The Trayvon Martin case is a painful episode at every level; the violent death of any American teenager is a tragedy. And in this case it is compounded by the antics of the Reverends Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, and other pseudo-clerical charlatans trying to magnify and distort the incident and incite vigilante lawlessness.
One of the side-benefits of Barack Obama's election as president was that in crowning him head of the African-American community, America was emancipating itself from having to listen to frauds like Sharpton, Jackson and Louis Farrakhan (who has been vocal about this case also). The murder of Martin Luther King in 1968 deprived the country of a great leader of the African-Americans and there was no respectable or plausible replacement of him until the rise of Barack Obama. Now, unfortunately, they are back, and back to their old tawdry mischief.
They have been leading the media every day, and coaching the grieving family that the person who apparently killed Trayvon Martin, George Zimmerman, is a racist-motivated white who effectively conducted a lynching. No one should aspire to try these matters in the media, but there is a witness who has attested that the deceased pursued Zimmerman, knocked him down, bashed his head on the pavement, broke his nose and generally beat him up before Zimmerman fatally shot him.
Sharpton, Jackson, and their acolytes have shouted themselves hoarse calling Zimmerman a white racist (though Jackson, who infamously once described New York as "hymietown," has resisted what must have been a powerful temptation to make it a win-double by also labeling Zimmerman a Jew). If the publicly available information is accurate, Zimmerman, (who is in fact a Hispanic, not that his ethnicity is relevant to any non-racist), was advised by a 911 operator to desist from following Martin and did so, having apparently been overzealous as a watchman in the gated community. But he teaches African-Americans and has no known record of racial frictions.
By any reckoning, this is a tragic and very upsetting incident, but the antics of these black rabble-rousers, masquerading as religious leaders who should bring a balm of Gilead to a troubled community (Sanford, Florida, near Orlando), aggravate it in several ways. It shows that despite all the progress the country has made in integration and the demolition of ancient barriers to African-Americans, culminating in the election of a black president and the installation of a black attorney general, the old leadership still rushes, unmoved by the known facts, to leap to the worst conclusions and agitate a time of mourning as irresponsibly as possible. It also shows that most of the national media take the bait like salmon leaping entirely out from the water; CNN, crestfallen that Zimmerman proved to be Hispanic, styled him self-consolingly, "a white Hispanic."
More worrisome for Zimmerman -- who is cooperating with the police and will cooperate with the special prosecutor but has not been arrested as police analyze the facts and conduct interviews in an outwardly responsible manner as they should -- the New Black Panther Party is assembling a $1 million combat fund from which it claims to be offering a bounty for Zimmerman.
Zimmerman has understandably taken refuge elsewhere than his home, with the knowledge of the police. No unofficial group has any standing to do anything so provoking in the early stages of an investigation that appears to be well underway and in competent hands. The impulse of some African-Americans to imagine that this could be another whitewash of a white murderer of a black man in the South is perhaps understandable. But it isn't, and the behavior of Sharpton and Jackson, and the liberal national media in the circumstances, is particularly scandalous.
And ghastly though this incident is, it is in most respects rather routine. Only about three per cent of Americans are black males between the ages of 17 and 29, but they are over 20 per cent of the country's murder victims, and more than 90 per cent of those who do the killing, whether criminal or not, are also black.
There are thousands of such occurrences every year in the United States, including a distressingly high number in New York and Chicago, where Sharpton, Jackson and Farrakhan reside. (On the St. Patrick's day weekend, 10 black youths were murdered in Chicago, including a six-year-old girl.) Where are these pious and holy leaders the rest of the year? From published accounts, it appears that all three shot from the hip about the nature of this incident when they thought that it was a potentially inflammable interracial matter, but invoking what they thought to be an unambiguously white-skinned person rather than a Hispanic.
Whatever the outcome of the police and special investigations and any subsequent proceedings, Sharpton, Jackson, and Farrakhan should be condemned for their self-interested incitements to increased racial tensions.
This terrible incident, however it plays out, is more depressing as a reminder of the bigotry of the old, failed, racist black leadership, which almost all Americans of all descriptions hoped they would not hear from again, and of the biases and malleability of much of the national media, than as one more fatal act of violence against a black youth, a distressingly frequent story yet.