Trayvon Martin and the Forgotten Dead

The victims the media sheds light on -- and the victims it ignores.

Spearheaded by Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, the massive, escalating protests over Trayvon Martin's February 26th death in Florida—protests featuring desperate pleas to “stop the killing of our children”—continue to rivet the nation's collective attention. By contrast, the death of 63-year-old Tommie Lee Caldwell a few weeks earlier created no such stir. One morning this past December, Caldwell, an African American who was caring for his terminally ill wife, was stabbed and then shot in the back of the head by an intruder inside his Detroit home. If you're like most people, you've never heard of Mr. Caldwell prior to this moment. His murderer was black—not a “white Hispanic” like George Zimmerman—so the guardians of “civil rights,” like Jackson and Sharpton, were spared the trouble, at least in that instance, of having to gin up a national referendum on America's unyielding, ubiquitous racism.

The “civil rights” crowd was likewise silent two months ago when a 19-year-old African American named Joshua Brown—angered over a dispute with a black Detroit woman named Almanda Talton—shot and killed the woman's 12-year old daughter, Kade'jah Davis, a sixth-grade honor student. No doubt, that youngster's name is unfamiliar to you as well. Neither is it likely that you've heard of Eyanna Flonory or her 2-year-old son Amani, both of whom were murdered, along with two other black victims, by a pair of black gunmen in Boston. Nor is it conceivable that many readers could name any of the ten people who were killed (or the forty who were wounded) by gang violence in Chicago during the recent St. Patrick’s Day weekend—or, for that matter, the two who were killed (in addition to the twelve who were wounded) by a spray of gunfire in south Florida just this past Friday.

In stark contrast to the Trayvon Martin killing, none of the horrors that befell the aforementioned black victims prompted anything even remotely resembling a media sensation. No massive rallies were held in memory of the dead. Jesse Jackson did not lament that “blacks are under attack”; that “killing us is big business”; and that few people really understand “just how hard it is to be black in America.” Luminaries like Carmelo Anthony, Lebron James, P. Diddy, Jamie Foxx, and Arsenio Hall did not tweet expressions of outrage to their millions of “followers.” Celebrities like Spike Lee and Roseanne Barr did not use their respective Twitter accounts to publicly post the home address of any of the perpetrators. Entertainers like Chaka Khan did not produce any music videos in honor of the slain. And the president of the United States did not feel compelled, as he did in the wake of Trayvon Martin's death, to urge all Americans “to do some soul-searching to figure out how does something like this happen.”

Something like what, exactly? Presumably the president was referring to the popularly accepted cartoon version of the Zimmerman-Martin confrontation, a narrative that essentially went like this: A racist, aggressive white vigilante (later identified as a “white Hispanic”) relentlessly “hunted down,” as Florida Congresswoman Federica Wilson explained it, an unarmed “sweet young boy … like a dog” and mercilessly executed the child because his black skin and the hooded sweatshirt (“hoodie”) he was wearing gave him the appearance of being a potential criminal who “didn't belong” in the gunman's neighborhood. In short, a deadly brew of racial profiling on the one hand, and “walking while black” on the other, had claimed yet another innocent black victim.

It is reasonable to assume that Congresswoman Wilson, like Jackson and Sharpton, is genuinely troubled by the enormous number of African American lives that are prematurely snuffed out in acts of senseless violence each year. Homicide is, after all, the leading cause of death for black males aged 10-24, and the second leading cause of death for black females aged 15-24; African Americans as a whole are six times as likely as whites to die at the hands of a murderer, and young black men in particular are fully fifteen times as likely to be murdered as their white male counterparts. These are tragedies of inexpressible magnitude.

That being said, the proverbial elephant in the living room quietly awaits recognition: For at least 35 years, no fewer than 94% of all black victims of homicide have been killed by other blacks. In fact, blacks themselves commit the vast majority of all types of violent crimes against African Americans; whites are responsible for only 12% of such offenses. Given these stark and immensely significant realities, what possible rationale could there be for demanding that an entire nation engage in an orgy of self-examination and self-flagellation—“soul-searching,” as President Obama calls it—over an incident of a type that almost never happens? And by the same token, why do the stalwart defenders of “civil rights” invariably turn a blind eye to black-on-black assaults, which, over the past half century, have filled more graveyards and caused more human misery in black communities than all the white racists in America, combined?

By no means, of course, are black victims of black violence the only people about whom the champions of “civil rights” are utterly unconcerned. To be sure, white victims of black offenders are just as uninteresting to this bunch. Scarcely two weeks after Trayvon Martin's death, a black male broke into the Tulsa, Oklahoma home of an 85-year-old white woman named Nancy Strait, sexually assaulting her, battering her to death, and, for good measure, shooting her 90-year-old husband in the face with a BB gun. About a month prior to the Martin killing, a black carjacker in Louisiana shot and killed a white man who tried to come to the aid of the jacker's female victim. Also in January, one black and two Hispanics in Philadelphia attacked Kevin Kless, a 23-year-old white man who was trying to hail a cab, and beat him to death. Last December in Fort Worth, Texas, a black career-criminal sexually assaulted and killed a 59-year-old white woman named Jo Beth Marchand, who was described by those who knew her as a person of “gentleness and unconditional love.” Also in December, a black South Carolina motorist named Nickolas Miller intentionally forced the car of Beverly Hope Melton, a young white woman, off the road; he then kidnapped Melton, raped her, and beat her to death. Last summer, a 20-year-old African American named Christopher Lemar Johnson burglarized the Florida home of 83-year-old Emma Jean Beasley, a white woman whom he proceeded to sexually batter and then murder. And last April, two young British tourists, James Cooper and James Kouzaris, were vacationing in Florida when local teenager Shawn Tyson, who has the word “Savage” tattooed across his chest, spotted the two “crackers,” as he called them, and, ignoring their pleas for mercy, shot them both dead when he found they had no money to give him.

Because such victims have no racial currency for loudmouthed agitators whose entire careers are dependent upon an ability to portray white racism as a plague that can scarcely be restrained, their deaths are not just quickly forgotten, but in most cases go wholly unnoticed. This selective indifference to heartless brutality is particularly significant in light of the fact that black-on-white violence is hardly a rarity. Even after accounting for disparities in the respective sizes of America's black and white populations, the “average” black is statistically much more likely than the “average” white to commit an act of interracial violence such as rape, aggravated assault, robbery, or homicide. Well aware of this inconvenient reality, self-absorbed opportunists like Sharpton and Jackson realize that they have to make hay whenever a chance to cry “Racism!” happens to present itself. And that, in a nutshell, is why the name of Trayvon Martin is known to all, while the other victims named in this article—black and white alike—lie in their graves unremembered by anyone aside from their loved ones.

Some will point out that a major bone of contention in the Trayvon Martin case is that the gunman, George Zimmerman, has not yet been incarcerated, thereby feeding popular fears that racial considerations dictate, to the detriment of African Americans, how the criminal-justice system operates. But decades of empirical evidence show that this is simply not the case. As early as the 1970s, it was already demonstrable that no statistical racial gaps existed in terms of the way comparable black and white defendants were treated at any stage of the justice process, from arrest to conviction to sentencing to parole. This was (and remains) true for every region of the country, including the South.[1] “Civil rights” messiahs and their credulous followers may wish desperately to believe otherwise, but a wish and a fact are two different things.


[1] Dinesh D'Souza, The End of Racism (New York: Free Press, 1995), p. 283.  William Wilbanks, The Myth of a Racist Criminal Justice System(Monterey: Brooks/Cole Publishing, 1987), Chapters 5-8.

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