Trayvon Martin

by David Kennedy, July 2013

Mark was foolish enough to invite me to join the crew here some time back. I admire him, and the rest, for their ability to turn out worthwhile thinking on so many fronts so regularly. I haven’t the gene. But I will try to weigh in occasionally where I do have something to add, which will be mostly in my own area of community and public safety.

Here’s one such.

There’s a conservative argument gaining ground around Trayvon Martin’s killing that American blacks shouldn’t be taking it so seriously because the real threat of violence against blacks is internal. Here’s one such from Pat Buchanan, continuing an honorable tradition of explaining to the black community why it can’t understand its own interests:

From listening to cable channels and hearing Holder, Sharpton, Jealous and others, one would think the great threat to black children today emanates from white vigilantes and white cops.

Hence, every black father must have a “conversation” with his son, warning him not to resist or run if pulled over or hassled by a cop.

Make the wrong move, son, and you may be dead is the implication.

But is this the reality in Black America?

When Holder delivered his 2009 “nation-of-cowards” speech blaming racism for racial separation, Manhattan Institute’s Heather Mac Donald suggested that our attorney general study his crime statistics.

In New York from January to June 2008, 83 percent of all gun assailants were black, according to witnesses and victims, though blacks were only 24 percent of the population. Blacks and Hispanics together accounted for 98 percent of all gun assailants. Forty-nine of every 50 muggings and murders in the Big Apple were the work of black or Hispanic criminals.

A lot of Buchanan’s raw stats are correct (the statement in his piece about drug use  is not - survey work shows that white kids both use drugs and commit other crimes at somewhat higher rates than black kids). Gun violence is heavily concentrated in poor black communities, and violent victimization is universally committed primarily against one’s own race and ethnic group, because it is primarily committed against people one has relationships with, and most people mostly have relationships within their own group.

But this line of argument misses one vital point. African Americans are the only US group which routinely finds its members killed by law enforcement and those aping law enforcement (Zimmerman) for no good reason, which killings are subjected to close judicial review, upon which they are told that those killings are OK.  And they are the only US group in which this killing, and the support of that killing by the state, is a continued playing out of a long and vile history of state-sanctioned violence and oppression.

They don’t like it.

The most profound truth I’ve found from working in and with black communities around these issues – violence, police abuse, mass incarceration, racial profiling – is that white folks look at incidents and ask, was this (stop, arrest, frisk, police shooting, instance of standing one’s ground) justified?  Black folks look at history, and ask, why do you keep doing this to us?  It is a very good question, and there is no good answer.

This op-ed was originally published on July 19, 2013 on SameFacts.