In light of the number of young black men who are too often gunned down on America's streets, what's different about the Trayvon Martin case? Is it the fact that he was killed in a gated community and not in an alley in Detroit? If Zimmerman, a white Hispanic, were black, would we have the current controversy? If Martin were white, or any other race, would the president of the United States have called for "soul searching"? He made no comment about the Chicago shootings.
Would Al Sharpton have made the trip to Florida if Martin had been white? Not likely. Sharpton apparently hopes people have forgotten the 1987 Tawana Brawley incident during which he waved the "racism" flag in support of the African-American teenager's contention that she had been raped by six white men. A grand jury later found that Brawley had not been the victim of a forced sexual assault. The New York prosecutor whom Brawley had accused as one of her alleged assailants successfully sued Brawley and her three advisers, including Sharpton, for defamation.
The media bear some responsibility for exacerbating racial tensions. By too often featuring stories of violent young black men they appear to promote the very racial stereotyping they deplore. Why don't we see more stories about young black men making right choices, staying in school, rejecting drugs and getting married before having children? They exist. Can't the media find them?
The steady drumbeat of crime and violence in the media and their association of race and crime with certain parts of town feed into the often irrational fears of white people. I'm not suggesting these stories shouldn't be covered. I am suggesting that local news ought to tell more stories of young black men who make good decisions that benefit themselves and their communities. Or have we forgotten what "good" looks like?
Trayvon Martin should not have been killed, but Zimmerman shouldn't be the only one facing indictment.
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