Friday, March 30, 2012
I drove over to the laundromat in the little town of Liberty last night, rolling through the beautiful spring gloming, ending up at twilight all by myself in a nice clean laundromat sitting across the old highway into town from a big brick mill. My guess is the mill's deceased, but I don't know that for sure. The windows, as far as I could tell, were still in place. Maybe something's still alive there. I hope so. On the ride I listened for a minute or two to some third string yammerer on "Rush Radio," our state-wide network of hate FM, explaining to "the black people" that they had best shape up and quit wearing their pants down to their knees, and having 72% of their children out of wedlock. Treyvon Martin was mentioned every other sentence. Earlier in the day, driving home from work, Hannity was interviewing some Fox reporter from Orlando, who was reporting that Mr. Zimmerman was afraid for his life and couldn't go home or to work. I think she had interviewed Zimmerman's father, who told her and the world that Zimmerman was beaten up by Treyvon, and in great fear of his life, which his son told him, and he was sure his son wouldn't lie about such a thing. Later on, folding clothes at home, I saw Zimmerman's brother developing the story further--Zimmerman's head was being banged on the sidewalk and he thought he had better move his head before he became a vegetable. Such interior detail. Such human interest. Today I expect to hear that as Treyvon banged Zimmie's head, Treyvon's bling clinked in his ear so loudly that he was afraid he would suffer permanent hearing loss.
The third-stringer on Rush Radio opined that black people had better stop blaming things that happened "a century ago" for their behavior today. He said the killing of Treyvon was "not Emmett Till," and don't you forget it. He also said black people had better stop listening to people like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, and start listening to people like Herman Cain (really!) and Thomas Sowell--people who'd really done things.
Zimmerman's father said, in his interview, that he would never have believed the hate he perceived coming from the President. Later, on the Maddow show, Walter Dellinger said he thought the Supreme Court was approaching the thinking of the 1920s Court--that the precedent of Social Security being upheld as Constitutional in 1937 was implicitly being questioned in the issues being considered concerning the Health Care Reform Act. Over on Hannity's TV show a very pretty law expert (seems like that's all they can find over on Fox) said the Court was "mocking" the Administration's lawyers, and that's why Mr. Obama gave a speech yesterday suggesting that Congress drop oil subsidies.
I wonder if Mr. Nixon, when he invited the vast culture of white supremacy into the Republican Party back when he was trying to make an end run around George Wallace, realized that they came with their own agenda. Maybe he thought they were just rubes, these angry, fearful small-towners. Of course if you listen to the White House tapes there's the "N" word aplenty. So maybe to most Republicans, white supremacy is just an aspect of the privilege they live and breathe all the time. As Mr. Romney puts it, some of my best friends are NASCAR Team Owners.
The factual situation in the Treyvon Martin case hasn't changed much. A man with a gun stalked Martin even after being told by police to stop. Then he killed Martin. The legal situation in Florida is such that if you can prove (in some sense as yet undetermined) that you were in fear of your life, you needn't be charged with any crime if you kill someone. Mr. Zimmerman is now producing reams of "testimony" aimed at proving (in some sense as yet undetermined) that he was in fear for his life. His daddy says so. His brother says so. A black news guy named Joe Oliver who sorta knows him says so. A whole national news network and a whole phalanx of right wing radio yammerers say so. Indeed, the idea might be that if you are in the presence of a young black man, you probably ought to, per se, be afraid for your life, particularly if he wears his pants low down in the fashion of the times.
And this is pretty much the situation as it was in the 1920s, when a black man could be murdered with impunity for casting his eyes off the ground. And in that cultural sea, if you want to see what happens to black people, go watch Stepin Fetchit's act some time. You act like that amongst the Republicans, you won't get strung up and lit afire. Most likely. Just look at Herman Cain. Or if you want to look some place else, hunt up that photo in Life of the three deputies who killed the three civil rights workers in 1963 and buried them in the earthen dam near Philadelphia, MS. Which, by the way, was where Reagan kicked off his campaign for President.
[photo from http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/episodes/billie-holiday/about-the-singer/68/ ]