show of Waspy Americana? Possibly.

I still don’t get the thing with hoodies. As a woman, I am uncomfortable with being followed on a dark night by a man of any color, and I don’t much care what he is wearing. Especially when it’s raining, seeing someone with a hood over his head doesn’t in itself bother me.

What is fundamentally tragic here is that these two young males first encountered each other as provocations. Males are males, and threat often evokes a narcissistic anger that skips right past reason and into a will to annihilate: “I will take you out!”

And this is precisely why indiscriminately handing out carry permits to everybody and his uncle is a bad idea.

There was a terrible fight. Trayvon apparently got the drop on George Zimmerman, but ultimately the man with the gun prevailed. Annihilation was achieved.

We still don’t know for sure who got the drop on whom, but it’s a safe bet that had Zimmerman not been armed, both Martin and Zimmerman would be alive and healthy now. But no sensible person, according to Steel, would have made a racial issue out of this —

The absurdity of Messrs. Jackson and Sharpton is that they want to make a movement out of an anomaly. Black teenagers today are afraid of other black teenagers, not whites.

Sorry, I didn’t see the poll numbers telling us what black teenagers are afraid of. But, once again, a right-wing writer misses the point.

Whether Zimmerman racially profiled Martin is a matter that has bearing on what crime Zimmerman might eventually be charged with, but — one more time — if the Sanford police hadn’t attempted to sweep the matter under the rug and pretend it never happened, we wouldn’t be talking about it now.

Wingnuts, I will spell it out for you one more time: The central issue is not that a white guy shot a black guy. The central issue is that a white guy shot a black guy and the police were not pursuing a criminal case against the shooter.

And, sorry, but that isn’t that much of an anomaly. There’s a similar case now near where I live. The perps in this case were the police, and apparently the victim’s family has had to go to great lengths to get the shooting investigated and charges filed.

And there is a long history of violent white-on-black crime going unpunished, especially in the South. It may not be nearly as common as it used to be back in Jim Crow days, but it’s way too soon to call police inaction like this an “anomaly.”

And yes, black-on-black violence is much more common, but nobody seems to be finding examples of a black man shooting another black man and the police not bothering to prosecute.

Eric Boehlert:

It’s telling what Steele did not consider to be a tragedy in the Martin case – the fact that the man who admitted shooting the unarmed teen, George Zimmerman, hasn’t been arrested or charged with a crime. Indeed, the lack of an arrest is the central reason why the Martin story erupted into national headlines in recent weeks. And yet Steele, busy bashing Martin’s advocates as well as the press, raced right past that salient fact.

Steele is not alone. Within the conservative media, it’s now become commonplace to pontificate about the Martin story (while often condemning civil rights activists as “race hustlers”) without ever mentioning why the story became such a blockbuster; without ever mentioning that the man who shot Martin has not been charged.

That’s kind of a crucial fact. Yet conservative pundits seem eager to brush it aside. That amount of obfuscation raises doubts whether they even understand the fundamentals of the Martin story, or whether they are just choosing to ignore them because they raise difficult questions about the law and race in America.

And, you know, they will not see it no matter how many times you show it to them. I can promise you as surely as the night follows the day that this post will attract commenters who will refuse to believe that the controversy is over anything else but that a white guy shot a black guy.

This refusal goes beyond simple stupidity and strikes to the heart of what bigotry is about. It’s more about a kind of psychological block than an inability to reason. Of course, the block causes an inability to reason; but otherwise anyone bright enough to tie his shoes ought to be able to see that the central issue of the Martin case is the police inaction.

Boehlert again —

The conservative press has now spent weeks, in full force, trying to spin away the Martin controversy. The fact that so many far-right players won’t even acknowledge a key facet of the case suggests it’s a story they cannot deal with honestly.

Years ago someone I know coined the phrase “premeditated incompetence” to describe the phenomenon of a college-educated husband who could not figure out how to run a vacuum cleaner or use a dishwasher. The right-wing reaction to the killing of Trayvon Martin is more like premeditated blindness, or an inability to see even the plainest and starkest facts if they contradict their biases — in this case, that racism isn’t real but is just something minorities complain about because they enjoy being victims.

Note: Anyone who wants to argue with me that I don’t understand what happened is encouraged to read the Mahablog archives of posts on the Martin shooting. If I can tell by what you write that you haven’t read any of it, your comment will not be approved. See also the Mahablog comment policy.

I see also that people are still spinning their wheels over whether Zimmerman used a racial slur while on the phone to the 911 operator. I’ve listened to the recording and, frankly, can’t tell what he said, which is why I haven’t brought this point up before. But iMO it’s unimportant to the central issue of the case, which is about the non-response of the police.

The alleged racial slur may be important when (or if) they get around to deciding what crime Zimmerman may have committed, but that depends on Florida’s hate crime laws, with which I am not familiar. Otherwise, I don’t see why it makes a dadblamed bit of difference whether Zimmerman said “effing coon” or “claire de lune.”

This Wacky World

It’s a good news/bad news sort of day. For example, the Connecticut Senate voted to abolish the death penalty. Score one for civilization. On the other hand, the Arizona Senate is considering a bill that would eliminate programs that promote energy efficiency. Why? Because “clean energy programs in Arizona are a plot by the United Nations to create a single world government in order to control people’s lives.”

Maybe we could just sell Arizona to some other country. I’m thinking China would take it if Mexico won’t.

Coca-Cola announced it is withdrawing support from ALEC in the face of a threatened progressive boycott. I’m starting to think that if we’d had social media 30 years ago the right-wing coup would never have gotten off the ground.

On the other hand, Krugman sees ALEC influence in New Jersey.

John Cole has a long and thoughtful post about why he switched from being a wingnut to being a sane person. As he explains why he used to support the Bush Administration, key part to me is “I believed it. I identified with it. It was part of who I was for years. It was my deference to authoritarianism after years in the military. It was tribalism.”

This is why reason doesn’t work on wingnuts. They are a tribe, and wingnuttiness is part of their tribal, and hence personal, identity. Any disagreement with the tribe, any attempt to show that everything they stand for is nonsense and lies, is an existential threat that must be stamped out by any means necessary.

So no matter how patiently one might try to show them that whatever they believe is irrational and a pack of lies, they will simply retreat further into la-la land and retort with whatever non sequiturs and ad hominems they find handy.

Cole says that what finally got to him was the sheer meanness of the Right.

And while Republicans may very well have been crazy for decades, the outright ugliness, I think, has escalated beyond measure. The hideous treatment of Graeme Frost was the final straw, I guess. It was just the last, final, “WTF IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?” moment. You see the same thing from the same folks as they viciously attack Trayvon Martin for his horrible sin of being gunned down in cold blood.

Something like that seems to have happened to Charles Johnson back in 2009, which in many ways was a more remarkable conversion. I don’t remember that Balloon Juice was ever as hard, screaming, foaming-at-the-mouth Right as Little Green Footballs used to be. It’s like Johnson woke up from a bad dream.

Speaking of bad dreams — Item One

A top adviser to former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice warned the Bush administration that its use of “cruel, inhuman or degrading” interrogation techniques like waterboarding were “a felony war crime.”

What’s more, newly obtained documents reveal that State Department counselor Philip Zelikow told the Bush team in 2006 that using the controversial interrogation techniques were “prohibited” under U.S. law — “even if there is a compelling state interest asserted to justify them.”

Item two — Curveball goes public

Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi, who openly admitted to fabricating intelligence about the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, is breaking his silence with appearances in a BBC documentary that began airing this past Sunday and will conclude next Sunday.

Not that I expect many people to notice …