Spearheaded by Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, the massive, escalating protests over Trayvon Martin’s February 26th death in Florida—protests featuring desperate pleas to “stop the killing of our children”—continue to rivet the nation’s collective attention. By contrast, the death of 63-year-old Tommie Lee Caldwell a few weeks earlier created no such stir. One morning this past December, Caldwell, an African American who was caring for his terminally ill wife, was stabbed and then shot in the back of the head by an intruder inside his Detroit home. If you’re like most people, you’ve never heard of Mr. Caldwell prior to this moment. His murderer was black—not a “white Hispanic” like George Zimmerman—so the guardians of “civil rights,” like Jackson and Sharpton, were spared the trouble, at least in that instance, of having to gin up a national referendum on America’s unyielding, ubiquitous racism.
The “civil rights” crowd was likewise silent two months ago when a 19-year-old African American named Joshua Brown—angered over a dispute with a black Detroit woman named Almanda Talton—shot and killed the woman’s 12-year old daughter, Kade’jah Davis, a sixth-grade honor student. No doubt, that youngster’s name is unfamiliar to you as well. Neither is it likely that you’ve heard of Eyanna Flonory or her 2-year-old son Amani, both of whom were murdered, along with two other black victims, by a pair of black gunmen in Boston. Nor is it conceivable that many readers could name any of the ten people who were killed (or the forty who were wounded) by gang violence in Chicago during the recent St. Patrick’s Day weekend—or, for that matter, the two who were killed (in addition to the twelve who were wounded) by a spray of gunfire in south Florida just this past Friday.
In stark contrast to the Trayvon Martin killing, none of the horrors that befell the aforementioned black victims prompted anything even remotely resembling a media sensation. No massive rallies were held in memory of the dead. Jesse Jackson did not lament that “blacks are under attack”; that “killing us is big business”; and that few people really understand “just how hard it is to be black in America.” Luminaries like Carmelo Anthony, Lebron James, P. Diddy, Jamie Foxx, and Arsenio Hall did not tweet expressions of outrage to their millions of “followers.” Celebrities like Spike Lee and Roseanne Barr did not use their respective Twitter accounts to publicly post the home address of any of the perpetrators. Entertainers like Chaka Khan did not produce any music videos in honor of the slain. And the president of the United States did not feel compelled, as he did in the wake of Trayvon Martin’s death, to urge all Americans “to do some soul-searching to figure out how does something like this happen.”
Something like what, exactly? Presumably the president was referring to the popularly accepted cartoon version of the Zimmerman-Martin confrontation, a narrative that essentially went like this: A racist, aggressive white vigilante (later identified as a “white Hispanic”) relentlessly “hunted down,” as Florida Congresswoman Federica Wilson explained it, an unarmed “sweet young boy … like a dog” and mercilessly executed the child because his black skin and the hooded sweatshirt (“hoodie”) he was wearing gave him the appearance of being a potential criminal who “didn’t belong” in the gunman’s neighborhood. In short, a deadly brew of racial profiling on the one hand, and “walking while black” on the other, had claimed yet another innocent black victim.
It is reasonable to assume that Congresswoman Wilson, like Jackson and Sharpton, is genuinely troubled by the enormous number of African American lives that are prematurely snuffed out in acts of senseless violence each year. Homicide is, after all, the leading cause of death for black males aged 10-24, and the second leading cause of death for black females aged 15-24; African Americans as a whole are six times as likely as whites to die at the hands of a murderer, and young black men in particular are fully fifteen times as likely to be murdered as their white male counterparts. These are tragedies of inexpressible magnitude.
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