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August 22, 2013 3:53 PM All Killings Are Tragedies, But Some Become Travesties

By Ed Kilgore

If you pay any attention to conservative news/views sites, you have probably heard a lot over the last couple of days about Chris Lane, an Australian baseball player who was shot to death in Oklahoma in what was apparently a random act of violence. Two African-American teenagers have been charged with first-degree murder; a third, who drove the getaway car, is being charged with lesser offenses.

To hear a lot of conservative gabbers (including Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity and every other right-wing blogger), this case is George Zimmerman killing Trayvon Martin without the alleged self-defense motive, but it’s not being discussed by the president or deplored by liberals because it’s a black-on-white crime, which PC rule out noticing.

Salon’s Alex Seitz-Walk makes short work of this idiotic analogy, which, unlike the original Martin case, really does involve the political exploitation of a tragedy and a heinous crime:

It’s not that difficult to understand so we’ll spell it out: It was not only that a light-skinned Zimmerman killed an unarmed black teenager — but also that police didn’t do anything about it. The killing was horribly tragic, as is Lane’s senseless murder, but if Zimmerman had actually been arrested for the shooting, the sad reality is that far fewer Americans would know his name. But that’s not what happened. Instead, police let Zimmerman go under Florida’s “stand your ground” law. It smacked of institutional, state-sponsored racial favoritism of the worst kind. It was only after public outcry that state prosecutors took over the case and pressed charges. Some could argue that Zimmerman didn’t need to be convicted for justice to be done, but he did need to stand trial….
Lane’s murder is an entirely different matter. It’s disgusting, but the police did their job. They arrested three suspects, and vowed to try to throw the book at them. That’s how it’s supposed to go. Murder is sadly quotidian in a gun-soaked America, and this is, sadly, another, if particularly senseless, one.

As Alex says, it’s not so hard to understand if you give it the minimal thought necessary to distinguish tragedies from travesties. That seems to be too much to ask of certain folk.

If you want to actually understand race relations in this country, you need to understand the difference between these cases. But the right prefers to live behind a veil of intentional ignorance where the only kind of racism that exists today is black people disliking white people.
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.

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