One of the consequences of a rush to judgement is making a total donkey out of oneself. A very large number of people in this country heard of the Trayvon Martin shooting from the media and got outraged. And what is there not to be outraged about: a black teenager carrying a bag of Skittles and a bottle of iced tea for his little brother was shot and killed by George Zimmerman, an overzealous white neighborhood watchman. When the demagogues from the Black Panthers to Barack Obama whipped up the crowd, mass rallies ensured demanding “justice for Trayvon”. I want justice for Trayvon too, and justice means weighing the evidence.
One disturbing element of the rallies was presence of kids, often in the front rows, with signs that drew a comparison between the slayed teen and the often much younger sign holder.
I get impression that the kids were told that they could be easily shot just for being black. Which is a horrible thing to teach them because the great majority of white Americans pose no threat to black children. I suspect that the kids have to know that they are unlikely to share Trayvon’s horrible fate because they have never met anyone who was killed by a “white Hispanic” neighborhood watch captain. In fact, white on black (and black on white) crime is rare.
Although I don’t believe children belong at political rallies, I respect parents who think otherwise. Parents might want to teach their sons and daughters about political activism or may simply end up taking their children along because they don’t have alternative childcare arrangements. Staged pictures of kids posted online to further a political goal is something quite different. The internet is teeming with photographs of tykes holding up Trayvon-related signage:
Another example of the meme:
Hey, kids support Trayvon too! The internet says so. If the quality of pictures above does not satisfy the audience, how about a professional take?
Major media noted the result:
Not quite the Odessa Steps scene from Battleship Potemkin, but still can squeeze a tear or two from a voter.
The rationale for the kids-in-hoodies trend is to make a point that the late Mr. Martin, whose childhood pictures are used to illustrate the mainstream media stories was a minor. These representations obscure the fact that Trayvon was not a baby or a child; he was a teenager, which puts him in a different category completely.
How about this collection of Trayvons?
Now for a family family of white (possibly a “white Hispanic” baby) Trayvon wanna-bees:
Why would any parent want to give her child “I am Trayvon” sign is beyond me. My heart grows cold when I think that my son might grow up to be like the late Florida teen. Unlike the candy and non-alcoholic beverage kid we met in the media accounts, the real Trayvon was suspended from school for smoking marijuana — not exactly an extraordinary occurrence, but not a portrait of innocence either. Trayvon’s school trouble doesn’t end there; a bag of woman’s jewelry and a screwdriver were found in his school bag and passed on to the police.
His twitter accounts exhibit teenage bravado, giving us a glimpse at behavior that probably doomed him at the end. Police videotape shows Zimmerman’s scared head, corroborating the shooter’s account of the scuffle. I gather from the emerging evidence that the young man’s behavior had something to do with his tragic death. I don’t expect my kids’ teenage years to be easy, but dear G-d, please not let them be Trayvon.
I find myself amazed by the grown ups who use Trayvon’s untimely end to get their own 15 minutes:
Something smug about her.
There is no justice in teaching kids to identify with a delinquent youth; it will not help us avoid future violent deaths:
The parents in picture above said:
We dress our children in hoodies because we want them to grow up to share the burden we feel. [Italics are mine, -ed.]
You mean it wasn’t the kids’ idea? Nothing wrong with teaching kids one’s values, even if parents are misinformed, but making a display of it is exploitative. If parents get the story wrong it’s also counterproductive.
UPDATE 3/29/2012: An insightful post at Other McCain, particularly:
My bedtime reading lately has been The Future Once Happened Here, Fred Siegel’s brilliant account of how liberal social policy destroyed America’s cities. Siegel’s book was a major resource for Chapter 8 of Donkey Cons, and is full of insights on the development of our contemporary attitudes about poverty, race and crime. On page 58 of his book, Siegel writes about “a cultural shift” that occurred in the 1960s:
“[O]lder ideas about shame were starting to be replaced by a new concern for self-esteem. Christopher Lasch wrote that formerly “shame was the fate of those whose conduct fell short of cherished ideals.” But in the 1960s, the new age of moral deregulation and therapeutic ethics, shame came to refer to whatever prevents us from feeling good about ourselves.”
Am I the only one who sees the Trayvon Martin carnival in this context? Liberals have turned the case into a sort of public festival, a self-congratulatory celebration of their own moral superiority. And they have arranged the symbolic elements of the narrative so that to criticize them — the shameless media moralizers — is to become implicated in George Zimmerman’s presumed guilt.
They are using the corpse of Trayvon Martin as a human shield to conceal their ideological agenda and protect themselves against criticism.
A shift from shame to self-esteem occurred primarily in middle class families, the kind that can be seen parading their white children in hoodies holding up “I am Trayvon” signs. They are the ones who use Trayvon’s death as a “public festival” of their “moral superiority”. They also teach their own kids to avoid unnecessary violent confrontations. Their culture is run on guilt.
Trayvon Martin, on the other hand, is a product of a different environment. His tweets offer a clue:
F*** a b***. Any b***. who you want? take yo pick. but you gone have to take yo time.
Lol so Daisha think she a boss cause she walked in class late 2day. …. I do dat everyday
He’s very much full of pride, only he’s proud of something that should be a source of shame. It’s probably his misguided pride that eventually led him into the confrontation with George Zimmerman. How subversive it is that sanctimonious white families stoke the fire of wounded pride in black children! They are working to make sure that countless young black men will lose their lives — to other blacks, to Hispanics, to whites or anyone else, really.