By SHELBY STEELE, OPINION April 4, 2012, WSJ
The absurdity of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton is that they want to make a movement out of an anomaly. Black teenagers today are afraid of other black teenagers, not whites.
Two tragedies are apparent in the Trayvon Martin case. The first is obvious: A teenager—unarmed and committing no crime—was shot dead. Dressed in a “hoodie,” a costume of menace, he crossed paths with a man on the hunt for precisely such clichés of menace. Added to this—and here is the rub—was the fact of his dark skin.
Maybe it was more the hood than the dark skin, but who could argue that the skin did not enhance the menace of the hood at night and in the eyes of someone watching for crime. (Fifty-five percent of all federal prisoners are black though we are only 12% of the population.) Would Trayvon be alive today had he been walking home—Skittles and ice tea in hand—wearing a polo shirt with an alligator logo? Possibly. And does this make the ugly point that dark skin late at night needs to have its menace softened by some show of Waspy Americana? Possibly.
What is fundamentally tragic here is that these two young males first encountered each other as provocations. Males are males, and threat often evokes a narcissistic anger that skips right past reason and into a will to annihilate: “I will take you out!” There was a terrible fight. Trayvon apparently got the drop on George Zimmerman, but ultimately the man with the gun prevailed. Annihilation was achieved.
If this was all there was to it, the Trayvon/Zimmerman story would be no more than a cautionary tale, yet another admonition against the hair-trigger male ego. But this story brought reaction from the White House: “If I had a son he would look like Trayvon,” said the president. The Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, ubiquitous icons of black protest, virtually battled each other to stand at the bereaved family’s side—Mr. Jackson, in a moment of inadvertent honesty, saying, “There is power in blood . . . we must turn a moment into a movement.” And then there was the spectacle of black Democrats in Congress holding hearings on racial profiling with Trayvon’s parents featured as celebrities.
In fact Trayvon’s sad fate clearly sent a quiver of perverse happiness all across America’s civil rights establishment, and throughout the mainstream media as well. His death was vindication of the “poetic truth” that these establishments live by. Poetic truth is like poetic license where one breaks grammatical rules for effect. Better to break the rule than lose the effect. Poetic truth lies just a little; it bends the actual truth in order to highlight what it believes is a larger and more important truth.
The civil rights community and the liberal media live by the poetic truth that America is still a reflexively racist society, and that this remains the great barrier to black equality. But this “truth” has a lot of lie in it. America has greatly evolved since the 1960s. There are no longer any respectable advocates of racial segregation. And blacks today are nine times more likely to be killed by other blacks than by whites.