Saturday, April 7, 2012

Trayvon Martin and the Great Divide: ALEC Takes a Hit

Well here we are in the second decade of the twenty-first century and the more things change, tragically the more they stay the same.

The Christian Science Monitor along with an outfit known as Techno Metrica Market Intelligence took a poll recently. They wanted to know what people think about the shooting death of young Trayvon Martin and neighborhood watch "captain", George Zimmerman.

As everyone on the planet should know by now, on a drizzly night weeks ago Martin was walking back to a Florida condo he was visiting. Zimmerman, who was carrying a nine millimeter hand gun, decided he looked suspicious and began to follow him. By the time it was over, Martin who was unarmed, was dead. Zimmerman claims self defense and is pleading he did nothing more than exercise the Florida "stand your ground" statutes. These are laws that allow people like him to kill just about anyone and everyone at their discretion.

The poll paints a picture of a nation so divided that it sucks all the hope right out of a room. Apparently we will never come together on the issues of race and the perception of equal treatment by the justice system.

According to the results 73% of blacks and hispanics believe race played a major roll in the shooting. Only 36% of whites do. When broken down further, 66% of younger people believe race was a motivation and 43% of middle aged people do. 48% of lower income respondents think race was a factor as opposed to 39% of those describing themselves as in an upper income bracket. It even breaks down along political lines. 64% percent of democrats polled think race was involved while only 32% of republicans do.

Of the black people polled, 72% think George Zimmerman is guilty of a crime. Only 32% of non blacks think the same thing.

The poll also indicates that African Americans and democrats are following the story more closely than republicans. And in fact whites and republicans believe there is too much coverage of it. In other words, ignore it and it will go away.

Then there is the final and most depressing conclusion. Minorities and younger people believe a grave injustice was done. The older white crowd believes  professional agitators are stirring up the masses in order to railroad Zimmerman for purely political purposes.

And there you have it once more. The great white denial. Racism is dead and black leaders are cynical political opportunists when they say it isn't. As long as we say we aren't racists then we can't be. However, keep the gun handy just in case some black kid in a hoodie comes walking past. After all you can never be too careful.

If there is one upside to all of this it is that the American Legislative Exchange Council has taken a hit. ALEC as it is known is a non-profit right wing advocacy group founded by brothers Charles and David Koch. The institute is funded primarily by giant corporations. It writes "model" laws which it hands over to state legislators who are in their pocket and too stupid to come up with their own bills. The legislators then tweak the language of the bill, making it state specific and hiding the participation of ALEC in its authorship. ALEC likes to come up with laws that do things such as restrict voter registration. And, in case you were wondering, they were the force behind the "stand your ground" legislation in Florida.

Since the shit hit the fan in the Martin shooting, Kraft Foods, Coca-Cola and Pepsico have all pulled out of the organization. Hey, even black people eat cheese and drink sodas. It would never do to get identified with an outfit that could cost you a major segment of your market.

Sometimes I think we are on a treadmill in this country. We want to look like we are running from our past, but in reality we don't want to go anyplace.  New ground, a different world truly scares us. If we don't admit to that poisonous little corner deep in our brain it can't really exist. We are all innocent until at times like these we prove ourselves to be horribly guilty.


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