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Archive for Jul, 2013

zimmerchrist

George Zimmerman as Christ. Artist Unknown

What surprised me most about the George Zimmerman case was how White Americans did not distance themselves from a man who killed an unarmed 17-year-old boy, Trayvon Martin. I expected them to write him off as a vigilante nutcase. Instead they took him into their bosom and excused his actions.

Not all whites, of course, but plenty of them. Enough to make it the most racially charged court case in America since the O.J. Simpson murder trial 18 years ago.

When it came out that Zimmerman was Hispanic I thought, all right, now they will distance themselves from him. Well, they did somewhat, but still they defended him. And wondered why blacks were so upset: “Blacks kill each other all the time! What’s the big deal?”

When it came out that Zimmerman had a police record and Martin did not, I thought, great, now they will wise up. Well, no. Instead they painted Martin as the thug!

The police, the jury and tons of white people seemed to have this need to believe Zimmerman’s story, the words of a killer! The police did not even give him a drug test.

What it most reminds me of is how whites talk about slavery. You would think they would roundly condemn it, full stop. Instead they make excuses and play it down: “Africans sold their own into slavery”, “Arabs traded slaves”, “Slavery is universal”, “Whites did not benefit from slavery”, “My family did not own slaves”, “Get over it!” and so on.

I can kind of make sense of that: whites base part of their self-worth on being white and so feel this (misguided) need to defend their history, crimes and all. But why defend Zimmerman? He is not even white.

I do not fully understand this. Maybe commenters can help me out here. All I can do is think out loud:

  1. They are not defending Zimmerman so much as the police and the courts. Their defence of Zimmerman was strongest when the police would not arrest him and after the verdict. According to this line of thinking, whites know, deep down, that they are standing on top of a morally questionable justice system and feel the need to defend its mistakes. Just like how they excuse the crimes of their history.
  2. They do not see Trayvon Martin as fully human. Or blacks in general. So slavery or Martin’s shooting death do not seem that terrible to them. Thus they feel no need to distance themselves from Zimmerman, like they do from those who kill defenceless whites (the Batman shooter, Adam Lanza, the Boston Marathon bombers, etc).
  3. They see Trayvon Martin through the Black Brute stereotype. Seen that way, the actions of Zimmerman, the police and the jury make sense. It also makes sense of the need to paint Martin as a thug, even – or especially – when he was not. With that, everything else chillingly follows like the gears of a gargoyle clock.

See also:

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The race baiter argument

Founding Members Race Baiters and Haters Club

The race baiting argument says that racism is pretty much dead but that people like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson keep it alive by talking about race, by getting blacks angry about imagined cases of racism. They are “race hustlers” who “inflame racial passions”.

Examples:

  • In the Zimmerman case, some whites used this argument to make sense of (and dismiss) black opinion.
  • Rush Limbaugh speaks of a “race industry”.
  • Booker T. Washington in 1911:

    Some of these people do not want the Negro to lose his grievances, because they do not want to lose their jobs.

The terminology goes back Jim Crow times:

  • 1921: inflame racial passions
  • 1925: race industry 
  • 1935: race baiters
  • 1949: race hustlers

The argument:

  1. Racism is dead.
  2. Race baiters know this but keep Negro Grievances alive for personal gain – money, votes, even blog hits!
  3. Most blacks are overgrown children: they cannot think for themselves and must be told what to think.

Yet another racist argument that assumes racism is dead!

As an accused race baiter, I can offer some insight:

  1. The personal gain thing: I make no money from this blog. And even in terms of blog hits, it is far easier to get hits by doing posts on, say, swimsuit models. And then there is the white demographic. It is at least five times bigger than the black demographic. If hits were what mattered to me, I would do nothing to turn off whites. I would at least make what I say acceptable to them. Or, better/worse yet, like a Rented Negro, I would tell them what they want to hear.
  2. I know that racism is dead, right? No. The rank racist inequality in New York is burned into my brain forever. And the older I get the clearer it becomes how deeply ingrained racism is in white people, more than I ever expected or “imagined”.

Al Sharpton. He has held protests for Trayvon Martin. But he has held tons of protests for plenty of people over the years. Only on occasion do they catch fire or go anywhere. If he had the kind of power over 40 million black people that some seem to think he has, he would not be freely drawing breath on American soil.

Trayvon Martin. Look at the timeline:

  • February 26th 2012: Trayvon Martin shot dead.
  • March 9th 2012: first comment on Trayvon Martin on this blog, by lifelearner, who called it “walking while Black” (racial profiling).
  • March 12th 2012: first post on Trayvon Martin on this blog.
  • March 21st 2012: Million Hoodie March
  • March 22nd 2012: First Sharpton protest

Sharpton was hardly leading on this issue.

This whole race baiter thing is made up to discredit black claims of racism. It is a way to account for black anger about racism while preserving the idea that racism is dead.

The far simpler way to account for events is to say that racism is far from dead – hardly surprising given American history – and that black claims about racism are more or less right. Just as they were in 1911, 1921, 1925, 1935 and 1949.

See also:

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The black-on-black crime argument

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The black-on-black crime argument says that blacks in America have no right to complain about white-on-black crime till they do something about black-on-black crime. It is a racist deflection.

Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Chris Wallace and others on the right used the argument in the days after the George Zimmerman verdict. Whitewashed people bring it up whenever crime and race are at issue.

What is wrong with this argument:

  1. It is a deflection. The people who make it do not truly care about black-on-black crime.
  2. It creates a false choice: Most who are truly concerned with black-on-black crime were upset about the Zimmerman case too.
  3. 200px-FarrakhanIt allows the white press to determine reality, which makes it seem like Zimmerman is an exception while no one is doing anything about black-on-black crime. As it turns out, on average there is a Zimmerman-style shooting (armed security person or vigilante killing an unarmed black person) once every 28 hours. Trayvon Martin is just what made the papers. His case is hardly the worst nor the only one to get protests. Likewise, there is plenty being done about black-on-black crime, like by the Nation of Islam, but the white press is not particularly interested in reporting that either. Even worse, the white press turns a blind eye to the bad policing that leads to a high black crime rate. Yet, somehow, it always seems to find time to show black male suspects on the 11 o’clock news.
  4. Crime is mostly intra-racial. That means there will always be way more black-on-black crime than white-on-black crime. While it is true that 94% of black murders are black-on-black, it is just as true that 86% of white murders are white-on-white. In fact, most crime in America is white-on-white – yet for every web page that mentions “white-on-white crime”, there are 25 that mention “black-on-black crime”.
  5. nicole-simpsonIt makes the worth of black life conditional. Conditional on good behaviour, like low crime rates. Once blacks get black-on-black crime under control, then they can act as if their lives matter, then they can act as if they should have justice, then they can act as if they are human beings with human rights. Meanwhile the worth of white life is taken seriously, as absolute, as not being conditional. Compare Nicole Simpson to Trayvon Martin:
    • No one belittled the killing of Nicole Simpson by quoting white crime statistics, saying “white people kill each other all the time, what’s the big deal?”
    • No one deflected by talking about white parenting or violence in white films.
    • No one made Nicole Simpson posters for target practice.
    • No one pretended to be a dead Nicole Simpson for laughs.
    • No one questioned Nicole Simpson’s character – or her choice in clothing.

In the case of Trayvon Martin, the argument misses the point that the crying injustice was not that he was killed by someone not black, but that the police, and now the courts, let his killer get away with it, due in part to the racism of a white justice system.

See also:

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Chuck Berry: Johnny B. Goode

Remarks:

This song reached #2 on the American R&B charts in 1958 and #8 on the pop charts. Both blacks and whites liked it. Berry sounded white on the radio. He changed the lyrics from “coloured boy” to “country boy” so it would get played on white radio. This is the song that made Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones want to become a guitarist. Carl Sagan put it on the Golden Record on the two Voyager spacecrafts that are leaving the Solar System. The two golden records will probably last a billion years.

Lyrics:

Deep down Louisiana close to New Orleans,
Way back up in the woods among the evergreens
There stood a log cabin made of earth and wood,
Where lived a colored country boy named of Johnny B. Goode
Who never ever learned to read or write so well,
But he could play the guitar like ringing a bell.

[Chorus:]
Go Go
Go Johnny Go
Go Go
Johnny B. Goode

He use to carry his guitar in a gunny sack
Or sit beneath the trees by the railroad track.
Oh, the engineers used to see him sitting in the shade,
Strumming with the rhythm that the drivers made.
The People passing by, they would stop and say
Oh my that little country boy could play

[Chorus]

His mother told him someday you will be a man,
And you would be the leader of a big old band.
Many people coming from miles around
To hear you play your music when the sun go down
Maybe someday your name will be in lights
Saying Johnny B. Goode tonight.

[Chorus]

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Denisovans

Denisova Cave, view from the Anui river

In the centre of the picture is Denisova cave in Siberia, where humans, Neanderthals and Denisovans have lived.

Denisovans (deh-NEE-so-vens, sounds like Denise) were a kind of early man that lived in Asia 250,000 to 40,000 years ago. They are close cousins to the Neanderthals, their counterpart in Europe.

Note: In this post, “we”, “us”, “human” and “people” will mean just our subspecies, Homo sapiens sapiens, also known as “anatomically modern humans”.

About 125,000 years ago it went like this:

  • Africa: humans
  • West Eurasia: Neanderthals
  • East Eurasia: Denisovans

Each is a subspecies of Homo sapiens – a true race in the biological sense.

Humans left Africa in two main waves:

  1. The first wave mated with Neanderthals in South West Asia and with Denisovans in South East Asia. They became the black people of South East Asia (Negritos), Australia (Aboriginals), New Guinea and the other islands of Melanesia. They are now 2.5% Neanderthal, 5% Denisovan.
  2. The second wave mated only with Neanderthals. There were few if any Denisovans left at that point. This second wave became the light-skinned people native to Europe, Asia and the Americas. They are now 2.5% Neanderthal.

The black people in Africa have no known Neanderthal or Denisovan genes.

Denisova 4 Left upper molar M2 or M3

Denisovan tooth

Denisovans were discovered in 2008 when part of a finger bone was found in a cave in Siberia. When its DNA was tested, it turned out to be neither human nor Neanderthal but something else.

The finger bone belonged to an eight-year-old girl who died some 41,000 years ago. She may have been among the last of her kind. From her genes we know she had brown eyes, brown hair and dark skin. Two Denisovan teeth, not hers, were found in the same cave. They are big like bear teeth!

So far that is all we have of the Denisovans: No skulls, no skeletons, no tools, no artwork. Some skulls found in China from the same period are being tested for their DNA. That might turn up nothing: bone that old has little readable DNA. The finger bone was an amazing stroke of luck, helped in part by the cold of Siberia and the latest techniques in reading DNA.

Compared to our DNA the main differences have to do with skin, teeth, eyes, brain function and immunity to disease. The immunity genes are probably the ones that have lived on in us.

Denisovan brains were wired differently. They did not talk like us. They might come off as what we would regard as autistic. They might have been bad liars who had a hard time seeing things from another’s point of view.

From the girl’s genes we can work backwards and find out what her parents’s genes were. They were more genetically alike than human parents even though they were not blood relations. Like Neanderthals, it seems Denisovans lacked genetic diversity, probably because they did not leave Africa in huge numbers.

Denisovans split off from our line some 500,000 years ago. By 250,000 years ago they had left Africa and had split off from Neanderthals. They reached their height in numbers 125,000 years ago. By the time humans first saw them they were already dying out.

– Abagond, 2013.

Source: mainly National Geographic (July 2013) and Huffington Post (August 31st 2012).

See also:

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Dear Mr President

470404-01-main-695x900A guest post from commenter Peanut:

Dear Mr President,

“Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of happiness…”

These immortal words from our Declaration of Independence have embodied the hopes, dreams and desires of Americans of all nationalities and backgrounds. However, not everyone has the right to pursue happiness, not everyone has the right to liberty and it has become apparent, that not everyone has the right to life either.

If these inalienable rights were intended for everyone, then why did Trayvon Martin not have the liberty to walk freely in his own neighborhood and why was his life deemed so insignificant that it could be taken without just cause? Many African-American live their entire existence in this country being denied these inalienable rights. African-Americans are incarcerated at unprecedented rates and African-Americans serve longer sentences than white Americans for committing the same criminal offenses. The war on drugs has targeted and decimated African-American communities to such an extent that there are now more African-Americans in prison than there were slaves in the antebellum period.

There are daily racial inequalities that African-Americans encounter every day and we cannot escape them. Both Black men and Black women deal with racism every day. We deal with racism when we’re denied employment on the basis of our skin color, racially profiled by law enforcement, stopped and searched unjustly and portrayed as racist caricatures in the media. Even the crack-cocaine disparity, which the Fair Sentencing Act reduced to 18:1, is still unjust.

As moving as your speech was, it did not address these issues that we face every day and minimized the daily racial inequalities that African-Americans face. Above all, words with no actions can be futile. After the fervor surrounding the Trayvon Martin case has subsided, will race drift to the backburner again? Will African-Americans be forced into silence and oblivion once again?

Mr. President, institutional racism is a real issue.

As an African-American woman, I not only have to worry that racism will inhibit my unborn children’s right to pursue their dreams and happiness, but I worry that their lives will be so expendable to society that they will be taken from me, just as Trayvon Martin was taken from this world.

We are the descendants of slaves. Our ancestors were people whose humanity and dignity was degraded in the worst manner. 150 years later, there are African-Americans who still live in effective bondage within the prison system, especially because many corporations, like Walmart depend on their cheap labor to manufacture products. Our country does not value the lives of African-Americans.

As a president, I am asking you to please take the issue of institutional racism seriously.

I love my country, but I wonder…does my country love me?

Thank you for your time.

 

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Back to Africa

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Americo-Liberian settlements, 1874. Notice Maryland in Africa!

“Back to Africa” (1816- ) is the idea that blacks in America should go back to Africa. Its most famous champion was Marcus Garvey in the 1920s, but in America the idea goes back at least to the founding of the American Colonization Society (ACS) in 1816.

The ACS lasted till 1964. It founded Liberia, sending 13,000 blacks there from the 1820s onwards. Among ACS supporters:

  • White slave owners, who saw free blacks as a threat to slavery, both as possible troublemakers and as living examples that gave lie to the idea that blacks were fit only to be slaves.
  • Ordinary whites, who feared free black labour, who thought America was for whites.
  • Martin Delany and other blacks, who saw America as too racist for blacks ever to have much of a future there.

White abolitionists and most blacks were against the ACS: they saw blacks as having a rightful, equal place in American society. They believed in a multiracial society.

Lincoln stood in between. For most of his life he was against slavery and against letting blacks remain in America. He was an ACS supporter! In 1862 he still believed in ethnic cleansing. But by the time he gave the Gettysburg Address in 1863 he believed in a multiracial society – thanks in part to Frederick Douglass and black soldiers, thanks in part to failed attempts to send blacks to Panama and Haiti.

Possible black homelands:

  • Liberia: Most blacks who went to Liberia were dead within 20 years, particularly from disease. They lacked food. They were settler colonialists at odds with natives, not unlike whites in America or South Africa. They had forgotten most of their African ways, speaking a European language, practising a European religion. Only in time were these Americo-Liberians accepted as Africans.
  • Sierra Leone: The British meanwhile sent freed slaves to neighbouring Sierra Leone. Among them were American blacks who fought on the British side in the American Revolution. They freely mixed with whites and native Africans, giving rise to the Krio culture.
  • Oklahoma: Not in Africa, but for a time there was a push by blacks to make Oklahoma a black state. It had all-black towns, even Black Wall Street….

The desire to go back to Africa grows and weakens with white racism:

  • It was strongest in the 1820s and 1920s after waves of race riots. Marcus Garvey’s message appealed most strongly to blacks of the Great Migration, who found that by moving North they did not escape white racism.
  • It was weakest in the late 1800s and late 1900s when America was moving towards a multiracial society.

But the idea never firmly took root:

  1. Blacks have been in America too long. They have forgotten their old African languages, religions and lands. America is the only home most of them know, a country built on the blood, sweat and tears of their families – in slavery, in war, even in protest.
  2. Black churches teach the brotherhood of mankind. So the main push has always been for an egalitarian, multiracial society within America, not for an ethnic homeland beyond.

See also:

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George Stinney

screen-shot-2011-10-05-at-11-12-02-amGeorge Stinney, Jr (1929-1944), at age 14, was the youngest person in America to be executed since the 1800s. A jury of 12 white men found Stinney, a black boy, guilty of the murder of two white girls, Betty June Binnicker, age 11, and Mary Emma Thames, age 8.

One spring day in 1944 in the mill town of Alcolu, South Carolina, two white girls went to pick flowers down by the railroad tracks that divided the town into black and white.

When they did not return, hundreds went in search of them, black and white, George Stinney among them. They searched deep into the night. They found them the next morning, dead in a ditch, their bicycle on top of them, their heads beat in, apparently by a nearby railroad spike. No sign of rape.

Passiflora-incarnataThe police rounded up black boys, George Stinney among them. Stinney became the main suspect when they found out that he was the last one to see them alive – the white girls had asked him where to find maypops (Passiflora incarnata), a kind of flower.

The police questioned him, without a lawyer (no Miranda rights back then). His parents were not allowed to be present. After an hour he confessed, reportedly after being offered an ice cream cone. The confession was neither written nor signed.

There were no eyewitnesses, no physical evidence. Even for 14 he was small: 5 foot 1 (1.55m) and 90 pounds (40kg). It is physically improbable that he could kill two girls with a railroad spike.

According to the confession, he wanted to have sex with Binnicker, the 11-year-old girl, and killed Thames to be alone with her. Then, when Binnicker refused his advances, he killed her too.

finger prints

A lynch mob arrived at the jail when the news of the confession spread, but Stinney had already been moved to the state capital.

His father was fired at the mill, his family ran out of town.

The murder trial a month later lasted less than three hours. The courthouse was standing room only, no blacks allowed.

Charles Plowden, Stinney’s court-appointed lawyer was a white tax lawyer. Plowden:

  • did not ask for a change of venue;
  • did not cross-examine witnesses;
  • did not call any witnesses;
  • did not appeal.

Plowden’s whole defence was that Stinney was too young to be tried as an adult. Wrong: 14 was old enough according to South Carolina law.

The jury of 12 white men took 10 minutes to find Stinney “guilty with no recommendation for mercy”.

Johnston-Olin-D

Governor Olin D. Johnston

Hundreds wrote to the governor asking for mercy, among them the NAACP, churches and labour unions. One citizen informed him:

Child execution is only for Hitler.

The governor disagreed:

On June 16th 1944, Stinney, carrying a Bible under his arm, walked to the electric chair, just 81 days after his arrest. He was so small they had trouble strapping him in. The mask over his face was too big and fell off in the middle, “revealing his wide-open, tearful eyes and saliva coming from his mouth.” A few minutes later he was dead.

Thanks to Peanut, Thinking Better and Jefe for suggesting this post.

See also:

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Temi DollFace: Pata Pata

Remarks:

By far the best new video I have seen so far in 2013. It does not seem to have charted yet – I saw it on Tumblr. So far it has only 63,831 views on YouTube.

Nigerian British singer Temi DollFace brings together Azonto dancers HomeBrosDuo, Nigerian Pidgin English captions and 1950s American style television ads. But everything is turned on its head: the ads do not promise to help you to get or keep your man, but to get rid of him! Marriage is not about making your husband happy, but the other way round. Words and music are taken in part from 1970s American R&B songs about love that has died: Rose Royce’s “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore” (1978) and George Benson’s “This Masquerade” (1976).

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Obama-hoodie-500x369

On Friday afternoon, July 19th 2013, six days after the verdict of the George Zimmerman murder trial let Trayvon Martin’s killer walk free, President Obama appeared suddenly on television and talked for 17 minutes – the longest he has talked to America about race in five years.

Obama:

You know, when Trayvon Martin was first shot, I said that this could have been my son. Another way of saying that is Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago. And when you think about why, in the African-American community at least, there’s a lot of pain around what happened here, I think it’s important to recognize that the African- American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that – that doesn’t go away.

There are very few African-American men in this country who haven’t had the experience of being followed when they were shopping in a department store. That includes me.

And there are very few African-American men who haven’t had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars. That happens to me, at least before I was a senator. There are very few African-Americans who haven’t had the experience of getting on an elevator and a woman clutching her purse nervously and holding her breath until she had a chance to get off. That happens often.

And you know, I don’t want to exaggerate this, but those sets of experiences inform how the African-American community interprets what happened one night in Florida. And it’s inescapable for people to bring those experiences to bear.

Etc. Wonderful stuff to hear a president say – except that he never says that race played a part in the Zimmerman case, just that the experiences of blacks give them the “sense” that it does.

What to do? Obama’s current thinking:

  • Push better police training by bringing together state and city leaders.
  • Examine Stand Your Ground and other such laws to see if they truly bring more peace and security.
  • Think about how to help black boys, “to give them the sense that their country cares about them and values them and is willing to invest in them”, so that they “feel that they’re a full part of this society.”
  • Talk about race – not at a political level where people quickly get locked into defending positions they already hold, but in families, churches and workplaces where people are possibly a little bit more honest.
  • Question one’s own biases to wring them out.

Nothing about ERPA (racial profiling), the War on Drugs, etc.

“Things are getting better”: America is not post-racial, but:

kids these days I think have more sense than we did back then, and certainly more than our parents did or our grandparents did, and that along this long, difficult journey, you know, we’re becoming a more perfect union – not a perfect union, but a more perfect union.

Last month the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

See also:

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Rachel Jeantel

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Rachel Jeantel, the first day on the stand, June 26th 2013

Rachel Jeantel (1994- ), a friend of Trayvon Martin, was on the phone with him on February 26th 2012 when Martin’s fight with George Zimmerman began. The phone call went dead just a minute before Zimmerman shot him dead. She was one of the main witnesses at the Zimmerman murder trial in 2013.

According to her Martin told her that a “creepy-ass cracka” in a car was watching him and following him. Martin tried to lose him by going by a back way, away from the street. Zimmerman got out of his car and followed. Then:

Martin: (to Jeantel) Oh shit, the nigga is behind me.
Martin: (to Zimmerman) What you following me for?
Zimmerman: (breathing hard) What you doing around here?

*bump*
*wet grass sounds*

Martin: Get off. Get off.

The phone call goes dead. She calls back. No answer.

From the 911 tapes we know that right after that were screams for help cut short by a gun shot.

Race: She says that if Martin were white he would still be alive.

don-west-zimmerman-attorney

Don West, defence lawyer for George ZImmerman

Don West cross-examined her for five and a half hours over two days.

West tried to create doubt about her testimony by comparing it with the other four times she told the story. The main difference is that when she first told it at length she  lied about why she did not go to the Martin’s wake and cleaned up Martin’s words (no “nigga” or “cracka”) – because at the time Martin’s grief-stricken mother was sitting right next to her, tears in her eyes.

A test of wills: Jeantel says West was disrespectful. She was kind of surprised by that, but kept her cool. She thinks West was trying to get her to blow up on the stand so he could paint Martin as angry and violent.

For example:

West: Are you claiming in any way that you don’t understand English?
Jeantel: I don’t understand you, I do understand English.
West: When someone speaks to you in English, do you believe you have any difficulty understanding it because it wasn’t your first language?
Jeantel: I understand English really well.

There is no honest reason to ask that question – not after hours of cross-examination.

Jeantel’s English: After the trial CNN asked one of the jurors:

CNN: Did you find it hard at times to understand what she was saying?
Juror B37: A lot of the times because a lot of the time she was (pause) using phrases I have never heard before, and what they meant.

Juror B37 said Jeantel lacked “communication skills”. In fact, Jeantel speaks three languages. Her English was not the Queen’s English, but it was certainly understandable.

Linguist John McWhorter says she spoke perfect Black English. He says non-blacks over age 50 might have trouble understanding her.

1372464638252.cached

After the testimony was over, West’s daughter Molly posted a picture on the Internet of her eating ice cream cones with her father and sister. Under the picture she wrote:

We beat stupidity celebration cones. … #zimmerman #defense #dadkilledit.

West apologized.

See also:

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Juror B37

juror16n-2-web

Juror B37 was one of the six jurors in the George Zimmerman murder trial. She was one of the white women who was a mother. She gave an interview to CNN. We also have what she said during jury selection.

After the interview four jurors said she speaks only for herself.

She had a book deal, but that fell through after Twitter went nuts over her profiting from another’s death.

Background: B37 has lived for 18 years in Seminole County, the Florida county where the murder took place. She is married to a lawyer in the space industry. She has two daughters but talks more about her animals: three dogs, four cats, a ferret, a couple lizards, a parrot and a crow with a broken wing. Her great passion is saving birds.

She gets all her news from the “Today” show, a morning television news show. She does not trust Internet news. Newspapers are for lining her parrot’s cage.

She knew little about the case. She thought there were riots. She called Trayvon Martin a “boy of colour“.

She said:

You never get all the information. How do you form an opinion if you don’t have all the information?

During the trial, she:

  • Thought one of George Zimmerman’s friends was the medical examiner!
  • Thought it was a Stand Your Ground case!
  • Used testimony the judge told her to disregard.
  • Was extremely confused by the laws she had to apply.

She believed the police: The testimony she was supposed to disregard was when Chris Serino, the lead detective, said he pretty much believed Zimmerman. She said as a policeman Serino has “a knack to pick out who’s lying and who’s not lying.” So she believed Zimmerman too. 

She did not believe Rachel Jeantel, who heard the beginning of the fight, whose testimony is the closest thing we have to Martin’s side of the story. She did however believe Jeantel when she said Martin called Zimmerman a “creepy-ass cracker”. B37:

I don’t think it’s really racial. I think it’s just everyday life, the type of life that they live, and how they’re living, in the environment that they’re living in.

B37 believed:

  1. Zimmerman was not a wannabe cop, just “overeager to help people”.
  2. Zimmerman’s heart was in the right place, but he did not use good judgement and got in over his head.
  3. Zimmerman is Spanish or Puerto Rican.
  4. Zimmerman did not racially profile Martin.
  5. Martin started the fight
  6. Both Martin and Zimmerman could have walked away, therefore:
  7. Martin caused his death.
  8. Zimmerman was the one screaming for his life on the 911 tape, therefore:
  9. Zimmerman feared for his life when he shot the gun.

Therefore Zimmerman acted in self-defence, making him not guilty.

After coming to a verdict she says the jurors cried: they felt something terrible had been done when Zimmerman killed Martin but the law left them no way to make it right.

She felt just as sorry for Zimmerman (alive, wins murder trial) as Martin (dead at 17).

Source: CNN (video), Slate

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Lynching-Lige-Daniels-1920-Texas

The Nadir of American race relations (c. 1890 – c. 1940) was when racism got worse among White Americans after blacks were freed as slaves. This affected not just blacks in America but people of colour everywhere White Americans exercised power. Racism against one made racism against all easier and more likely.

Some features:

  • Jim Crow
  • The Klan
  • lynching
  • racial segregation: black ghettos, sundown towns, Indian reservations, etc.
  • racial segregation as “natural”.
  • scientific racism
  • Social Darwinism
  • eugenics
    • forced sterilization
    • Immigration Act of 1924
  • blacks kicked out of Major League Baseball, the Kentucky Derby, the National Football League.
  • Japanese American internment
  • Mass deportation of Mexican Americans in the 1930s
  • Loss of the black vote
  • Southern white racist ideas of history:
    • John Brown as a madman
    • Lincoln as fighting to save the Union, not to free the slaves
    • Reconstruction as black and Northern white misrule
  • Indian boarding schools
  • Black Brute stereotype
  • Ideas about intelligence as hereditary, fixed, measurable by IQ tests and different by race
  • white man’s burden (white imperialism)
  • The Nadir itself as unnamed and unseen.

Back in the 1850s abolitionists had persuaded most white Northerners that slavery was wrong. In the early 1860s they fought and died in the Civil War to free the slaves. President Lincoln made that crystal clear in the Gettysburg Address. That generation of white Northerners was anti-racist enough to:

  • pass and uphold laws that gave blacks equal rights,
  • overturn state laws against mixed-race marriage,
  • play professional sports with blacks,
  • allow blacks into their neighbourhoods and schools,
  • set up black schools in the South.

By the 1890s those whites were mostly dead and gone.

Meanwhile:

  • gold was to be had by taking Native American land;
  • white votes were to be had by giving immigrant whites advantages over blacks;
  • brown countries were to be had for the taking, like Hawaii, the Philippines, Puerto Rico and Cuba.

In short, power and wealth were to be had by not respecting the rights of people of colour. Racism excused these actions, which led in turn to more racist actions, which led to more racism and so on in a downward racist spiral.

What broke the spiral? Hitler. He took Nadir racism to its logical, terrible conclusions. He wiped out millions of Jews. By that time in America Jews were already white enough for that to seem shocking.

The weakening of Nadir racism was helped by:

  • the breakup of French and British colonial empires,
  • the Cold War, where America positioned itself as a champion of democracy,
  • Truman desegregating the army,
  • the Supreme Court desegregating schools,
  • blacks getting the vote back.

This created an upward anti-racist spiral.

A new nadir? I first heard about the Nadir – the idea of it but not the name – in the 1980s when some were saying President Reagan was sending America into a new racist nadir. Events since then seem to bear that out:

Source: mostly James W. Loewen, “Teaching What Really Happened” (2010). 

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Trayvon-Martin-killed1

To some Americans Trayvon Martin looks like a dangerous person, even in this picture.

What did race have to do with the George Zimmerman case in America? George Zimmerman, a half-white, half-Latino man who gets a bloody nose and a few scratches on his head, shoots dead Trayvon Martin, an unarmed, 17-year-old black boy, calls it self-defence and is found “not guilty” of both murder and manslaughter by a nearly all-white court. How could that possibly be racist? I mean, it is not like Zimmerman used the N-word. It was a fair trial! Besides, the president is black!

Here are some ways:

  1. Black life was assumed not to matter much. In effect, a bloody nose and a few scratches on the head of a man who is half-white mattered more than the life of a 17-year-old black boy. It was not just Zimmerman who thought that, so did the police, who did not think the killing was a big deal. So did the prosecution, who pretty much just went through the motions – they did not even properly prepare their witnesses.
  2. The Black Brute stereotype – the idea that black men rape and kill for no reason, that they have “violent tendencies”, “criminal propensities”, as if huge numbers of them are savage psychopaths or something. It is why white women clutch their purses, why whites cross the street – because, apparently, black men only tug at purses gently, cannot cross the street and never go after those who show fear. This stereotype ran throughout the case:
    • Zimmerman racially profiled Martin. As a neighbourhood watchman, Zimmerman only reported black males as “suspicious”. Martin was one of them, even though it was only seven at night and he was minding his own business walking back from 7-Eleven. It was not like Martin was breaking into a house or a car or beating up someone.
    • The police assumed Martin was the bad guy. Instead of giving Zimmerman a drug test and holding him for 48 hours while they sorted out what took place, the police let him go to work the next day! They believed his story just on his say-so – in part because it fit the Black Brute stereotype perfectly: some black guy jumped out at him in the dark and tried to kill him. For no reason. Because, apparently, black men are like mad dogs.
    • The prosecution lawyers never seriously questioned the main hole in Zimmerman’s story: Why in the world would Trayvon Martin want to kill George Zimmerman? Martin did not know Zimmerman. Zimmerman says he did not threaten him. Martin had no record of violence or insanity. The Black Brute stereotype is the spit holding this story together.
    • The defence lawyers painted Martin as a dangerous thug, based not on a police record or record of violence, but on how he looked! How was that possible?
    • The jury was packed with white women. We do not know what their thinking was. Maybe they were not racist at all. But the defence certainly assumed they were, playing on their purse-clutching fears of black men!

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George Zimmerman soon after the jury’s verdict was read

On July 13th 2013 in America, George Zimmerman was found “not guilty” of both murder and manslaughter in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman, a neighbourhood watchman in Sanford, Florida, shot Martin dead on the night of February 26th 2012. Martin was 17, black and unarmed. Zimmerman got a bloody nose and some scratches on his head and said it was self-defence.

Zimmerman, the son of a White American judge and a Peruvian American law clerk, was found not guilty by a jury of five white women and one mixed-race woman. It took them 16 hours and 20 minutes to come to a decision. From questions they asked the judge, it seems they were unsure whether the shooting was manslaughter or self-defence.

The defence lawyers who defended Zimmerman were happy, smiling, making jokes, ha-ha. They thought it was terrible that Zimmerman should have even been tried. They blamed the press for making Zimmerman into a “monster”, for making his life a living hell.

The prosecution lawyers, who lost the case, seemed happy that it was over. One was smiling. Another said that America has the best justice system in the world.

Geraldo Rivera on Fox News said the case should have never been tried, that Zimmerman was right to be suspicious of Martin, who was going home from 7-Eleven at seven at night armed with a bag of Skittles and Arizona Iced Tea. Oh, right, and the sidewalk.

Meanwhile Melissa Harris-Perry on MSNBC looked ashen. All the regular cheer had drained from her face. Her words followed each other like bits of glass.

On Twitter was anger and sadness and bitterness, at least among those I follow.

It seemed like every white person was saying, “Race had nothing to do with it!” and “The jury has decided!”

And it seemed like every black person was turning his clock back to 1955. Post-racial was dead for good – if it was ever alive.

I have warned my sons long ago about the police. But what do I tell them (and myself) now about white men?

Black people in America are alone. Completely. All. Alone. The term “Black American” or “African American” is no longer a description but a cruel joke. Not “American” but, at best, “historically American”, meaning that America has been where they have lived for the past 395 years, but not home. Like how Trayvon was not home. Home free.

I thought Zimmerman would get off. I am on record on this blog saying that. So it came as no shock, no surprise. But still my bitterness got a little bit deeper. Just as it did after Troy Davis, after Katrina – and on and on all the way back to Eleanor Bumpurs, an old, unarmed black woman shot dead by the police in Harlem nearly 30 years ago. Each one a little knife in my heart, twisting, twisting, twisting. By twisted people.

I know, I know, this is supposed to be a Teaching Moment About Race. Fuck teaching moments. Fuck that.

emmett-till-and-trayvon-martin

Emmett Till and Trayvon Martin

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