Trayvon Martin case: sparks of racial violence appear
Police report isolated incidents of blacks attacking whites in the name of 'justice for Trayvon Martin.' The incidents are rare, but they indicate frustrations in the African-American community.
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Yet some observers question whether the story really has anything to do with race. That narrative has become complicated as more is known about Mr. Zimmerman, who mentored black children and whose Peruvian mother has black ancestry.Skip to next paragraph
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Many black leaders as well as news directors at mainstream media organizations “don’t see that you can’t just stir [race] up when it’s convenient and then turn it off when it’s not,” says Carol Swain, a law professor and race relations expert at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. “Once young people get worked up to where they’re committing acts of violence, you can’t turn it off like a switch.”
Professor Swain does not spare the president from her comments. His statement that “If I had a son, he would have looked like Trayvon” came off to many as a hearfelt and direct plea, but it immediately began polarizing whites and blacks along racial lines, she says. Since, some prominent blacks, including Bill Cosby, have said the case isn’t at its core about race, but about gun laws.
“There should be some accountability,” she adds. “The leaders who fanned the flames of racism should be out there directly denouncing the … attacks being taken in the name of Trayvon Martin.”
To be sure, Mr. Obama is in a difficult spot. As the nation's first black president, he has several times been compelled to speak out on racial issues, only to be berated by conservatives for bringing issue to the light.
“It’s not [Obama], it’s us,” write Andrew Romano and Allison Samuels in Newsweek. “Despite the powerful symbolism of Obama’s election, blacks and whites are still living in two different worlds,” a fact epitomized by differing reactions to the Trayvon Martin case.
Whether he has contributed to the polarized atmosphere or not, Obama – by his presence in the White House – is “pushing all of this racial misunderstanding out onto the political playing field, where it’s amplified and distorted by the polarizing forces of partisanship.”
Meanwhile, reports of Trayvon-related violence are now getting the attention of federal authorities. The beating in Mobile is now being investigated by the FBI, which will look for evidence of a hate crime. Police say the white man, Matthew Owens, was attacked after he wielded kitchen knives to chase away several youths from his sister’s yard.
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