Justice, Not Drama, for Trayvon Martin
The shooting death of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida has thankfully become a national news story. Martin was killed as he went about his daily business, under circumstances, which usually don’t result in death for anyone but Black people. While Martin was returning to the home of a family friend in a gated community, a “neighborhood watchman,” a trigger-happy rent-a-cop, shot and killed the seventeen-year-old. The killer’s assertion of “suspicious behavior” boils down to just one thing. Martin had a Black face, and that has always served as reason enough to be deemed suspicious.
Witness accounts and 911 calls all prove that the shooting was unjustified, but the local police refused to conduct a thorough investigation or charge the killer, George Zimmerman, with any crime whatsoever. The Martin family has to be commended for keeping up the fight even as they grieve this terrible loss.
The publicity has created at least one good outcome, namely that the Florida state attorney has announced that he will refer the case to a grand jury. The Obama Justice Department has of course not taken a strong stand, promising to investigate only after local investigations have concluded.
Spontaneous protests have taken place, which is obviously all to the good. Local citizens, students and clergy have all voiced their righteous indignation, but the attention has an unexpected down side as well. The ground swell of citizen action and resulting publicity can also lead to dubious involvement. Al Sharpton, who these days employs himself by giving Barack Obama cover in the Black community, and Michael Baisden, purveyor of talk radio nonsense, have announced that they will attend a rally in support of the Martin family.
There is nothing about the presence of famous people, which furthers the cause of justice for Trayvon Martin and his family. The family and their attorneys have already brought this case to public attention, and are most in need of action from the criminal justice system. This will call for continued political pressure on local authorities, and skilled legal advice, not famous faces showing up in Sanford, Florida.
Baisden and Sharpton are particularly problematic given their past history and current activities. Baisden waded into the fight for justice for the Jena Six, teenagers from Jena, Louisiana who faced long prison sentences after fighting with a white classmate. Baisden was among those who raised funds for defense attorneys, but then publicly slandered Color of Change and falsely accused them of misusing funds. He used the Jena Six case to give himself visibility, higher ratings and ultimately a bigger paycheck.
Sharpton’s recent history has been even more scandalous. During his 2004 presidential campaign, Sharpton happily fell under the influence of Republican operative and dirty trickster Roger Stone. In 2004 he showered Sharpton with money and attention and for all intents and purposes took over his campaign. Sharpton became a stooge for the man famous for ending the election vote count in Florida in 2000.
From that time to the present, Sharpton’s political role has been that of an all-purpose opportunist who employs himself as a hired gun for disreputable forces. At a time when stop and frisk policies carried out by New York City police victimize thousands of Black people, Sharpton has rented himself out to billionaire mayor Michael Bloomberg. Bloomberg philanthropy is a major contributor to Sharpton’s National Action Network and Sharpton’s silence on stop and frisk proves that he definitely won’t bite the hand that feeds him.
The Obama presidency provided yet another chance for Sharpton to rent himself out. He is Obama’s chief apologist, having famously stated that he would never criticize the president under any circumstance and proved himself ready not only to say nothing about the administration’s acts of wrong doing but to assist in carrying them out. Among other things, Sharpton joined Arne Duncan and Newt Gingrich on a national tour to promote charter school “reform.”
What will Sharpton’s role be in Sanford, Florida? The Obama administration was silent on the issue of Trayvon Martin until it became inopportune to remain so. The tepid response was in stark contrast to Obama’s comments on the subject of the arrest of his friend Henry Louis Gates. When press secretary Jay Carney was asked if he spoke to the president about the Martin case, he only replied “I talk to him about a lot of things.” A day later he added that the White House would not “wade into a local law enforcement matter.”
Baisden must be ignored and Sharpton must be watched. Sharpton will do as he has been doing for the past three years, acting as Obama’s factotum. If he spends more time defending Obama than he does fighting for justice for Trayvon, then we know he is up to his old tricks. It has been a long time since Al Sharpton could be trusted to do the right thing on any issue.
Sharpton’s words on the Trayvon Martin case will be Barack Obama’s words. We will soon see how far Sharpton has fallen and how much or perhaps how little Obama cares about Black people.
The way this case is handled will tell us everything we need to know about the people involved. It is hard to think of anything that will knock Obama or for that matter Sharpton, off of their pedestals, but the way the administration treats the Trayvon Martin case may be the final eye opener for millions of people.
—Black Agenda Report, March 21, 2012