the rape of trayvon martin

got an email in my inbox today from colorofchange.org re: trayvon martin (see full text below) which got me thinking … the coverage of the trial and the actual trial itself remind me of a rape trial.  and the love is hard to find.

you know how in a rape trial it’s always incumbent on the victim, let’s say it’s a woman, to prove why she was raped or that it was indeed rape.  the defense attorneys always focus on what she wore, who said what, who provoked who and of course, the moral character of the woman.  and it is the same for trayvon – the defense wants to use a cry for help as evidence that trayvon was trying to kill Zimmerman.  the defense wants to use texts and photos from trayvon’s phone to demonstrate that he was a thug and thereby deserved to die.  and … the only reason trayvon is like a rape victim is because he’s black.   his blackness made Zimmerman and the rest of America call into question his innocence.  an unarmed teenager’s innocence is in question.  just to say it is absurd.  it never occurs to the media that they are painting a picture of black youth as natural born killers.

i don’t care how many blunts trayvon smoked.  i don’t care how many curse words he used.  i don’t care who he gave the finger to.  i don’t care how many pictures of guns he had.  i don’t care how many horses he rode.  whether he was ‘good or bad’ has no bearing on the fact that his life was sacred.   just like i don’t care if a rape victim is the ‘town slut.’  i don’t care if she wore a mini-skirt.  i don’t care if she sucked that man’s dick before he raped her.  i don’t care if trayvon pounded zimmerman’s head into the concrete two times … which i do not believe even happened … but if it had … that doesn’t mean shit about trayvon’s intent or zimmerman’s.  nobody is ever asking to be raped.  and nobody is ever asking to be killed.   

i will work on loving and forgiving Zimmerman.   who is Zimmerman working on loving?

and does anyone else recall bernhard Goetz in 1984?   funny how the media in 2013 poses trayvon’s case as a question: murder or self-defense?

and here’s what colorofchange.org had to say … which i completely agree with:

Dear M___,

From the start of the much-watched Zimmerman murder trial, we’ve seen a steady stream of media attacks on victim Trayvon Martin. But with last week’s onslaught of vitriol and scorn leveled at Witness #8 — Trayvon’s friend Rachel Jeantel, who was speaking to Trayvon by phone just moments before he was killed1media irresponsibility has reached a disturbing new low.

This trial should be about seeking justice for a young man’s violent death, and about how racial stereotypes put the physical safety of young Black men in jeopardy.2 But the media’s crude fixation on Rachel’s speech and appearance has served to reinforce and magnify dehumanizing stereotypes around both race and class. Using condescending, loaded language,3 the media mocked the looks, intelligence and humanity of a young woman forced to testify about the trauma of being the last person to speak with her close friend before his death.4,5

The media wields incredible power to shape the way Black folks are seen — or unseen6 — in society, and we know all too well that these perceptions can have deadly real-life consequences. ColorOfChange members around the country have mobilized to monitor both national and local coverage of the Zimmerman trial — reporting abuses like those directed at Rachel — and building a new accountability mechanism that’s helping us pinpoint where media reform efforts are needed most.

Will you lend us your eyes and ears to help build a more accountable media? Pledge to watch the Zimmerman trial and report irresponsible, dehumanizing coverage.

When Rachel showed exasperation with the needlessly repetitious, antagonizing questioning from white defense attorney Don West7 — whose crass behavior has repeatedly been an issue at trial8 — Fox’s Laura Ingraham demanded to know: “do we have to excuse [Rachel’s] poor manners, her disrespectful language, and cocky ignorance because she’s black?”9 The New York Daily News deemed Rachel’s performance “cringe-worthy,”10 and HLN pronounced her a “train wreck.”11 The media also heavily covered the repellant attacks on Rachel taking place in real time on Twitter and other social media.12

Our deeply-ingrained racial stereotypes and cultural biases13 — amplified by news and entertainment media that consistently dehumanizes or ignores most Black folks — is what made it so difficult for those in the courtroom and watching at home to really hear and see Rachel.14 Shaming (and ashamed) commentary from all genders and races concerned with Rachel’s presentation — ignoring the critically-important substance of her testimony — speaks volumes about the harmful impacts that these biases have on majority society’s view of Black America, as well as on Black folks’ own self-image.

When mass media fails to engage in meaningful reporting that challenges racial stereotyping, the public’s instinct to malign a young Black woman for her perceived cultural failings is actually dangerous when it pulls focus from what’s really at stake in this trial. When West asked Rachel why she didn’t call the police after she was unable to get back in touch with Trayvon, Rachel’s response that she thought the police were supposed to call her — like in the reality cop show The First 4815 — drew blank stares and derisive laughter. Lost in the resulting flurry of personal attacks was the national scandal of how badly Sanford law enforcement did in fact botch police procedure in this case, failing to look at Trayvon’s phone or interview key witnesses for weeks on end, and ultimately necessitating intervention by the federal Department of Justice.16,17

Together, we can put an end to media that dehumanizes young Black people like Rachel and Trayvon and enables a culture in which victim-blaming is the norm. Pledge today to report harmful trial coverage when you see it and help us build a more accountable media.

Thanks and Peace,

–Rashad, Arisha, Matt, Jamar, Kim and the rest of the ColorOfChange.org team   July 10th, 2013

Help support our work. ColorOfChange.org is powered by YOU—your energy and dollars. We take no money from lobbyists or large corporations that don’t share our values, and our tiny staff ensures your contributions go a long way.

References

1. “Trayvon Martin’s Friend Rachel Jeantel: ‘Creepy Ass Cracker Is Following Me,'” Real Clear Politics, 06-26-13 http://act.colorofchange.org/go/2757?t=9&akid=2986.1477598.hITnmX

2. “Commentary: Zimmerman’s Effective, Yet Tragic, Blame-the-Victim Strategy,” BET, 06-17-13 http://act.colorofchange.org/go/2759?t=11&akid=2986.1477598.hITnmX

3. “Friend of Trayvon Martin describes the teen’s final moments,” Washington Post, 06-26-13 http://act.colorofchange.org/go/2758?t=13&akid=2986.1477598.hITnmX

4. “Rachel Jeantel and Trayvon Martin Were Put on Trial,” Philly Post, 07-01-13 http://act.colorofchange.org/go/2760?t=15&akid=2986.1477598.hITnmX

5. “One of the Saddest Stories Ever: I Am Rachel Jeantel,” Clutch, 07-03-13 http://act.colorofchange.org/go/2761?t=17&akid=2986.1477598.hITnmX

6. “Trayvon Martin and Black Manhood On Trial,” The Nation, 07-02-13 http://act.colorofchange.org/go/2762?t=19&akid=2986.1477598.hITnmX

7. “Witness Rachel Jeantel Rebukes Defense Attorney Theory: ‘That’s Real Retarded, Sir,’” Mediaite, 06-27-13 http://act.colorofchange.org/go/2763?t=21&akid=2986.1477598.hITnmX

8. “Trayvon Martin trial spawns insensitive Instagram from defense lawyer’s daughter,” CNET, 06-29-13 http://act.colorofchange.org/go/2764?t=23&akid=2986.1477598.hITnmX

9. “Laura Ingraham Slams Rachel Jeantel Defenders: ‘We Have To Excuse Her Poor Manners…Because She’s Black?'” Mediate, 06-28-13 http://act.colorofchange.org/go/2755?t=25&akid=2986.1477598.hITnmX

10. “Rachel Jeantel Gets the Trayvon Martin Treatment,” Slate, 06-28-13 http://act.colorofchange.org/go/2765?t=27&akid=2986.1477598.hITnmX

11. “Deggans: She failed at ‘code switching,'” Tampa Bay Times, 07-08-13 http://act.colorofchange.org/go/2766?t=29&akid=2986.1477598.hITnmX

12. “What [BLANK] Folks Don’t Understand About Rachel Jeantel,” NPR, 06-29-13 http://act.colorofchange.org/go/2767?t=31&akid=2986.1477598.hITnmX

13. “Zimmerman case: Is Rachel Jeantel on trial, too?” MSNBC, 06-29-13 http://act.colorofchange.org/go/2768?t=34&akid=2986.1477598.hITnmX

14. “Dark-skinned and plus-sized: The real Rachel Jeantel story,” Salon, 06-28-13 http://act.colorofchange.org/go/2754?t=36&akid=2986.1477598.hITnmX

15. “Love her or hate her, Rachel Jeantel is a star,” CNN, 06-28-13 http://act.colorofchange.org/go/2769?t=38&akid=2986.1477598.hITnmX

16. “Op-Ed: Trayvon Martin case about much more than race,” Digital Journal, 04-12-12 http://act.colorofchange.org/go/2770?t=40&akid=2986.1477598.hITnmX

17. “Witness: Sanford police ‘Blew us off’ in teen slaying,” WFTV, 03-15-12 http://act.colorofchange.org/go/2771?t=42&akid=2986.1477598.hITnmX

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