The Pew Research Center poll on reactions to the coverage of the killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman revealed a divide that certainly didn’t surprise me. Blacks and Democrats are closely following what’s happening with the Feb. 26th shooting. Meanwhile, whites and Republicans think there’s been too much attention paid to the case.
And judging by my inbox and various conservative commentators, there’s a sudden concern about black-on-black crime. Folks who seemingly flinch at any mention of race now bemoan the lack of attention being paid to this very real concern. But Eric Boehlert at the Huffington Post zeroed in on this line of argument, those who use it and got to the heart of the matter. “George Zimmerman,” he wrote, “hasn't been arrested or charged with a crime.
To those folks who wondered why I was focusing so much attention on Trayvon and not enough on the violence in the black community, I pointed them to a piece I wrote in November 2010. “If New York City were a murder and shooting gallery, almost all of the targets would be African American and Latino,” I wrote in November 2010.
In short, 95.1 percent of all murder victims and 95.9 percent of all shooting victims in New York City are black or Hispanic. And 90.2 percent of those arrested for murder and 96.7 percent of those arrested for shooting someone are black and Hispanic. I don’t even know where to begin to describe the horror I still feel looking at those numbers. But the word “hunted” comes to mind.
But hurling up black-on-black crime in response to the tragedy in Sanford, Fla., is a distraction that Khalil Gibran Muhammad calls using “the violence card.” The director of the esteemed Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture at the New York Public Library explained the concept on today’s New York Times op-ed page.
When confronted with an instance of racially charged violence against a black person, a commentator draws attention to the fact that there is much more black-on-black violence than white-on-black violence. To play the violence card — as many criminal-justice advocates have done since the Rodney King police brutality case of the early 1990s — is to suggest that black people should worry more about the harm they do to themselves and less about how victimized they are by others.....
It’s true that black-on-black violence is an exceptionally grave problem. But this does not explain the allure of the violence card, which perpetuates the reassuring notion that violence against black people is not society’s concern but rather a problem for black people to fix on their own.
Now, back to Boehlert’s central concern, which was going to be the central focus of this piece. Americans, African Americans in particular, have been reacting to what appears to be a fundamental injustice. A 28-year-old neighborhood watch volunteer armed with a 9-millimeter handgun (counter to the rules of neighborhood watch) shot and killed an unarmed 17-year-old boy and is not in jail to be held accountable.
While there are more than a few out there who have tried and convicted Zimmerman for killing Trayvon, most people want him to at least have his guilt or innocence judged in a court of law. When reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, we end by saying, “One nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” With all the unanswered questions in this tragedy, that Zimmerman could possibly walk away without so much as an arrest makes a mockery of a pledge we all hold dear.