Favorite

Race-baiting 

When people call for a national "conversation" about race, what they really have in mind is a lecture. Sometimes President Obama is among them. So at the expense of alienating critical race theorists, some heresy: If the president wants to understand why he heard car door locks clicking as he walked down the street, he should study those two appalling homicides in Duncan, Okla., and Spokane, Wash., that Fox News is beating the drums about.

Yeah, yeah. I know. Fox, Rush Limbaugh and the rest are race-baiting. It's what they do. "Fox News Desperately Searches For The White Trayvon Martin" is how Media Matters put it. The ever-reliable Salon informed readers about "The Right's Black Crime Obsession."

Both publications laid down the liberal party line: that what Salon condescendingly called the "conservative cri de Coeur" about the trio of Oklahoma teenagers who gunned down an Australian baseball player jogging through their neighborhood was essentially phony. Local police saw no racial motive. (Never mind that one of the two African-American perps posted this on twitter: "90% of white ppl are nasty. #HATE THEM.")

Of course local cops saw no racial motive in the Trayvon Martin killing either, but hold that thought.

There's also the case of Delbert "Shorty" Belton, an 88-year-old World War II veteran mugged in Spokane by two black teenagers who stole his wallet. The victim's family has understandably resisted attempts to turn Belton's death into racial symbolism. No less an authority than the New York Times' Timothy Egan — for whom I have great respect — lamented how quickly the crime "went from an all-too-common tale of urban violence to a politicized narrative and magnet for racists."

"It is much easier to incite racial fear than to try to examine the mechanics of evil," Egan explained. "Yes, blacks commit a disproportionate amount of the homicides in this country, and are disproportionate among the victims. Is that because of their race?"

In a word, no.

Me, I'm with Mark Twain: "I have no color prejudices nor caste prejudices nor creed prejudices. All I care to know is that a man is a human being, and that is enough for me; he can't be any worse."

That said, special pleading by adepts of the Trayvon Martin cult strikes me as willful blindness. For more than a year, nearly every "mainstream" news organization in the United States portrayed young Martin's death as the racial atrocity of the century — based largely on tendentious and erroneous reporting greatly influenced by the Martin family lawyers.

Looking back, some of it continues to amaze. Bob Somerby recently analyzed an appearance by former prosecutor and CNN legal analyst Sunny Hostin in March 2012, as the publicity campaign to make Florida prosecutors charge George Zimmerman with murder neared its crescendo.

Suffice it to say that virtually everything Hostin told CNN viewers about the evidence was shown to be upside-down and backwards at trial. She'd gotten nearly every dispositive fact about the fatal confrontation between Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin wrong. Not that it altered her opinion or anybody else's as the trial went on to its inevitable conclusion.

After the verdict, along came the professors and critical race theorists to further confuse matters. On PBS News Hour Professor Jelani Cobb (University of Connecticut) alleged that "the fact of the matter is, Mr. Zimmerman had called the police 46 times in the previous six years — only for African-Americans, only for African-American men."

Sorry, professor, but The Daily Beast catalogued them. The actual number of calls involving black men was seven, two of them Trayvon Martin.

Then came Professor Patricia Williams (Columbia University Law). Writing in The Nation, Williams objected to the racial "monsterization" of Trayvon Martin — describing how defense lawyer Mark O'Mara "dropped a huge chunk of concrete, bigger and more jagged than a cinder block, in front of the jury box — as though onto Zimmerman — from a great and death-dealing height."

Would it shock you to learn that this lurid episode never happened? Watch O'Mara's closing argument on YouTube if you doubt me.

Anyway, here's my point: If we're going to have a healing conversation about race and crime, it'd help if people would quit making wild exaggerations and accusations of bad faith. The differences between Fox News and MSNBC-style racial demagoguery are largely a matter of style.

Ultimately too, the exact motives of the Oklahoma and Spokane murderers strike me as far less significant than their extreme brutality and near-suicidal indifference to human life. It comes in all colors, God knows.

However, the statistics Timothy Egan (and President Obama) alluded to are stark: According to the Center for Disease Control, the youth homicide rate (per 100,000) is 28.8 for blacks, 7.9 for Hispanics, 2.1 for whites.

Overall, the African-American homicide rate is eight times greater than the national average — an ongoing tragedy this bickering does nothing to heal.

Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Comments (8)

Showing 1-8 of 8

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-8 of 8

Add a comment

More by Gene Lyons

  • The casting couch

    Long ago and far away, I had an academic superior who enjoyed sexually humiliating younger men. There was unwanted touching — always in social situations — but mainly it was about making suggestive remarks, hinting that being a "hunk" was how I'd got hired.
    • Oct 19, 2017
  • Conspiracy theories

    Hardly anybody today believes that once unsettling events like solar eclipses are caused by wolves or demons eating the sun. But when it comes to all-too-frequent eruptions of what Philip Roth calls "the indigenous American berserk," many retreat into superstition, or worse.
    • Oct 12, 2017
  • Botched recovery

    When the going gets tough, the tough go golfing.
    • Oct 5, 2017
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Never wrong

    Quite a few people make noises about leaving the country if the wrong person gets elected president. I've been making discreet inquiries in the vicinity of Kinsale, County Cork, myself — from whence my people emigrated after 1880.
    • Apr 21, 2016
  • Hillary hit jobs

    It's always been my conviction that if Hillary Clinton could be appointed president, she'd do a bang-up job. Getting elected, however, might prove more difficult.
    • Jul 28, 2016

Most Shared

  • Discussion: State killing of the mentally ill

    The Arkansas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty and others will have a forum on mental illness and the death penalty at 6:30 p.m. Monday at the Bowen School of Law's Friday Courtroom.

Latest in Gene Lyons

  • The casting couch

    Long ago and far away, I had an academic superior who enjoyed sexually humiliating younger men. There was unwanted touching — always in social situations — but mainly it was about making suggestive remarks, hinting that being a "hunk" was how I'd got hired.
    • Oct 19, 2017
  • Conspiracy theories

    Hardly anybody today believes that once unsettling events like solar eclipses are caused by wolves or demons eating the sun. But when it comes to all-too-frequent eruptions of what Philip Roth calls "the indigenous American berserk," many retreat into superstition, or worse.
    • Oct 12, 2017
  • Botched recovery

    When the going gets tough, the tough go golfing.
    • Oct 5, 2017
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »

October

S M T W T F S
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30 31  

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Caution: government at work

    • The people of Arkansas need to keep demanding that our state government be accountable to…

    • on October 21, 2017
  • Re: Cotton to CIA?

    • Watching C-Span last week, they were talking about Cotton for the head of the FBI…

    • on October 21, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation