Perhaps the only thing positive about the mass media’s obsession with the killing of Trayvon Martin has been the quasi national dialog on race and racism in the U.S. Quasi, unfortunately, because most of the time the political left and political right seems to be talking past each other.
I went to high school in Georgia and even though I’m clearly a progressive liberal, I know a lot of folks on the political right. One of my high school friends recently sent me a link to a video clip of Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly commenting on some recent criminal cases and comparing them to the pervasive media coverage of the Trayvon Martin case.
O’Reilly begins his segment by stating, “The issue that is really dividing the country, that is the subject tonight…whether it’s Obamacare, the food-stamps explosion, the punishment of convicts, or a myriad of other social issues, the big chasm amongst Americans is between (those like me) who believe in personal responsibility and self-reliance and those who don’t want to take care of themselves and want the federal government and support a … (nanny state)”.
Of course O’Reilly would never admit that what is really dividing this country is the constant rhetoric from both the leftwing and rightwing meant to, distort, demonize, and damage all those that disagree with them, let alone something as scary to comprehend and admit like institutional and systematic discrimination.
With O’Reilly’s false portrayal of liberals as a segment of society that doesn’t support “personal responsibility and self-reliance”, he clearly meant to demonize those that don’t agree with him and his loyal viewers. Ironically, the “Individual Mandate” in Obamacare was actually written by Republicans advocating personal responsibility. Yet, the rightwing now opposes personal responsibility when it comes to Obamacare.
O’Reilly goes on to talk about a couple of recent criminal cases in the news committed by black youths as examples of the mainstream media’s complicity in covering-up the real story (at least has he sees it).
The first example was of 14 year old Shaaliver Douse who was shot and killed at 3 AM on August 4, 2013. Douse was allegedly involved in a shooting spree include at least three rounds directed toward the police. O’Reilly points out that Douse was a troubled youth from a broken family. He then goes on to blame Douse’s parents for leading their son into the circumstances that ended this poor boy’s life. Then, O’Reilly essentially blames liberals and the liberal media for not wanting to talk about this.
O’Reilly goes on to provide a second example, quote: “Last month, in Gulfport Florida, three black kids, all 15 years old, attacked a 13 year old white boy on a bus, beat a white boy on a school bus.” O’Reilly then showed a clip of the boys ruthlessly attacking the young victim as the bus driver is overheard pleading with the police dispatcher to come quickly and to the boys, “leave the boy alone” and shouting, “You know you’re all going to jail, y’all going to jail”.,
O’Reilly then cuts back in and states, “The victim had a broken arm, multiple other injuries. The attackers were charged with aggravated battery and likely face an adult court. Few national media even covered the story because it was blacks attacking a white. In the wake of Trayvon Martin, if it had been three white boys attacking a black there would have been massive media coverage. So why the double standard? The politically correct and cowardly media is the answer to that question.”
So, in this segment of O’Reilly’s “Talking Points”, we see Bill making a comparison between the media coverage of the Trayvon Martin case with this most recent Gulfport school bus beating. O’Reilly’s contention is that if this was a white on black beating the media would be all over the story. However, because it was a black on white beating the story didn’t meet the liberal narrative and therefore it was not worth the mainstream media covering it.
However, there are a number of problems with this assertion. In fact, O’Reilly himself undermines his own thesis with the follow-up statement, “By the way, no fair minded person, no fair minded person should believe that most black persons want to hurt whites, they don’t. That bus attack was about three thugs beating-up a kid who objected to their behavior. There is no evidence the crime was any more than that”.
You see, the bus beating was all about three teenagers retaliating against a thirteen year old boy who “objected to their behavior. There is no evidence the crime was any more than that.” There is no evidence of race being a factor in the school bus beating.
In comparison, In the case of the killing of Trayvon Martin there was a hell of a lot more to the crime than a retaliatory beating by a group of teenage boys. In the case of the Gulfport school bus assault, the boys were taken from the bus and immediately arrested. In the case of the Gulfport school bus assault the fifteen year old kids are likely to face adult courts.
In the case of George Zimmerman, Trayvon Martin’s killer, the police let Zimmerman walk free. Zimmerman had only been arrested after the Governor stepped in and took the case out of local jurisdiction and only after receiving an immense amount of political pressure that grew out of a grassroots movement for justice. In the killing of Trayvon Martin, affidavits and other court documents referred to Zimmerman’s “racial profiling” and generally “profiling” Martin.
In the killing of Trayon Martin, Zimmerman (a twenty-nine year old adult) was armed, disobeyed police instructions, and stalked Martin (a fifteen year old unarmed youth) before ultimately confronting the child and killing him. In the Trayvon Martin case, the killer walked free and at least one juror claims “Zimmerman got away with murder”. In the Trayvon Martin case, Zimmerman is still under federal investigation for violating Martin’s civil rights.
O’Reilly conveniently fails to point-out that in his first two examples race had nothing to do with the crimes. O’Reilly claims, “Few national media even covered the story because it was blacks attacking a white. In the wake of Trayvon Martin, if it had been three white boys attacking a black there would have been massive media coverage.”
In O’Reilly’s first example, given the circumstances, had Douse been a white boy killed by two black police officers after shooting at them, I seriously doubt the news coverage would be anything more than another tragic local NYC gun violence story. Certainly the Douse shooting is not a story of national importance, like the Trayvon Martin Killing.
O’Reilly’s second example might be a different story if the three white kids (in Bill’s hypothetical reverse race scenario) hurled racial slurs and were acting out of racial animus. However, Bill debunks his own thesis when he admits there is no evidence the school bus beating was anything more than a retaliatory attack.
O’Reilly claims the national media ignored the Douse and Gulfport school bus events because, unlike the Martin killing, their stories didn’t meet liberal press narrative. Never mind the fact that the national media didn’t cover the Douse and Gulfport school bus events because neither of the events were racially charged criminal acts. In addition, in both cases the perpetrators did not walk away scot-free. O’Reilly never seems to mention these giant, uber, most important facts. I wonder why? Perhaps the racist element in Trayvon Martin’s story didn’t fit into O’Reilly’s narrative?
O’Reilly suggests the roots to all these criminal stories (plus Obamacare, food stamps, and myriad of other social issues) is the lack of personal responsibility, self-determination, a love for the nanny state, and the “destruction of the traditional family”.
O’Reilly intentionally distorts the beliefs of those he disagrees with in a most egregious manner. Most liberals believe in a balance of both personal responsibility and social responsibility.
O’Reilly wants to skip over the issue of race in the Martin killing because if Americans took a close look at our society they would find institutional and/or systemic racism in housing, employment, education, voting rights, and a myriad of other public and private institutions. But perhaps most significantly the U.S. has yet to deal with the institutional racism in our criminal justice system.
If O’Reilly were a responsible and honest commentator, he would not only talk about personal responsibility but also talk about the systematic injustice people of color are routinely subjected to. Studies have shown, with all things equal, if you are black you are more likely to be arrested after being stopped by the police for a minor criminal offense. If you are black, you are also more likely to be convicted and receive a much harsher sentences than your white peers. In addition, recently a U.S. District Judge ruled New York City’s “Stop and Frisk” police policy was unconstitutional and an “indirect form of racial profiling”. Even the U.S. Supreme Court, in their incredibly short-sighted ruling overturning part of the Civil Rights Act stated systematic racial discrimination still exists in the U.S.
O’Reilly irresponsibly wants to paint all of America’s problems on a lack of personal responsibility. He intentionally leaves out the mountain of data that actually paints a very bleak picture of widespread racial discrimination that still exists in nearly every corner of our society. O’Reilly claims he wants to talk about the roots of the problem and what divides our nation. He wants to talk about the personal responsibilities of an individual without considering the historical context or social conditions which makes a person who they are and the circumstances they may find themselves in.
Like in the Douse and Gulfport school bus case, O’Reilly’s analysis proves simplistic, inaccurate, and downright misleading.
Further suggested reading and a source for the “mountain of data” on this subject read, The New Jim Crow by Michele Alexander. Here is a link to the introduction to the book.