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

  • http://feministing.com/members/samll/ Sam Lindsay-Levine

    I wonder if, this being a feminist site, our editors & contributors have any insight into the gendered nature of this kind of violence. The racist nature is clear and hideous but I wonder what there is to say about the other half of the intersectionality at work.

  • http://feministing.com/members/4thwaver/ Lauren

    Some of the rhetoric surrounding the Trayvon Martin case shows how reluctant we are as a society to really talk about race. Fox News pundits assert that simply talking about race is racism. In this kind of climate, no wonder latent racism and xenophobia are allowed to run rampant. I blogged about our need to talk about our society’s racism in order to overcome it.


  • http://feministing.com/members/brittforbes93/ Brittany

    All these “Trayvon beat him, so Zimmerman had to kill him, or else he would be killed.”

    1. There has been evidence to dispel it, like how Zimmerman said he got punched in the nose, when he did not appear to have a nose bleed. Or like how the voice screaming for help in the background did NOT sound like Zimmerman’s voice.

    2. You start stalking me from an SUV, I’m going to punch you up a bit too. Why? Because it’s called self-defense. Oh wait! But I’m a white woman, so that’s okay!

    And for God’s sake it’s marijuana! Who the eff cares? Teenagers do dumb stuff like that all the time, hell, how many white kids get caught with marijuana? Does that mean they should be killed by assholes? I mean, am I stepping into Reefer Madness?

  • http://feministing.com/members/robbieloveslife/ Robert

    This whole thing is a tragedy and many people don’t think you should ever be allowed to shoot a kid. BUT, and this is very important, the law in Florida says you are allowed to shoot someone if you feel threatened or are being attacked. Zimmerman apparently (or at least convinced authorities) felt threatened enough to shoot Trayvon Martin. This is probably why he hasn’t been arrested yet. Legal experts have said it will be difficult to prosecute him. This may sound messed up but according to the law, IF he was being attacked by Martin, Zimmerman should be a free man. I’m not defending what he did, but don’t be surprised if he doesn’t see a day in jail.

    • http://feministing.com/members/angelh/ Angel H.

      Also according to the law, you’re not supposed to stalk minors when they’re walking home from the store.

      • http://feministing.com/members/robbieloveslife/ Robert

        True that no one is allowed to stalk minors and he could get charged for this. I’m sure Zimmerman would feel like he won the lottery if the most that happens to him is get charged for stalking. I just heard today that his dad was a judge and may have helped his son avoid a charge for assaulting an officer years ago. If this is true then his dad probably has strong connections with the top dogs in Florida.

  • http://feministing.com/members/35upward/ think tank

    Great article Mya! Couldn’t agree more.