By Devin Burghart/IREHR
The facts of the case are straightforward. Trayvon Martin was walking home when he was accosted by an armed vigilante who scuffled with the teenager and then shot him at close range. The vigilante was an unofficial “neighborhood watch” volunteer, who was advised by a police dispatcher to not give chase, but did so anyway. Despite the fact that Trayvon Martin was guilty only of “walking while black,” some Tea Party leaders had already convicted 17 year-old well before the trial, rather than George Zimmerman who shot him.
As IREHR previously noted, shortly after Zimmerman killed Martin on February 26, 2012, white nationalists and other bigots concocted false allegations, and slandered Martin. After the Zimmerman “not guilty” verdict, and particularly after President Obama publicly discussed the issue of race in the Trayvon Martin situation, many Tea Partiers used the occasion to place blame on the victim, amplify racist stereotypes of black men, and reproduce that racism in the civic arena.
For example, just hours after the July 13 verdict, the Florida Tea Party sent an email blast to supporters entitled “Black Teens Murder White Baby For The Fun Of It.” The brief, brutal story had been news from Brunswick, Georgia the previous March. But the Tea Partiers regurgitated the story in July in an attempt to deflect blame away from Zimmerman on to black men
The Florida Tea Party was not alone in this regard. Tea Party Nation founder Judson Phillips, repeatedly weighed in during the trial with attempts to demonize the dead African-American teen. In a July 15, 2013 Tea Party Nation website piece entitled “From Sinner to Saint,” Phillips fused many falsehoods and distortions into a vicious and bitter piece of propaganda.
Trayvon Martin was well on his way to a life of crime, a life that would feature at best, the revolving door of the criminal justice system or possibly even a lifetime stay at a penal facility. Or, at worst, a shortened life, ended by someone else.Trayvon Martin was a product of American liberal social policies. A single mother raised him. His school was more concerned about appeasing the civil rights hucksters than whether Trayvon Martin was either educated or taught basic responsibilities.The story of Trayvon Martin’s life is not irrelevant. It is the major cause of what happened that night he encountered George Zimmerman. The left has tried to demonize Zimmerman and has tried to canonize St. Trayvon.The truth is Trayvon Martin was a 17-year-old thug who was the architect of his own demise.That is the story that should be told. Perhaps if that story and the truth about Trayvon Martin is told, it might prevent the next Trayvon Martin.
Later Phillips wrote, “The George Zimmerman trial was a travesty to begin with. It never should have happened” and called for the head of State’s Attorney Angela Corey, claiming, “She is an individual unfit to be a prosecutor, unfit to be a lawyer and unfit for a job anymore significant that asking, “Would you like fries with that?”
It should be noted that by openly articulating the type of bigoted clap-trap that is usually said only behind closed doors, Phillips both invests these ravings with a certain legitimacy while re-establishing his own racist credentials. Indeed, Phillips Tea Party rhetoric mirrors closely the words of white nationalist demagogue Jared Taylor of American Renaissance, who wrote “Five white women and an apparent Hispanic have acquitted George Zimmerman on all counts. The facts and the law clearly required that it do so. However, this is a just conclusion only to a case that should never have been brought, and that casts a harsh and damning light on black race hustlers, crazed white liberals, and a vilely irresponsible media.”
From another angle, Lloyd Marcus, the Deltona, Florida paid spokesperson for the Tea Party Express, who describes himself, parentheses included, as a “(black) Unhyphenated American,” also chimed in. In an article entitled “Political Correctness: Bring Me the Head of George Zimmerman!” Marcus emphatically declared “I was elated upon hearing the not guilty verdict in the Zimmerman trial. It gave me hope that America has not yet totally succumb to the tyranny of Political Correctness. It is refreshing that the jury was not willing to sacrifice the life of an innocent man on the alter[sic] in worship of Political Correctness enforced by the mainstream media and the Obama Administration.”
Marcus also pushed a notion that is popular in Tea Party circles that “the Obama Administration unlawfully conspired to ‘get George Zimmerman.’” As he often does, he attacked the NAACP and concluded that “had Zimmerman been sentenced to prison to appease PC, it would have been a dark day for all Americans – further empowering PC to imprison and enslave us.”
Tea Party reiterated old and tiresome attacks against the NAACP and others civil rights organizations and leaders, calling them a “racial grievance industry.” Over at the Patriot Action Network, for instance, one frequent commentator on the Tea Party site wrote, “George Zimmerman has been found not guilty by a jury of his peers. However the NAACP and the jury of the Society of Perpetual Race Baiters® is not persuaded. They will continue to hound George and use him as an example of racial injustice for decades to come; thus the tragedy of one young man’s death becomes the tragedy of character assassination and ruination of another young man’s life. So here’s our official halftime score: American Justice System 1, Race Baiting Prosecutors Acting Stupidly 0. Official Race Baiting outrage to follow.”
This kind of talk was old before the Tea Parties were invented. It goes hand in hand with the Confederate lie that slavery was good for African Americans. But when it is re-articulated in the 21st century, it renews and reinvigorates racist behavior.
Not satisfied with just defaming a dead teen, TheTeaParty.net (the same group which sponsored the .223 Day of Resistance Gun rallies in February), tried to use the verdict to attack the Obama administration (and raise cash). This group described the president the Attorney General Eric Holder as “race baiters.” They were supposedly involved in a conspiracy, according to this group. “Obama's DOJ, led by Holder, actually facilitated organized protests and rallies against George Zimmerman following the death of Trayvon Martin BEFORE Zimmerman was even brought up on charges!”
In a fund-raising pitch, the group pressed against those who believe that the Justice Department should charge Zimmerman with civil rights charges. TeaParty.Net demanded that “HOLDER MUST RESIGN AND BE PROSECUTED!”[Emphasis in original] They added, “We cannot continue to look the other way and not call out the likes of Barack Obama and Holder for being manipulative, dangerous race baiters. Their tactics are dirty. Their tactics are insulting. Their tactics are destructive for America.”
Two days later, in another fund-raising email, the group spun the conspiracy even further, announcing that “Eric Holder is declaring war on the American people and he's using George Zimmerman as cover.” Two days after that, in another fundraising email, TheTeaParty.net lambasted Obama’s remarks as “distraction, smoke screen” designed to cover up the IRS (non) scandal.
In a similar fashion, after President Obama’s remarks on Trayvon Martin, many Tea Party websites were flooded with racist comments lashing out against Martin and Obama, including fantasies about the President being killed.
For example, at the website of the 1776 Tea Party, Steven G. Elliott of Manns Choice, PA responded to the text of Obama’s remarks by comparing Obama and Martin, “One dope-head thug talking about another dope-head thug.” Linda Lee Kenney of Louisville, KY followed “I'm so sick of this jihadist trying to divide our country. He needs to go back to freakin Kenya!” Robert William Velon of Penryn, CA followed with “He needs to go back to Kenya in a box... I had hoped that his vacation to Africa would have promted[sic] him to buy a mud hut so he could move back.... Trayvon was a punk he was not the victim..... [Ellipses in original]” Jack Lamberson of Crawfordsville, IN added “He just proved he is racist and wants riots so he can declare marshal[sic] law and come after I guns. I sure wish it was him 35 years ago, we would all be much better off.” George Zornetsky of Beacon, NY also wished that the president was dead, “Too bad Obama isn't more like Martin, six feet under where that sonofabitch[sic] belongs.” There are many, many more comments like these on numerous Tea Party websites post-verdict, with scant voices challenging the racism.
Of course, this sort of guttural racism isn’t confined to Tea Party ranks or the white nationalist fringes. Conservative pundits like Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter have all used the verdict in the same manner. Racism and white privilege then are not simply a “left-over” phenomenon. It is, instead, a new and continually reproduced disease.
This horrid rhetoric provides further evidence of the depth and persistence of racism in this country. It should also serve as a wake-up call for all those who have given the Tea Party movement a free pass, and let it persist in the notion that it is simply a conservative cause concerned only with taxes and budgets. It should tell any decent hearted soul that this racist movement needs to be opposed as the bigots and racists they really are.