Florida neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in late February. If my former Washington Post colleague “Simeon Booker” (Friday, March 23 column) were still alive, the country’s ears would have pricked up right away.
National media didn’t pick up the story until a month later. The reason may be explained in reactions from Glenn Beck and Geraldo Rivera; the first said the boy assaulted his shooter. Fox News commentator Gerald Rivera blamed the fact that Trayvon was wearing a “hoodie,” which prompted hoots of derision all around. It was only Friday when President Barack Obama made a comment about the “tragedy;” the GOP presidential hopefuls for the Oval Office fell into line quickly.
There seemed to be widespread confusion in America’s deep-dyed conservatives, afraid to provide the Rev. Al Sharpton with a cause to champion. There sprung up last week all sorts of rumors to counter the brutal slaying, mainly concentrating on Mr. Zimmerman’s alleged innocence. Right-wing media produced an “eyewitness” that backed up Mr. Beck’s assertion.
Still the community’s Police Chief Bill Lee, Jr., received a vote of no-confidence from the mayor and two members of the city council; the other two seemingly dissented primarily on the basis of Florida’s Stand Your Ground law. The post-9/11 legislation holds a shooter not guilty when he feels threatened – one of the National Rifle Association’s proudest achievements. It twists the Second Amendment beyond recognition.
The county’s state attorney withdrew under great pressure because of his interpretation that held there was no need for an investigation, which provided the basis for cries of “lack of justice.” An on-line petition in the case has attracted millions of supporters since Friday, spurred on by the Mr. Beck’s and Mr. Rivera’s claims.
The story seems to provide proof that America’s modern conservatives display paranoia down-the-line. While they attack the administration’s stance on birth control, as bias toward several faiths, they back religions that circumscribe rights awarded under the Constitution, which clearly states the differences between the state and the church authority and domain.
It’s fascinating to speculate how much elections this year figure into the Trayvon Martin tragedy. We’ll never know what politicians agreed with the president simply for votes, gandy-dancing between Mr. Zimmerman’s Latinos and Trayvon’s fellow African Americans – rather than writing-off what happened to the 17-year-old as a distraction, seriously but no more than a distraction that pits American blacks against native-born whites.
Only when I settled down to write my former colleague’s fate, did I uncover things that made Simeon Booker’s employment at The Washington Post untenable. I knew generally before, but not the details: the single toilet and drinking fountain. Of course, that was in 1953, the year before the Supreme Court handed down the unanimous decision (9-0) that separate is inherently unequal. The Civil Rights movement followed and American society turned upside down.
But not in all the nation’s corners, obviously not in Florida and across my native South. Bigotry lingers, including Maryland.