George Zimmerman and the BBC's black-and-white blindness
From Brother Ivo:
The BBC is at it again with its coverage of the George Zimmerman acquittal in the United States.
Using a description of Mr Zimmerman only previously employed by the New York Times, the Radio 4 Today programme described the Obama-voting registered Democrat as a 'white man of Hispanic origin'. This may come as a surprise to the Zimmerman family (above) which looks to Brother Ivo to be a textbook example of President Obama's rainbow multicultural society, but hey, why spoil a story of US racial prejudice by confusing the British public with the facts?
The issues of the Trayvon Martin shooting are pretty commonplace as self-defence cases go.
The 17-year-old had grown somewhat since the universally-employed photograph of him being used by the media was taken. As someone observed, he appeared to have been the only 17-year-old in the western hemisphere not to have had his photograph taken since he was 13.
The video of him buying sweets in a store indicated a figure who could reasonably be regarded in the dark as a more threatening presence than the young Trayvon we see in the standard iconography. That may not be entirely coincidental.
The BBC summarised the issue as concerning a young, unarmed, black youngster shot by a 'white' Neighbourhood Watch volunteer. That was it.
Brother Ivo had thought that the last two elections had demonstrated that if the USA had not yet quite seen the end of old suspicions, the massive win for America’s first black President might have been the beginning of the end. But it seems that if the concept of the passe blanc had been banished from polite society, it still may be revived by those heavily invested in keeping the old enmities alive.
In such cases, context is everything. Whatever the context, the loss of a young life is tragic, and even if Trayvon had been up to no good (which is very far from established) that would not, of itself, have justified the sad outcome. By his dress and/or manner, he attracted the suspicion of George Zimmerman, who was a Neighbourhood Watch volunteer in the mixed-race, gated community in which he lived and in which Trayvon was staying temporarily.
That suspicion was not wholly without foundation. He did not recognise the newcomer as a resident; the community had been beset by much crime, including one shooting; and Zimmerman had previously reported similar suspicious persons to the police, one of whom had been successfully apprehended with the loot from a recent burglary.
His previous reports had been recorded: in none of them had he referenced the race of the suspicious person until specifically requested to do so, as was the case on that particular night. This is important in terms of judging his preconceptions. The Neighbourhood Watch had been established because all residents of whatever racial origin were heartily sick of being targeted for crime, and the police had had only limited success in stopping it, and that was with the generous assistance of folk like George Zimmerman.
Florida is a 'conceal carry' state. George was lawfully armed but had not gone out 'patrolling' that night. His spotting of Trayvon Martin was a chance event.
Martin became suspicious of Zimmerman while he was on the phone to a friend: he described Zimmerman as a 'creepy-ass cracker', a term with racist overtones harking back to the 'cracker' culture of the American South when the poor from that culture often worked as overseers on slave plantations.
In his fascinating book Black Rednecks and White Liberals, the black educationalist and commentator Thomas Sowell writes extensively about the irony that much that is wrong with black youth culture can be traced back to the emulation of the white, slave-abusing, cracker culture: the disdain for tidy dress, little time for education, the use of patois, disrespect for women of all races, a low flashpoint for violence and a fierce sense of personal honour which triggers early recourse to revenge. These were the less endearing aspects of cracker culture, yet, ironically, according to Sowell, its values live on principally amongst many black youngsters who think it a rebellion against former oppressors.
Trayvon Martin wrongly identified George Zimmerman's racial culture, but that need not have mattered in the dark as they lost each other.
Zimmerman had been advised not to engage the supposed intruder to the gated community. The advice was probably for his own safety. He ignored that advice. Had all turned out well and had Trayvon Martin been a malefactor, Zimmerman would no doubt have been regarded as a have-a-go hero. There is no reason to think he was thinking directly in such terms as he sought to find the suspicious stranger in order to direct the police when they arrived. He had already phoned the police, though the BBC account omitted that important fact. This was not go-it-alone vigilantism.
If the mutual fear and suspicion had been at a lower level, the next few minutes would have had a different outcome. The two men encountered each other. Martin was younger and taller; Zimmerman older and heavier. We only have Zimmerman's account of what happened next, though some eye witnesses saw parts of the final dispute.
Zimmerman says he was set upon; Martin cannot tell us. But we do know that not only did Zimmerman give an immediate account to the police before seeing a lawyer, but that none of the forensic evidence contradicted that account. The consistency may well have been important and significantly persuasive. Trayvon Martin ended up on top; Zimmerman's clothing was damp and grass stained in the back. Martin had minor abrasions to his knuckles on one hand; Zimmerman sustained injury to the back of his head consistent with his account of having his head banged on the concrete. At this point, he drew his pistol and fired one shot at point blank range killing Trayvon Martin. The deceased's clothing was hanging away from his body when the gun was fired, suggesting that he was on top as had been claimed. He was not shot from a distance or while running away.
If one excludes prior deliberate intent (..and who invites the police to a planned execution?) everything turned upon the last few seconds of the struggle.
If George Zimmerman reasonably considered his life to be in danger, howsoever they got to that point, he was entitled to fire his gun. Many may not appreciate that if both feared for their lives, both could have pleaded self defence.
Some, such as Fox News commentator Bob Beckel, argue that Zimmerman should not have used his gun as he was 'only' having his head banged on a kerbstone. Beckel significantly underestimates how many people die in fights from head injuries - often from a single punch or kick.
To such folk, Brother Ivo asks a single question: "How much head injury would you be prepared to sustain before concluding that your life may be in danger?" You have three seconds to answer.
These were the issues considered by the jury that acquitted George Zimmerman of murder. Unlike most commentators, they heard all the evidence and submissions on law; they unanimously pronounced that the legal standard of proof beyond reasonable doubt was not met.
For the BBC to report this story as if George Zimmerman were 'hideously white' and had stalked an unarmed boy to murder him is outrageous, but not terribly surprising. As a culturally liberal institution, they are, in this context, being institutionally racist.
They want this story to be about the white man's oppression of black youth, even though there was not a white man in the story or that the bias in the court was, if anything, inclined toward that of a very liberal female judge. The jurors, incidentally, were all female, and most were mothers who were more more than capable of understanding and, indeed, more like to empathise with Trayvon's mother and family in their loss and grief.
Where the BBC further displays disgraceful editorial judgement is in its lack of curiosity of how the prosecution got this far and how the media reported it.
The story was ignited by the intervention of the 'Reverend' Al Sharpton, one of America's principal benefactors of racial division. He and others appear to regret the passing of the good old days of noble struggle against, inter alia, court decisions based upon prejudice and whipped-up emotion rather than upon the forensic dissection of the facts. If you want to understand how much he needed 'a win' in the race-baiting wars, do have a look at the Tawana Brawley story, in which he played a despicable role.
Jesse Jackson has also emerged as part of an attempted self-rehabilitation following his Clintonesque trouser malfunction. Yet even he does have some understanding of how an unknown black youngster dressed in a hoodie might attract suspicion in a community such as Jackson himself observed when he said: "There is nothing more painful to me at this stage in my life than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start thinking about robbery. Then look around and see somebody white and feel relieved."
The US media has similarly made the story into one of racial injustice. Published pictures of George Zimmerman lightened his skin tone; NBS ran a tape of Zimmerman's call for help in which he appeared to identify Trayvon Martin as black, but the operator's preceding routine question as to the race of the suspicious person was editorially removed by the broadcaster, leaving the plainest impression that this was an important part of Zimmerman’s preoccupation. The still from the store video of what Trayvon Martin actually looked like on that night was disseminated much later than the younger image (which still adorns the posters of those protesting the verdict) had been established in the public mind.
This is where the interesting story lies. Why is there such a desire to believe that a tragic but not terribly uncommon death is somehow symptomatic of deep-seated racial division in US society? Why do those who foment this view attract such disproportionate interest?
Finally, in the days between George Zimmerman's arrest and acquittal, some 11,006 black youngsters have been murdered by other black youngsters. These have attracted significantly less interest from Sharpton, Jackson, and the BBC. Those youngsters are obviously not worth bothering about; they have no news value.
If I were a black mother living in the USA, I would not be losing too much sleep over the George Zimmermans of this world. I would leave that to the purveyors of racial politics. After all, they have a living to earn.
They are the professionals.