Just because more African Americans are incarcerated, it does not mean a given individual is more likely to commit a crime.
By Chauncey DeVega
April 2, 2012
The killing of Trayvon Martin is a Rorschach test for American society. This tragedy reveals a deep divide in our political imaginations and communities. It also is a mirror for the fissures of race, ideology and party that still vex and befuddle us to the present.
Some folks imagine themselves, their children, and members of their communities as Trayvon Martin. To their eyes, Trayvon is a symbol of how American society all too often devalues the lives of people of color.
Other people imagine themselves as George Zimmerman. To them, he is a victim, a good man who only wanted to protect his neighborhood from crime and “suspicious” people. Moreover, the assertion that George Zimmerman acted out of racial bias in his hunting and killing of Trayvon Martin is personally offensive to them.
Because Zimmerman is “them,” and “they” are Zimmerman, he is quite simply a “law-abiding” citizen who is being made a victim of “reverse racism,” “race hustlers,” and the “liberal media.“
Black men are scary, frightening and suspicious to George Zimmerman and those people who think like him. These beliefs are part of a matrix of racism, prejudice and stereotypes that are reproduced and disseminated throughout American culture. Ultimately, many on the Right see George Zimmerman as a hero figure. For voters primed on a toxic mix of conservative rhetoric that bundles together such issues as race, guns, and crime, George Zimmerman is a fetish and totem for their wish fulfillment.
In the post-civil rights era, old fashioned racism is out of style. Consequently, supporting George Zimmerman necessarily requires the shaming and smearing of Trayvon Martin. Perhaps I am too generous, but I would like to believe that even for the most strident conservative authoritarians and colorblind racists there would be some level of cognitive dissonance to be overcome in order to justify the killing of an unarmed black teenager who was guilty of no more than holding a bag of Skittles, and walking home in the rain wearing a hooded sweatshirt.