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Trayvon Martin shooting exposes pattern — Blacks are targets in America

Updated on April 7, 2012

The shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida on Feb. 26th by a white "Neighborhood Watch" vigilante has sparked national outrage. But underlying that outrage is a perception that the problem doesn't involve just that single case — on the contrary, say many critics, it's about the pervasive racism of American society and the intrinsic racist oppression of the black population.

Some leftist critics of American society argue that the black population of the USA are largely treated as a reserve, marginally useful but also expendable, low-wage workforce and underclass by those who rule this country and this system. According to the radical left paper Workers Vanguard,

The daily reality of racist oppression can be measured in astronomical unemployment rates for blacks and decrepit ghetto housing; rampant police terror and the consignment of nearly one million black men and women to America’s hellhole prisons, mainly due to the “war on drugs”; prison-like inner-city schools and the purge of black youth from higher education. ... Contrary to the myth promoted by Obama and other liberals, black oppression continues to be the central defining feature of U.S. society. It is materially rooted in and central to American capitalism.

This system, critics assert, nurtures the mindset that creates the "kill at will" behavior and the "shoot-first-ask-questions-later" laws like the one that supposedly "authorized" the murder of Trayvon Martin. This "deadly police terror" is "a fact of life for black people in racist America" emphasizes Workers Vanguard — and, as Trayvon's case illustrates, it also nurtures semi-official violence such as George Zimmerman's vigilante-style Neighborhood Watch shooting of Trayvon.

Trayvon Martin (left); George Zimmerman (right)
Trayvon Martin (left); George Zimmerman (right) | Source

The killing of this black youth, in the gated townhome complex where he was staying, was unleashed by a so-called "Stand Your Ground" law, passed in 2005, and intended (through wink and nudge subtext) to empower white bigots to blow away blacks at their whim. As numerous critics, mostly on the radical left, have pointed out, these kinds of both official and semi-official "hunt-and-kill" murders of blacks are most of all given the nod by the increasingly overt racism promulgated by today's prominent Tea Party and GOP leaders, with the complicity of the the top echelons of U.S. society, including leading Democrats.

"While the country is in the midst of a national uproar around the shooting death of Sanford, Fla. youth Trayvon Martin, and the failure to arrest his killer, George Zimmerman, deadly assaults against Black men are occurring all over the country — in cities big and small" emphasizes black national urban affairs columnist Anthony Samad, Ph.D., writing in the Los Angeles Wave community newspaper.

It's an “open season” on black males, says Samad, "but when has it ... not been?"

The problem is that the best of Black men look like the worst of Black men, and the public — most acutely, law enforcement — have gotten tired of trying to sort out the difference. Black men are viewed as public menaces, public threats and suspicious characters whether they’re in hoodies or tuxedos, as activist Van Jones said when queried for suggestions on how to protect Black males.

"We used to teach our boys how to act around trigger-happy police" notes Samad, but to what effect?

Police have always been trigger happy when it came to Black males. There are no more “accidental shootings” and “isolated instances” outside those that involve Black men. “Death by cop” is right up there with accidental drownings and other casualties Black people suffer from disproportionately. Police are an occupational hazard in the Black community.

Empirical evidence backs up this pattern of violence targeting the black population. The All Psychology Careers website cites studies involving "thousands of community members, including police officers" which suggest that "People generally are more likely to shoot a Black armed or unarmed target, than a White target. And they are faster at shooting armed Blacks than armed Whites."

The article points out that such research has exposed "unintentional behaviors, or behaviors based on underlying racial biases that most people don't realize they possess." Excluding some fringe groups that overtly embrace racist or supremacist attitudes, notes the analysis, while most people may claim they're not prejudiced or racist, "What they don't realize ... is that implicit biases still reside unconsciously within their cognitive processes."

Even some black police representatives acknowledge the problem of racial profiling that targets black people. For example, in a 2009 interview broadcast on the Voice of America, Charles Wilson, head of the National Association of Black Law Enforcement Officers, admitted that, all too frequently, "police stop, question, or arrest people based on their skin color rather than real evidence."

"The institution of policing is and always has been inherently biased against people of color and low income, and you must accept that as a fact" Wilson emphasized to the interviewer.

This pervasive pattern of racial "profiling" is corroborated in other research. The All Psychology Careers article cites a 2008 University of Illinois at Chicago finding that "Black and Hispanic drivers are stopped at a much higher rate than Whites." Furthermore, the study found,

...of those stopped and who consent to being searched for drugs or other forms of contraband, minorities are searched at a higher rate than Whites. However, police officers conducting consent searches are far more likely to find contraband in a vehicle driven by a Caucasian driver than by a minority driver.

Another, albeit anecdotal, perspective of what appears to be a persistent and extensive pattern of official violence directed toward the black minority of the country — especially, the use of deadly force against unarmed black civilians — is rendered by the results of Google searches on keyword phrases like "police violence targets blacks" and "white cops shoot blacks". Here are example web stories returned just within the first three pages:

Critics demand action on disproportionate shootings of blacks

Stories of 15 black men killed by police since 1995

When Police Shoot And Kill Unarmed Men

White-On-Black Murder In The New Millennium Is Rampant

10 Tips for Black Men to Survive Police Encounters

West Memphis, Arkansas: Police Killing of 12-Year-Old DeAunta Terrell Farrow

Why Do Cops Like To Kill Blacks? (Sean Bell, Diallo Amadou)

Austin Police shoot and kill 2 black men - YouTube

Protest says police killed dozens of unarmed Black men

Seven Black Men Killed in Eight Months Has Miami Police in Hot Water

Killings of 7 Black Men Put Miami Police in Spotlight

Why Do Cops Like to Kill Black People?

Police Shoot Dead Unarmed Black Man on Oakland Train Platform

Another Year, Another Unarmed Black Man Killed by Police

College Freshman Killed by Campus Police

NYPD Officers Shoot and Kill Three Black Men in One Week

Why White Cops Kill Black Cops: Debate over Edwards’ Dead Body

Between the Lines: Keeping young Black men safe, in the age of Kendrec and Trayvon

And it's this pervasive pattern of official (and semi-official) intimidation and oppression of America's black population — particularly of its black youth and young black men — that is helping fuel the current uproar over the deadly shooting of Trayvon Martin. And that's in addition, of course, to the specific outrageous details of this case ... such as the de facto absolution, by authorities, of the acknowledged killer, George Zimmerman, of any criminal responsibility for gunning down this youth.

Many activists and critics on the left say that the upswell of mass outrage (black and multi-color in character) must not focus merely on an act of individual racially tinted murder. It needs to target the racist culture that permeates American society and the specific policies and the system that foster this racist environment.

Lyndon Henry is a writer, editor, freelance investigative journalist and analyst, and consultant. His blog is:

Published: 2012/04/07


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    • Neil Horton profile image

      Larry Horton 5 years ago from Greenwood, Arkansas

      The only positive thing that Malcom X can be attibuted to was those baseball caps with the X on them that made a good target. lol

    • LHwritings profile image

      Lyndon Henry 5 years ago from Central Texas


      Well, I see that the White Power crowd that has been energized by the racist killing of Trayvon are now targeting anti-racist activists and their writings -- including this article.

      This resurgence of white racism has been one of the most significant phenomena emerging from the Trayvon Martin incident and the angry anti-racism outrage it generated. The forces of white racism have been mobilizing for several years, embittered by the ascendancy to power of a black man as U.S. president, and the Trayvon Martin case has clearly emboldened them to slither out into the light of day.

      Some brief points:

      (1) Note their tactics of wielding fabrications to slime their victim. Trayvon, like all of us, was no angel, but he was an accomplished and commendable young man, earning good grades, prepping himself to become an engineer, and excelling in other ways. However, the extremist-right crowd have mounted a campaign to "disappear" all that and slime his reputation with lies and innuendo.

      (2) Liberal activists have tried to use this case to advance a gun-control agenda. Gun control puts the right to own guns and de facto ownership of guns into the hands of the state establishment, racist vigilantes and lynch mobs, and criminals. Gun control is a measure to further the oppression of working people and particularly the black population. Black people will need access to guns -- as they had in the 1960s -- to defend themselves against this mounting dual onslaught of both state repression and white racist violence. In this regard, I recommend the views of Malcolm X.

      (3) This case, and the white racist provocations it's prompting, underscores the pervasive racism that permeates this country. This includes the wretched social-economic conditions of American's crime-ridden black and Latino ghettos, a milieu of poverty and crime in the police-state underbelly of America's "free market" society.

      (4) The mass outrage against the murder of young Trayvon has at least achieved a small victory in the arraignment of Zimmerman. This in itself is a welcome blow against the white racist stormtrooper brigade that has rallied to defend his execution of Trayvon and the racist system that has nurtured it.

    • profile image

      Silvermoney2 5 years ago

      I agree with Chris and Neil

    • profile image

      Silvermoney2 5 years ago

      You are full of crap lhwritings. Ne groe males make up 6% of the population and are 40% of the prison population. Your communities are infected with depraved mentally ill rac1 st criminals that attack in mo bs because they are COWARDS. A asian or white is 18 times more likely to be murdered by a black than vice versa. You write with your emotions and not the facts. I guess its not in your DNA to rationalize.

    • Neil Horton profile image

      Larry Horton 6 years ago from Greenwood, Arkansas

      LHWritings... it has nothing to do with racism. It has a whole lot to do with honesty in your writing. You chose to take a 6 year old photo and use it on your hub instead of the more recent photos of Trayvon as he was recently. No doubt at age 10 he was a nice kid just growing up...But kids change, and some become thugs punks tagging buildings, selling dope, and attacking people. But you want to cover that up, You want to blackwash it as is the usual method of the left wing extremists. Your use of an old photo is pure propaganda and a common method of the left to persuade the ignorant into following your lead because you have nothing more to offer than lies in the first place.

    • Neil Horton profile image

      Larry Horton 6 years ago from Greenwood, Arkansas

      i agree with chris

    • profile image

      Chris 6 years ago

      The only thing racist about this article is the person that wrote it.

    • mikelong profile image

      mikelong 6 years ago from The largest convict colony in the United States

      Neil, I fancy how you post nonsense here, and run away from your nonsense you posted on your buddy Ed's ridiculous hub.

      Face reality...your arguments are is your perspective regarding race in the United States.

    • LHwritings profile image

      Lyndon Henry 6 years ago from Central Texas


      This contrived controversy over photos of Trayvon Martin seems just another effort by the racist "thug punks" of the extremist right wing to try to divert focus away from the central issues in this case -- including the well-documented pattern of official and semi-official targeting of America's black population described in this article.

      Neither Trayvon Martin nor George Zimmerman, in my assessment, was angelic or evil -- but Zimmerman is the one who was an officially sanctioned Neighborhood Watch vigilante, armed with a 9-mm handgun, who pursued Trayvon, apparently provoked a confrontation, and then shot the youth.

      For his part, Trayvon was an accomplished young man, according to reports, making As and Bs in school, favoring math, learning aircraft mechanics, and hoping to become an engineer. He was shot dead by Zimmerman just doors away from where he was staying in that very same townhome complex. Yet the authorities investigated Trayvon, not Zimmerman, made no effort to seal the crime scene, made no effort to use his cellphone or other information to trace his identity or family, and released Zimmerman on his word.

      This falls well within the pattern discussed in this article.

    • Neil Horton profile image

      Larry Horton 6 years ago from Greenwood, Arkansas

      The question here, was why the man chose to use an 8 year old photo of an innocent kid instead of the current photos of a thug punk?

    • mikelong profile image

      mikelong 6 years ago from The largest convict colony in the United States

      How does flipping a camera off correlate with being killed walking down the street.

      Boy, Neil, when it comes to tripe, you truly are a fisherman!

    • Neil Horton profile image

      Larry Horton 6 years ago from Greenwood, Arkansas

      LHWritings.... I am curious, why did you choose to use an 8 year old photo of Trayvon Martin, instead of the current photo of him flipping people off? Could it be you are just race baiting for ratings?