Saturday, April 07, 2012

Left Side of the Aisle #51 - Part 3

Trayvon Martin: racist reactions

There is one part of the military budget reactionaries are willing, even eager, to question: the DoD’s adoption of solar power and other forms of alternative energy. The Army, for example, wants to get at least 25% of its energy from renewable sources by 2025, and well, can't have that, can we?

So last week, House Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness held hearings intended to question any such expenses under the cover of considering "energy security." A lot of the, you'll pardon the expression, energy went out of the hearings when it developed that for the most past, most of the programs the Pentagon was involved in involved private investments and cost taxpayers almost nothing - and the energy obtained from these projects will cost less than if they had gotten it from conventional sources. It will actually save money.

Truth be told, there have been times when the military has taken the lead in progress and this case, alternative energy, is one of them. It's because they recognize the security implications of relying on fossil fuel, so they're actually taking the lead on a form of progress here. And it's not the only case: The military was integrated well before the rest of society was. It started during World War 2, it was formalized by presidential decree in July of 1948, and by 1953 almost every soldier was serving in an integrated unit. Meanwhile, the first significant civil rights legislation since the post-Civil War years did not come for another 11 years. So sometimes, the military's been out in front.

By saying that, I don't want to suggest and I don't want anybody to think I was suggesting that racism is no longer a problem in our society. It is, of course, still a very real problem in our society and in our lives - and we can see that very easily by looking at the case of Trayvon Martin. And here I'm not even really concerned with George Zimmerman, with the shooter himself. I'm more concerned with the reactions to the event.

First, there's the reaction of the cops. They took at face value Zimmerman's claim of self-defense. The cops drug-tested the dead victim but not the live shooter. They did a background check on the dead victim but not on the live shooter. Instead, they let the live shooter walk free without charge, without arrest. I have to ask you very simply, very seriously: If the situation was identical except that the colors of their skin were reversed, do you really think that was how that would have played out?

You know the answer to that question. And you know what that answer tells you about our society.

Another concern I have is with the broader reaction, the broader reaction in society as a whole. There have been numerous attempts to smear Trayvon Martin. He's been called a thug - that's a popular one - in fact one cop called him "a thug who deserved to die." There were charges that he had a history of violence, seemingly based on some reference to a single incident in which someone who may not even have been Martin threw a punch at a bus driver. There have been claims was drug dealer. There have been menacing pictures of him, increasingly menacing pictures, some of them so menacing that they weren't even him.

These are all intended to whitewash the crime, intended to make it okay for Trayvon Martin to be dead, intended to make it okay for George Zimmerman to have shot him - because in these people's minds it can't be wrong for a white guy to have killed a black kid.

So I'm going to ask that question again: If everything about the situation was identical except that the colors of their skin were reversed, do you really think that those people would be smearing the victim? Would the reaction of these people have been the same? Again, you know the answer to that question and you know what it tells us about our society.

So again, I'm not talking about George Zimmerman, in fact at this point I don't even care about George Zimmerman. There are a lot of indications that George Zimmerman may be a racist - but even if he's not, it doesn't matter. That broader reaction still shows our society and it still shows it in a very unhappy light.


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