The media assassination of Trayvon
reports on the outrageous attempts by some in the media to suggest that murdered Black teenager Trayvon Martin may have “had it coming.”
March 29, 2012
"THEY’VE KILLED my son. Now they want to kill his reputation."
That was how Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin, responded this week to a sudden flood of news reports and commentaries that—incredibly enough—attempted to smear the memory of her dead son.
Anyone with any compassion or sanity had to ask: What kind of person could read the reports of Trayvon’s death and somehow conclude—or even entertain the idea—that the unarmed 17-year-old might have “had it coming”?
The answer, unfortunately, is “too many”—from outright racists to members of the media and politicians.
First, there were the reports that tried to portray Trayvon’s killer—George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer who first stalked and then shot the Skittles-carrying teen—in a positive light. An Orlando Sentinel report , for example, relying on anonymous and police sources, began this way:
With a single punch, Trayvon Martin decked the Neighborhood Watch volunteer who eventually shot and killed the unarmed 17-year-old, then Trayvon climbed on top of George Zimmerman and slammed his head into the sidewalk, leaving him bloody and battered, law-enforcement authorities told the Orlando Sentinel.
That is the account Zimmerman gave police, and much of it has been corroborated by witnesses, authorities say.
Which authorities exactly? The same ones who failed to arrest Zimmerman in the first place? And who have subsequently become symbols of a racist injustice system because of their negligence?
And which witnesses? Certainly not the ones who told CBS News  “that police who interviewed them ‘corrected’ their testimony, with officers telling the witnesses that it was Zimmerman, not Martin, who was being attacked and crying out for help.”
Most people would figure the word of those “authorities” and “witnesses,” if they exist, shouldn’t count for much these days. But not the Sentinel, which went on to proclaim that Trayvon had been visiting his father’s fiancée in Sanford because “[h]e had been suspended from school in Miami after being found with an empty marijuana baggie. Miami schools have a zero-tolerance policy for drug possession.”
The Sentinel didn’t bother explaining how having an “empty marijuana baggie” would lead to suspension for “drug possession” (don’t you need to possess drugs to be guilty of drug possession?). Nor did the paper explain how it determined the purpose of the alleged empty baggie.
But if the Sentinel had bothered to investigate, one of its reporters would have found national data showing that Black students—especially Black male youth, face much higher suspension rates in public schools across the U.S. than do white students.
According to a report in the New York Times earlier this month :
Although Black students made up only 18 percent of those enrolled in the schools sampled, they accounted for 35 percent of those suspended once, 46 percent of those suspended more than once, and 39 percent of all expulsions, according to the Civil Rights Data Collection’s 2009-10 statistics from 72,000 schools in 7,000 districts, serving about 85 percent of the nation’s students. The data covered students from kindergarten age through high school.
One in five Black boys and more than one in 10 Black girls received an out-of-school suspension. Overall, black students were three-and-a-half times as likely to be suspended or expelled than their white peers.
There are two possible explanations for this. One is that Black students commit three-and-a-half times more “suspendable” offenses than white students. That’s the explanation the Sentinel would have you believe.
But the real explanation is that such statistics are the product of a racist society—in which Black children, teens and adults are the victims of systematic inequality, and targeted for violence by a criminal injustice system that treats them far more harshly than whites…
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