In an earlier column at this site titled, “Behaving Badly in the Trayvon Martin Case,” I called the media to account for covering the tragedy in a way sure to stir the embers of racial discord and possibly even incite racial violence. Now it has happened. According to WKRG Television in Mobile, Alabama, Matthew Owens of Delmar Drive in Mobile was beaten on his front porch by a mob of 20 blacks who were angry at Owens for telling their children to shut down a game of street basketball near his house at 8:30pm on a Saturday night.
The mob’s retribution against Owens was apparently the culmination of a situation that had been brewing for a while over kids blocking the street and making noise while playing street basketball. But apparently there was more to the mob beating than just basketball. According to an eye witness to the attack, as the mob dispersed one of the assailants said, “Now that’s justice for Trayvon.” This comment raises an important and disturbing question: If the media had not aided and abetted in transforming the Trayvon Martin case into a racial powder keg, would a group of angry black parents have transformed themselves into a violent mob that came close to killing a man on his own front porch?
Few people are able to cut through the self-righteous rhetoric and hypocrisy that permeates discussions of race in America better than conservative economist Thomas Sowell. In a recent column for Townhall.com titled, Who Is ‘Racist,’ Sowell makes several crucial points that bear on my belief that the media has behaved badly in the Trayvon Martin killing and is still behaving badly in the aftermath of the Matthew Owens beating. Sowell’s points warrant commenting on here because they bear directly on what I believe is media complicity in rapidly souring racial relations in America:
- In covering the Trayvon Martin case, the mainstream media has reverted to the bad old days of the Jim Crow South “…where complexion counted more than facts in determining how people are treated.” The only difference between then and now is which complexion receives favored treatment by the media.
- The mainstream media has purposefully distorted its coverage of the Trayvon Martin killing by editing its words and graphics to fit its slanted point of view. For example, the mainstream media continues to show the same photographs of Trayvon as a cute 12 – 14 year old little boy, but has yet to show one of the 17 year-old young man who was strong enough to overpower George Zimmerman’s and slam his head repeatedly into the pavement.
- The mainstream media continually refers to George Zimmerman as a “white Hispanic” because one of his parents was white, but they have never referred to President Obama as a “white African” because his mother was white. The only conclusion one can draw from this fact is the mainstream media uses the term “white” only when it suits its nefarious race-baiting purposes to do so.
- The word games the mainstream media plays “…grow out of a notion that complexion tells you who is to be blamed and who is not.” Guilt and innocence should be determined by the facts in a given case, not skin color.
- Perhaps the media is suffering from “White Guilt” over the abominable treatment of black Americans during the Jim Crow days of Bull Connor and crowd. Thomas Sowell had this to say on that issue: “Let us talk sense, like adults. Nothing that is done to George Zimmerman—justly or unjustly—will unlynch a single black man who was tortured and killed in the Jim Crow South for a crime he didn’t commit.”
My bottom line concerning the media as well as President Obama, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and others who, in my view, have behaved badly in the Trayvon Martin tragedy is this: Stirring up racial strife in a country with America’s history is easy—any fool can do that. But it will take courage and leadership to bridge the great racial divide and bring the races together in ways that benefit all Americans as well as our country. It is time for decision makers in the media, President Obama, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and other people of influence to show some courage and exert some leadership.