People keep telling me to stop trying to understand conservatives, but I can’t help myself. If they make sense to themselves, then really we should try to understand where they’re coming from. We don’t have to agree but for God’s sake let’s at least make the effort.
But I just haven’t been able to understand the reflexive defense of George Zimmerman from the right wing. What exactly are they defending here? Is it the NRA-guns thing? The “we don’t believe racism exists” thing? What are they defending when they rally around a guy who shot and killed a teenager? What is going on here?
It’s truly something to behold, these attacks on a 17 year old kid, and while I can maybe understand why they’d attack Sandra Fluke or someone else who came out in support of a hated Obama Administration policy, that’s not the case here. Trayvon Martin was a kid in his neighborhood coming home from the store. So all of this “he deserved to die” stuff puzzles me. Is it because hated figures like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson are involved now? If those guys say the sky is blue then conservatives know it must be green?
The funniest thing has been the “revelation” that George Zimmerman registered to vote as a Democrat in 2002 (I’m not going to link to those sites, but you can Google it if you’re interested). A-HA! That proves …. what, exactly? That he was justified in shooting Martin? That he wasn’t a racist who immediately assumed a black kid was up to no good? That “stand your ground” laws aren’t dangerous? It means none of those things. What it does show us is that the right wing’s perspective is completely clouded by their hyper-partisanship and also that they assume everyone views the world through the same hyper-partisan lens. But no one ever said George Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin because Zimmerman was a Republican. Yet that’s what right-wing bloggers and pundits seem to have heard. I just find that truly bizarre. I really want to understand what’s going on here.
Max Read put it really well in his column “Your Guide to the Idiotic Racist Backlash Against Trayvon Martin”:
That right-wing cranks, caught in the storm of their own horseshit, would be unable to distinguish between “being 17″ and “being a criminal” isn’t particularly shocking (to most of them, there is no distinction). It’s embarrassing for a theoretically respectable site like Yahoo! to provide cover for clearinghouses like Drudge with equivocating articles that worry about “the difference between the typical teenager Martin’s family and supporters say he was and the way he presented himself on social media” and quote the “we don’t know what happened” hems and “it’s complicated” haws of Business Insider’s Michael Brendan Dougherty and PolicyMic.com’s David Shane.
But mainstream and gutter are both running from the same source: an anxiety about young black men. That’s why it doesn’t matter that Martin’s suspensions are completely irrelevant to the case, and it’s why there’s a push to sidestep the specifics of the encounter in favor of interrogating Martin’s character.
As Read pointed out, this reached its zenith when Fox News’ Geraldo Rivera told black kids to stop wearing hoodies. What he was really saying was, “stop being so scary.” That a teenager carrying Skittles and iced tea could justifiably be viewed as scary indicates the problem might lie with white folks’ irrational fear, but there it is. And surely there can be nothing scarier to conservatives than seeing hundreds and even thousands of predominantly black faces rallying in the streets demanding justice. That has got to be really scary for these folks, hiting them on a visceral level and harkening back to the race riots of the ’60s. White people scare really easily, it seems to me, which is why it’s such an effective political tool, and has been for decades.
This also reminds me of the question we all asked in 2010, the summer of crazy: “What If The Tea Party Was Black”? Walking around with guns and threatening signs, vowing to overthrow the establishment, what then?
I think the hidden message of the conservative attacks on Trayvon Martin really has its roots in this: black people are scary and white people are justified in being afraid. They are defending fear. This is a very useful message because scared people can be easily manipulated into doing all sorts of things in the service of their rulers. This is a truth as old as Plato and it will never change.