On Trayvon Martin, smear campaigns, and black men as menaces to society

Think Progress has a comprehensive and startling roundup of the events that have transpired over the course of the last two days where conservative media and others have attempted to paint the deceased teenager as a drug-dealing thug. Between fake photos, The Daily Caller publicizing Trayvon’s tweets, Geraldo saying he was “dressed like a wannabe gangster,” and hoopla over a fucking empty bag of marijuana, the behavior of the right wing media has been beyond shameful.

I agree with Lindsay that the worst offense is to think that authorities may have intentionally leaked information to change the media narrative around the case, but at its core, this smear campaign makes one clear, horrifying message: he had it coming. Kai Wright has an incredibly powerful piece up at Colorlines this morning on just that:

Trayvon Martin had it coming, or so we will soon be led to believe. The surely unattractive details of his short life as a black man in America will tumble forward—his troubles in school, the weed baggie that got him suspended, the altercation in which police and George Zimmerman claim he was the aggressor. He was a maladjusted, Negro man-child, so ferocious he could kill an armed man with his bare hands. He had to die.

Yesterday, local law enforcement offered a preview of this old, familiar narrative when someone leaked Zimmerman’s account of the night to the Orlando Sentinel. According to the Sentinel, Zimmerman had given up his hunt of Martin and was returning to his SUV when the 17-year-old caught him by surprise. Do you have a problem, Martin is said to have asked, before answering for himself, “Well, you do now.” He reportedly began pummelling Zimmerman, leading the armed man to shoot and kill.

Sadly, it’s necessary to point out that there isn’t an imaginable scenario in which an armed man can shoot an unarmed child to death and it be okay. But set that obvious fact to the side. Trayvon Martin did in fact have it coming. He was born black and male in the United States and was thus marked for death. The cruelness of our economy and of our criminal justice system isn’t reserved for men or for black people. But there is a particularly gendered and particularly racist way in which black men are set upon in this country, most acutely those who don’t have the resources to push back. And it has a very long, still relevant history.

I highly recommend reading the entire thing.

Image: Roberto Gonzalez/AP

Join the Conversation