Sunday, August 25, 2013

The wrong kind of outrage

A lot has been made of the news story that a WWII veteran was killed at the hands of two teenagers.

What does the incident say about America? Nothing, besides that no one is immune from violence. That doesn’t mean it isn’t exceedingly tragic. But those who are trying to turn it into more than it is are off the mark.

This is the latest story to be held up by some white people desperately trying to find a counterexample to white-on-black violence like the Trayvon Martin murder. They seek these stories because they want to believe that hate crimes don’t exist. They hope to discredit those who insist otherwise as the true racists.

That’s an uphill climb, to say the least. There aren’t many crimes that prove the inversion of the Trayvon case — that black people can skate free of justice after admittedly killing a white person (after having aggressively tailed them for wearing, say, Abercrombie and Fitch). So instead, they find any black-on-white homicide report they can find and blast President Obama and/or Al Sharpton for not being equally outraged by the (non)equivalent case.

To be any kind of equivalent story to Trayvon, the court would have to prove that the perpetrators targeted the man because of his combat status or his race. And even then, they’d have to go free due to a flawed prosecution or other inherent advantages that the system gives black teenagers who confess to murder.

Don’t hold your breath.

Chances are, the assailants in this killing are going to be tried and convicted without much fanfare or controversy. Let’s hope so.

The murder is senseless and a tragedy, which I hope goes without saying. In fact, it brings me to the main difference between this case and those like Trayvon’s:

Nobody decent thinks it’s OK to kill someone, of any stripe, in cold blood. Most people are empathetic when they learn about a murder victim’s life. And sadly, there’s nothing unusual about Americans killing random strangers for money.

But there are still people who are totally OK with racial profiling, and think of the perpetrators not just as deserving of freedom, but as heroes.

That’s the difference.

3 comments:

Kimberly Domangue said...

I agree. I'd post this to my Facebook, but I think it'd be lost on people.

People fail to see "why" Trayvon's case was so popular and end up creating false equivalencies in the process. It didn't receive attention when he was first killed, it came to popularity *when his killer wasn't arrested*. It highlighted a huge problem in many state laws. It doesn't make the loss of other lives any less tragic.

Ian McGibboney said...

Kimberly, I think some of them choose to lose the meaning. When subtleties undermine their point, they make it into a broad caricature. And thus: "Look! Blacks kill whites too! Where's Obama?"

Kimberly Domangue said...

Very true. I like characterizing it as caricature. Feeling the need to reinforce that caricature - or stereotype - proves why it has been such a troubling case. If your tendency is to emphasize more with the "scared" predatory adult with a gun over the unarmed black teenager walking home, you need to rethink the whole "I'm not racist whatsoever" bit. Sharing those stories shows what kind of mindset they're hell-bent on reinforcing.