Playing the race card again
The comfortable way is to blame Trayvon Martin's death on 'the system,' and 'the system' is a white thing

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Article Highlights

  • Obama, who promised a new conversation on race, seems happier in an election year to lend heft to the old one

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  • Black males age 14 to 24 commit homicides 10 times more than that of young white and Latino males combined

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  • People begging for an honest conversation on race will likely accuse you of racism for saying so

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"White Hispanic." That's how the New York Times, Reuters and other media outlets have opted to describe George Zimmerman, a man who would simply be Hispanic (or Latino in this newspaper) if he hadn't shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. The term, rarely if ever used before this tragedy, is necessary in telling the Martin story in a more comfortable way.

What's the comfortable way? It's the way the blame for Martin's death belongs squarely at the feet of "the system." And "the system" is a white thing, don't you know.

For instance, in a remarkably uncritical interview with The Times, Jesse Jackson explained that with the election of President Obama, "there was this feeling that we were kind of beyond racism." He continued: "That's not true. His victory has triggered tremendous backlash." Indeed, "Blacks are under attack."

"No doubt, white — and 'white Hispanic' — prejudice is a problem for young black men, but the notion that it is the singular or chief 'burden of black boys in America' is nonsense." - Jonah GoldbergJackson apparently includes in this racist Obama "backlash" record home foreclosures for African Americans and black unemployment. It would have been nice if The Times had asked Jackson to work a little harder to connect those dots.

Jackson also laments that "targeting, arresting, convicting blacks and ultimately killing us is big business" in America.

On the saner end of the liberal spectrum, Reniqua Allen of the New America Foundation writes in the Washington Post that it's harder to talk about race now that we have a black president (note: not a "white African American president," a la the new Zimmerman standard, although both men have a white parent).

Allen is surely right that having a black president makes it hard to talk about race, particularly if you want to have the hackneyed monologue hustlers such as Jackson and the Rev. Al Sharpton want to have. Weak-tea Marxist rants about a system that parasitically feeds off black men sound absurdly antiquated when that system is run, at the top, by black men (Eric H. Holder Jr., let's not forget, runs the Justice Department).

But the aging race industry that continues to see the world through a half-century-old prism of Jim Crow, and still wants you to see it that way too, is determined to bum-rush Zimmerman into his assigned role, heedless of facts or the lack of them.

Meanwhile, Obama, who promised a new conversation on race, seems happier in an election year to lend heft to the old one. He called for soul-searching — but absent a full set of facts, why does this homicide of all U.S. homicides require it? Obama's comments mostly seem aimed at adding credence to liberal conventional wisdom.

Zimmerman may well deserve to go to jail. Or this may just be a confluence of horrible mistakes with no criminal intent whatsoever. That's what a Justice Department probe and a Florida grand jury will determine. But for the forces demanding action, that isn't good enough. Jackson threatens there will be "no peace" until Zimmerman is arrested.

Others are not so patient. The New Black Panther Party has put a $10,000 bounty on Zimmerman's head. "He should be fearful for his life," leader Mikhail Muhammad said. "You can't keep killing black children." Spike Lee joined the digital lynch mob and tweeted Zimmerman's home address.

Yes, absolutely, there are pockets of racism in America. But among the myriad problems with a "blame the system" narrative is that it obscures and often silences far greater problems than white on black racist violence.

Martin's tragic death is a statistical outlier. More whites are killed by blacks than blacks killed by whites (or "white Hispanics"). And far, far more blacks are killed by other blacks. Indeed, if we're going to use the prism of race to analyze murder rates, then the real epidemic is that of black murderers. Heather Mac Donald of the Manhattan Institute notes that recent data show black males age 14 to 24 commit homicides at a rate nearly 10 times higher than that of young white and Latino males combined.

And yet, New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow says "the burden of black boys in America" is fear of racist assaults. MSNBC has handed over vast swaths of airtime to its in-house huckster, Sharpton.

No doubt, white — and "white Hispanic" — prejudice is a problem for young black men, but the notion that it is the singular or chief "burden of black boys in America" is nonsense. Alas, the very people begging for an honest conversation on race will likely accuse you of racism for saying so.

Jonah Goldberg is a fellow at AEI.

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About the Author

 

Jonah
Goldberg

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    A bestselling author and columnist, Jonah Goldberg's nationally syndicated column appears regularly in scores of newspapers across the United States. He is also a columnist for the Los Angeles Times, a member of the board of contributors to USA Today, a contributor to Fox News, a contributing editor to National Review, and the founding editor of National Review Online. He was named by the Atlantic magazine as one of the top 50 political commentators in America. In 2011 he was named the Robert J. Novak Journalist of the Year at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). He has written on politics, media, and culture for a wide variety of publications and has appeared on numerous television and radio programs. Prior to joining National Review, he was a founding producer for Think Tank with Ben Wattenberg on PBS and wrote and produced several other PBS documentaries. He is the recipient of the prestigious Lowell Thomas Award. He is the author of two New York Times bestsellers, The Tyranny of Clichés (Sentinel HC, 2012) and Liberal Fascism (Doubleday, 2008).  At AEI, Mr. Goldberg writes about political and cultural issues for American.com and the Enterprise Blog.

    Follow Jonah Goldberg on Twitter.


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