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April 24, 2012 12:15 PM The Real “Race Card”

By Ed Kilgore

The big story today in certain segments of the right-wing blogosphere is about some guy in Mobile who was allegedly beaten to within an inch of his life by a large group of African-Americans claiming to be avenging Trayvon Martin. The victim, of course, is white.

The Daily Caller’s Jim Treacher is annoyed that the original news report on the incident, from a Mobile TV station, “buried the lede” by failing to mention the supposed mention of Martin until the end of the story. He’s also ready to blame Spike Lee and the national TV networks for the beating, apparently assuming the report by the victim’s sister that one member of the mob mentioned Martin is both accurate and the actual reason for the entire incident. Glenn Reynolds is also quick to call the Mobile beating the “results of media hatemongering,” and quotes a correspondent who suggests the beating might have been a direct message to Barack Obama’s critics about what might happen to them if the president is defeated in November.

Lord-a-mercy!

I guess this sort of talk became inevitable once big chunks of the wingnutosphere decided to take up George Zimmerman as their hero, following every bit of new information in the agonizingly slow prosecution of the Florida shooter that seems to support his side of the story as an aha! moment that not only reveals Zimmerman as a victim of Trayvon Martin but as a victim of “liberal racism”—you know, the only kind that exists. Zimmerman, it seems, is being assigned the starring role in the American Right’s version of the Dreyfus Affair.

Reading this stuff with its endless and interminable and redundant references to race, you wouldn’t know that much of the original media interest in the Martin shooting was its relevance to Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law and a nationwide trend towards official encouragment of vigilantes wielding lethal weapons. Martin’s race (and for that matter, his age) entered the story mainly because African-Americans have a great deal more to fear from gun-toting vigilantes in gated communities, and from police and prosecutors quick to look the other way when a black kid is in the wrong place at the wrong time, than anyone else.

That’s not how our little friends on the Right see it. Any invocation of race as a factor, small or large, in an apparent instance of injustice or tragedy is simply a weapon by the “racist” supporters of our “racist” president.

I got a little taste of this the other day on Twitter, when several correspondents kept calling me a “racist” because of my post suggesting that yeah, race might logically enter into the expected reaction to the Romney campaign slogan “Obama Isn’t Working,” particularly since Romney himself has lately been bad-mouthing the president for having a poor work ethic. I mean, even if I’m wrong about that judgement, how does that make me a racist?

Ta-Nehisi Coates nailed this particular phenomenon in a recent meditation on “the race card” as it’s so often played by conservatives these days:

The conservative movement doesn’t understand anti-racism as a value, only as a rhetorical pose. This is how you end up tarring the oldest integrationist group in the country (the NAACP) as racist. The slur has no real moral content to them. It’s all a game of who can embarrass who. If you don’t think racism is an actual force in the country, then you can only understand its invocation as a tactic.

From that perspective, then of course George Zimmerman is a victim of “racism” and so is this man in Mobile, of whom the people writing about him know absolutely nothing. It’s a game, in which hurling insults around indiscriminately is entirely within the rules.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

Comments

  • ckelly on April 24, 2012 12:35 PM:

    It’s a game, in which hurling insults around indiscriminately is entirely within the rules.

    Within the rules? Hell, it's a requirement.

  • Jane on April 24, 2012 12:36 PM:

    20 black men attempt to murder a white man.

    One hispanic man shoots a black man who is on his chest, thumping him.

    #1 not racist
    #2 racist

    Got it.

  • Jane on April 24, 2012 12:37 PM:

    "Martin’s race (and for that matter, his age) entered the story mainly because African-Americans have a great deal more to fear from gun-toting vigilantes in gated communities, and from police and prosecutors quick to look the other way when a black kid is in the wrong place at the wrong time, than anyone else."

    Do you have an IOTA of proof for this? Everyone knows this is ridiculous.

  • Anonymous on April 24, 2012 12:44 PM:

    I guess this sort of talk became inevitable once big chunks of the wingnutosphere decided to take up George Zimmerman as their hero...

    I don't know "decided" best describes their backing Zimmerman. The Martin case is more like an 'Oh Shit' moment with the potential to rain on the nation-wide wingnut parade of radical legislation, of which Stand Your Ground laws are a prominent float in the procession.
    Thus, the wingnuts had two options available to them 1) Throw Zimmerman under the bus and proclaim that chasing teenagers down the sidewalk was never the intent of the law. Or 2) Go all in. Today's Republicans are the 'go all in' variety. They're simply more reactionary than decision based.

  • Gandalf on April 24, 2012 12:49 PM:

    Jane ugh a new troll. I would have to believe that you live in an all white area. Also if you don't think that a black kid in a gated community is going to have a problem or two just because he's black then your living in a bubble.

  • Dave on April 24, 2012 12:49 PM:

    Treyvon Martin was following the law, he was standing his ground when accosted and threatened by someone.

    If the law says you can shoot someone who threatens you, then it is surely permissible to defend yourself with your fists.

    Zimmerman was the aggressor.

  • Dee on April 24, 2012 12:51 PM:

    I may be wrong, but the only place I have heard or read of threats to Zimmerman lately have been in statements by his lawyer, O'Mara.
    There had been the bounty offered by the New Black Panthers, but I haven't seen any current mention of that - thought it was dropped.
    Of course, I don't watch Fox News....

  • delNorte on April 24, 2012 12:51 PM:

    "Everyone knows this is ridiculous."

    Dear Jane: Please don't presume to speak for me. You might think it's ridiculous, but you are not "everyone."

  • jrosen on April 24, 2012 12:56 PM:

    @Jane: I don't know where you live, but here in NYC there is no doubt that "stop and frisk" targets black and Hispanic youth in disproportionate numbers. That is what is meant by the phrase "WWB" (walking while black).

    If you don't know that there is still (despite, no, perhaps because of Obama) much racism in this country, and that when you add to that guns in the hands of either real policemen and wannabe SYG vigilantes you get Rodney King and TrayvonMartin all too many times. Or do you think that the number of young black men in prison out of all proportion to their population percentage reflects an innate criminality rather than a certain bias in the "justice' system? I might guess your answer, but I'd rather see what you actually say.

    BTW, I am not black myself (as you might have guess from my name). But there was a time and place (not too long ago and not that far away) when WWJ (walking while Jewish) was even more dangerous. So I have some empathic understanding of what it feels like to be the target of that attitude.

  • g on April 24, 2012 1:09 PM:

    wow, Treach is hot! Fresh off his scoop about the dog-eating, and he's uncovering the evil left-wing media bias in that hotbed of liberalism, Mobile, Alabama!

  • Anonymous on April 24, 2012 1:09 PM:

    Do you have an IOTA of proof for this? Everyone knows this is ridiculous.- Jane

    20 black men attempt to murder a white man.-Jane

    One hispanic man shoots a black man who is on his chest, thumping him.- Jane

    Do you have an iota of proof for those two statements? Hint: Quoting FOX News as proof isn't "proof".

  • kevo on April 24, 2012 1:13 PM:

    To be blunt - if your ancestory is filled with whip holders, through the oral family history, the whip will never be forshaken, and the whipped better know their place!

    A whip holder can never fully understand the rot and humiliation produced by their whippings, whether it be literal or metaphoric!

    Do you have whip holders in your ancestory Jane? -Kevo

  • nerd on April 24, 2012 1:15 PM:

    Rules? What rules? This is War!

    Yell and scream everything you can think of until the other side gives up. That's the 'rules' the Right uses.

    No room for discussion, unless it is about how rude the Left is for bringing up subjects the Right has no interest in discussing.

  • Diane Rodriguez on April 24, 2012 1:26 PM:

    Racist is the latest label for people of color who acknowledge their race and heritage as equal to anyone else's. People of color are supposed to conduct themselves as in "don't ask don't tell." Look at the fervor created when President Obama suggested that if he had a son, he would look like Treyvan Martin...God forbid you mean black???

  • CtrlAltDelirious on April 24, 2012 1:46 PM:

    Let me preface this by saying that what happened to Matthew Owens, the victim, is a horrible crime and that his assailants should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

    What Glenn Reynolds and the dipshit from the Daily Fail-ler don't mention is that mob that attacked Owens apparently did so in response to Owens "fuss[ing] at some kids playing basketball". Reynolds and said dipshit and the other right-bloggers who've made this story their "reverse-racism" cause-célèbre du jour all make it seem as though Owens was a random White person picked from out of nowhere by an angry mob of Black people roaming the streets looking any hapless White person to exact their revenge upon for the murder of Trayvon' Martin. This does not appear to be the case, regardless of what Owens' sister alleges she heard one member of the mob say.

    "Race war" is an ugly term that has been used by right-wing bloggers, tweeters, and commenters almost from day one of when Trayvon's shooting became a national story. While there have been cries for justice from Black and Liberal commentators, tweeters, and bloggers - consisting overwhelmingly of passionate, yet peaceful appeals for justice, thoughsome have been angry and vitriolic and a few have even used the language of violence - the outcry has been targeted at Zimmerman and the justice system. There haven't been any calls for a revolt against White people from members of the Left or from Black commentators on the Internet and elsewhere. Not even the New Black Panthers have called for this. But a large segment of the Right-Wing media would like it to seem otherwise. Reynolds et al. are misrepresenting this story to fit that narrative and to satisfy their and their audience's racial paranoia and resentments. The only group that seems to be searching for a race war - almost pining for it (indeed, "bring it on" is a frequent refrain from the less inhibited wingers) - is the section of the conservative media and blogosphere that people like Glenn Reynolds and the writers of the Daily Caller inhabit.

  • Rick Massimo on April 24, 2012 1:47 PM:

    "Glenn Reynolds is also quick to call the Mobile beating the “results of media hatemongering,” and quotes a correspondent who suggests the beating might have been a direct message to Barack Obama’s critics about what might happen to them if the president is defeated in November."

    You know, it's early enough in the process that we can ask our rightist friends whether there are going to be race riots if Obama wins or if he loses. Last time around, they never made up their minds which one it would be, only that there definitely would be race riots.

    It's almost as if they're deliberately provoking racist fear to win an election they can't win any other way. But that couldn't be possible, because they love America so.

  • Andy Olsen on April 24, 2012 1:49 PM:

    There are many farces and hypocrisies at play with conservative rhetoric on race.

    Remember the denial from them that their violence-drenched rhetoric might lead to actual violence, in the wake of the Gabby Giffords shooting? they said that was ridiculous.

    Now, they have changed their minds. Now, they thin speech leads to violence, but only when it serves their purposes.

    Crazy.

  • Shakes on April 24, 2012 1:59 PM:

    Racism is here to stay!

    The right gets tagged with racism all the time, and they hate when the left does it. It appears that the left doesn't like when the right does it either.

    This is never going to end, and it is only going to get worse. I think that Zimmerman is going to walk, and people are going to be pissed.

    I don't think it is fair that white people get attacked in the name of Trayvon because a Hispanic guy shot a black guy. That just doesn't seem fair at all.

    I think that Angel Merkel was right. Multiculturalism has failed. This climate isn't going to get any better any time soon, and both sides will blame the other. Lather, Rinse, Repeat.

  • howard on April 24, 2012 2:37 PM:

    shakes, i'm jewish, and i know that anti-semitism is here to stay, and so is racism.

    but the notion that "multiculturalism has failed" because racism (or anti-semitism) (or anti-specific racial, ethnic, religious, or gender group here)still exist is stupidity of the highest order.

    the actual amount of "multicultural" progress in this country since 1964 - over the increasingly unified opposition of the confederate remnant currently ensconced in the republican party - is a remarkable success story, not a failure at all.

  • citizen_pain on April 24, 2012 2:41 PM:

    I have to agree with Shakes. Difficulties among different races will always be a part life experience. The desire to stay with one's own kind is human nature. And looking at others not like you with a suspicious eye is part of that human nature. This is probably an archetype buried deep within our psyche. Add to that all of our anxieties and frustrations we experience because of our modern lives, and it becomes really easy to blame others for problems we face. Of course America's history with slavery is another ingredient into this bubbling cauldron.

    Maybe in a few hundred years we may evolve beyond our current state, but that's only if we don't eradicate our own race by failing to properly manage the Earth's resources. I'm not hopeful.

  • citizen_pain on April 24, 2012 2:43 PM:

    Let me clarify, I agree with the notion that racism is here to stay, not that multiculturalism has failed. That remains to be seen.

  • Luke Coley on April 24, 2012 2:46 PM:

    As one who's lived basically his whole life in Mobile, let me say to those complaining about the "downplaying" of the statement. The fact that you're more wrapped up in one comment by a thug, and think that is more important than a man being beaten almost to death, says more about you than it does the TV station in Mobile.

  • thersites on April 24, 2012 2:55 PM:

    Agree with Howard. Racism will never be entirely eliminated but that doesn't mean attempts to transcend it have "failed."

    And yes, there is progress. And there are places in this country where a couple of mixed race can walk down the street holding hands and nobody looks twice. And there are more such places than there were thirty years ago.

    I don't think it is fair that white people get attacked in the name of Trayvon because a Hispanic guy shot a black guy.

    You make it sound like if a Hispanic guy got attacked, it would be okay somehow. That is the kind of thinking that makes it hard to overcome racism.

  • Kathryn on April 24, 2012 3:25 PM:

    @shakes.....whoa, I don't know who Angel Merkel is (Angela Merkel? which doesn't seem right to me) but multiculturalism has not failed. I live in an area that is very multicultural with little crime, great restaurants and little friction amongst different ethnic groups. My idea of discomfort would be living in some nearly all white gated golf community in South Carolina like some relations of mine do. Racism does exist and, to some extent, always will and nothing fuels it more efficiently than keeping separated from other groups and seeing them as well, them. When you get to know folks from different backgrounds of varied races, you quickly discover that people all want the same things, family, jobs, security, etc.

    I don't think white people should get attacked in Trayvon Martin's name either, but that is far from being a proven fact and I don't think an African-American 17 year should be followed and shot for walking in a community, talking on a cell phone with his girlfriend while carrying skittles and a can of ice tea. Unlike you, I don't know now the trial will end, but Mr Zimmerman has a competent lawyer and will get a fair trial. Without the attention of social media, his Father's stand of questioning the official police report that night and regular media attention, Trayvon Martin's death would have been pushed under the carpet and forgotten except for his grieving family who grieve just as painfully as white folks do

  • TCinLA on April 24, 2012 3:34 PM:

    Jane:

    Apparently you have dropped in here from some other planet. The "iota of proof" you seek can be found in any newspaper, any day of the week.

    But of course, to an airheaded Aryan bimbo like yourself, anything that doesn't fit your far right fantasies wouldn't be a "fact."

    No wonder right wingers act toward women as they do, if you're an example of what they've got.

  • meady on April 24, 2012 3:41 PM:

    I'm responding to Shakes because it poses as someone who seems to be trying to work something out and is not being vitriolic, but is in reality a whole bunch of nonsense. I actually think Jane has changed the screen name and toned down the rhetoric but the message is the same.

    1. The right gets tagged with racism all the time, and they hate when the left does it. It appears that the left doesn't like when the right does it either.

    I assume this is in reference to the Mobile case. Just how is it assumed that this band of thugs is on the left? What has the left done here? I'm missing it. Or maybe it assumed they are left leaning because they are black. Well there is certainly no racial bias in that assumption. Shakes is a blank canvas.

    2. This is never going to end, and it is only going to get worse. I think that Zimmerman is going to walk, and people are going to be pissed.

    This is not a racial issue because Zimmerman shot a black kid. This is a racial issue because it is alleged Zimmerman assumed the kid was up to no good because he was black. There is a very big difference here. If Zimmerman walks, it will probably not result in a race riot, it will probably start a much needed, but not wanted on the right discussion about the Stand Your Ground Laws. And a huge movement will likely be launched to start repealing these types laws. That ship may have already sailed no matter the outcome.

    3. I don't think it is fair that white people get attacked in the name of Trayvon because a Hispanic guy shot a black guy. That just doesn't seem fair at all.

    Too stupid to respond to. Very trollish.

    4. I think that Angel Merkel was right. Multiculturalism has failed. This climate isn't going to get any better any time soon, and both sides will blame the other. Lather, Rinse, Repeat.

    Yeah right. Whatever tribe is in power is the good one. They should never ever try to coexist. Maybe the problem on the right is they see different a tribe acquiring power, so now the system doesn't seem so fair. See Ed's previous post about the cult of success. One tribe has always been in power so it is therefore entitled to power by the sheer notion that it has always been. Policies, methods, ethics don't play a role at all. I don't know that I believe racism is here to stay. I do know that Multiculturalism is.

  • JoanneinDenver on April 24, 2012 3:50 PM:

    The circumstances of the beating in Mobile, if true, are horrific. The mob should be arrested and tried. If the circumstances as described are true, then this certainly is a hate crime, a racist incident. DEcent people everywhere should decry this just as we did the failure to adequately investigate the Martin case.

    @ TCinLA

    I doubledare you to call me an "Ayran bimbo."

  • Doug on April 24, 2012 4:47 PM:

    Love the depths of thought that went into the responses of Rich and Patrick. Truly literary works of art.
    The art of showing how stupid one is...

    Re "Angel" Merkel. I believe the reference is to remarks Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany, made concerning how "multi-culturalism" has failed in EUROPE. Note the continent, please. No doubt the remarks were due to the failure of the rest of Europe in becoming more like their ruler...I mean, the Germans.
    What little I've read about the incident in Mobile supports the idea that is was what the man SAID that elicited the beating, and NOT his skin color; ie, it was what was said that led to the attack.
    There is, of course, the possibility that noone BUT a white male in Mobile would have said anything to begin with, but that's sheer speculation.

  • g on April 24, 2012 5:30 PM:

    I see from the news report about the incident in Mobile that the perpetrators are going to be arrested and charged.

    So this is quite a bit different than the Trayvon Martin case, right from the start.

  • Shakes on April 24, 2012 6:50 PM:

    thersites,

    I don't think it would be OK if a Hispanic guy was attacked by blacks for Trayvon revenge, but it would at least make more sense than beating up white people. This is the third such attack they they documented at the link in the article. I don't think see why whites are being targeted when a Hispanic man shot a black man. Whites didn't have anything to do with it. Haven't we done enough real stuff to get mad at? Slavery, Small Pox on the Indians, internment camps, etc? Can't we stick to the real stuff and not make stuff up?

    Nobody has talked about how the Trayvon case affects black and Hispanic relations. I read someone who cautioned at HuffPo how that nobody needed to exacerbate or bring up old wounds in the black/brown divide. Nobody had that concern when it was assumed Zimmerman was white. And now white people have been targeted by violent youth in different cities, and I think the media has some blame in this.

    You guys and gals may not agree with my take, but that doesn't make me a troll either. I am not faking any of this, and why would I?

    And why don't we talk about the black/brown divide and Black/Hispanic relations? How come if an issue if black vs white it gets major play, but if it brown vs black it isn't of interest?

  • Jim Treacher on April 24, 2012 7:34 PM:

    Race-based crimes are a big deal except when they're not.

  • Jim Treacher on April 24, 2012 7:35 PM:

    Good point, CtrlAltDelirious. That guy deserved to get beaten half to death for telling some kids to stop playing in the street. My bad.

  • CtrlAltDelirious on April 24, 2012 8:45 PM:

    @Jim Treacher: Haha, you're one strawman-layin' motherfucker, aren't you? You've been trolling the comments on blogs far and wide, from the Washington Monthly to Village Voice. Tell me, does Tucker reward you for this extracurricular activity by not forcing you to swallow? Does he tell you what a pretty mouth you have, Jim?

    Like I said, Jim-Bob, you semi-literate cunt, Matt Owens didn't deserve it. I stressed this in my comment. But, his beating wasn't revenge for Trayvon Martin's killing, no matter how hard you and your fellow wingnuts try to make it out to be.

    The truth of the matter is that you don't give two shits about Matt Owens. Your only purpose for bringing attention to his story is to give your inner racist a little boner and to rile the racist troglodytes who read Daily Caller to conniption fits. In fact, you're probably silently wishing for the poor guy to croak, so you can paint him as a martyr in the imaginary war of white oppression that takes place in your and your readers' minds.

    Now go run along, Jim-Bob, and be sure to login to Stormfront before bedtime in order to get ideas for your tomorrow's blog posts. You've been on a roll this week. Tucker will promote you to from dick-duty to assplay before you know it.