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Trayvon Martin, the media and the regression of U.S. race-relations

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Trayvon Martin, left, 17, was fatally shot by George Zimmerman. A new witness has claimed Martin did attack Zimmerman before he was shot.

Conservative author Victor Davis Hanson has a thought-provoking column out this morning which examines the public uproar over the Treyvon Martin case and what it means for race relations in the United States today:

The Trayvon Martin tragedy, by the time the entire process is played out, will reflect poorly on lots of people and groups, who in mob-like fashion have weighed in before all the facts in the case are fully aired. We have reached the nadir when the civil-rights community decries the release of further pertinent information about Mr. Martin as gratuitously defaming the deceased — with the implicit understanding that incomplete and leaked information so far has been welcomed if it reflected poorly on the alleged perpetrator.

The narrative of the shooting unfortunately changes every 24 hours, which suggests the media saw a preliminary narrative it liked and then adorned it in a manner to ensure sensationalism and polarization. ...

This is a key point -- What role has the media played in fanning the flames of racial tension?  Bernie Goldberg takes a good, hard look:

It is understandable why so many Americans would demand justice for Trayvon Martin.  But the hypocrisy and the high profile sanctimony of the oh-so-concerned media and the civil rights establishment is downright galling.

Let’s not be naïve: If Trayvon Martin had been shot that night by another black teenager there would be have been nothing from president Obama, no nationally televised demonstrations, no demands for justice by prominent civil rights leaders, and nobody outside his immediate circle of family and friends would even know his name.

We know about Trayvon Martin only because the man who shot him looks white.  Actually, Zimmerman’s mother is Peruvian, which makes him half Hispanic, a fact you might not have known if you get your news from the usual places.  That would only detract from the storyline: black kid shot by overzealous (and probably racist) white vigilante.  For what it’s worth, the New York Times refers to him as a “white Hispanic,” a politically correct description to make sure we know Mr. Zimmerman is a white man – and not “a person of color.”  You think the Times would call him a “white Hispanic” if he had won a Nobel Prize for curing cancer?

While white-on-black crimes tend to throw the media into a frenzy, Goldberg notes how thousands of other crimes go unnoticed because there is no attention-grabbing angle for the media to exploit:

Delric [Waymon Miller IV] was a 9-month old baby – a 9-month old African American baby – who was sleeping on a couch at home in Detroit a few weeks ago, when in the early morning hours, someone fired 37 shots from an AK-47 into the house.  One shot killed Delric Waymon Miller IV. ...

Police think the shooting may have been an act of retaliation stemming from a fight between rival gangs a few days earlier at a bar.

So of course there would be no national outcry, no comments from the president, no rallies led by Al Sharpton demanding justice for Delric, no pieties from Jesse Jackson about how “blacks are under attack” in America.  It’s a safe bet the shooter was black.  This was just one more case of black on black crime, the kind of story that gets ink in the local papers but that’s about it. ...

Journalists who work for the national news networks, or major American newspapers with a national reach, don’t spend a lot of time shining a spotlight on dysfunctional behavior in parts of black America.  Stories about such things in black neighborhoods, imposed on black people by black people, would be tantamount to airing dirty laundry in front of the whole country.  And that is something liberal journalists who are proud of their good racial manners (along with their friends in the civil rights establishment) do not want to do.

So what does all this mean for race relations in the U.S.?  Davis explains (emphasis mine):

The net result of the demagoguery will be more racial polarization, as African-Americans believe that young black males are unfairly stereotyped by society and treated less fairly by police, while non-African-Americans will only be further convinced that the African-American leadership is not concerned with the vastly inordinate rates of black violent crime, given the small percentage of the African-American community within the general population, much less the much higher rates of black-on-white crime – and as both sides argue either for more money to be invested in social programs, or that too much has already been spent in counter-productive fashion.
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