Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” retired Gen. Colin Powell joined the ranks of those leaders, black and white, contending for this year’s Pontius Pilate political courage award.
“I think that it will be seen as a questionable judgment on the part of the judicial system down there,” said the general of the verdict in last month’s George Zimmerman trial, “but I don’t know if it will have staying power.”
To be sure, the post-verdict derangement was more obvious and intense in the days after Zimmerman’s acquittal for the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, not that the media noticed. (Hat tip to theconservativetreehouse.com for cataloging these incidents.)
In Mississippi on July 14, the day after the verdict, three black men in a car pulled up to a white jogger and asked, “Do you know who Trayvon Martin was?” There was no good answer. They were going to beat him regardless.
That same day in Milwaukee, a group of black men jumped a young white guy walking through the park. According to a witness, at least one attacker yelled, “This is for Trayvon Martin.”
Again on that same day, two white brothers were shot and killed in Jacksonville as they sat in their pickup truck. Although the police are in denial, the fact their truck had a “Free Zimmerman” decal on it may well have had something to do with the shooting.
In Oakland on July 15, a waiter who tried to stop a man from smashing the window of his restaurant during a pro-Trayvon rally/riot was hit in the face with a hammer for his efforts.
In Houston on that same Monday, a white woman driving her daughter to the hospital was punched in the face for daring to ask pro-Trayvon protesters to allow her car through a street they were blocking.
In Baltimore on that same day, a group of black youths chased and beat an Hispanic man while shouting, “This is for Trayvon.” A Hispanic man was beaten in Los Angeles that same day even though he was among those protesting the Zimmerman verdict.
If anything, America’s political class egged the aggrieved on. Although more than 60 percent of college graduates thought the Zimmerman verdict just, that number did not include any Democrat running for office.
This pronounced deviation from the norm was most evident in New York City where a highly contested mayoral primary loomed less than two months down the road.
Bill de Blasio, the city’s public advocate, called the not-guilty verdict “a slap in the face to justice.” City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, D-Manhattan, called it “a shocking insult to his family and everyone seeking justice for Trayvon.”
Said Controller John Liu, “Today’s decision is shocking and highlights the sad reality that the day of equal justice for Trayvon and millions of other young men of color has yet to arrive.”
The only black mayoral candidate, Bill Thompson, said, “Trayvon Martin was killed because he was black. There was no justice done today in Florida.”
And finally, in one of the few times the words “tweet” and “Anthony Weiner” were not part of someone’s punch line, mayoral hopeful Weiner tweeted, “Keep Trayvon’s family in our prayers. Deeply unsatisfying verdict. Trial by jury is our only choice in a democracy.”
At the national level, the pandering was no less obvious. Democratic Senate majority leader Harry Reid said on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” “This isn’t over with, and I think that’s good.”
By “not over with” Reid meant that Eric Holder’s Justice Department would continue to hound Zimmerman despite his having been cleared more than a year earlier by the FBI. By “good,” there was no telling what he meant.
Democratic presidential aspirant Hillary Clinton also welcomed “the next steps from the Justice Department” and added some empty words about “the need for a national dialogue,” a dialogue her party would never initiate in any meaningful way.
Powell’s empty optimism might have been forgiven had the violence ended within a few days of the acquittal, but it has not. Unfortunately, it has had “staying power” enough to factor into the deaths of at least two white men.
On Aug. 12, Mario Patterson and two friends drove by 27 year-old David Santucci on a Memphis Street, stopped, backed up and, from 10 feet away, Patterson reportedly fired a bullet through Santucci’s heart.
As is typical, the police have been treating it as a robbery gone bad, but no one bothered to take Santucci’s phone or wallet. Not surprisingly, Patterson had numerous photos of Trayvon Martin on his Facebook page.
“Ayeee I knocked out 5 woods since Zimmerman court!” James Edwards tweeted in the wake of George Zimmerman’s acquittal. For the record, “woods” is short for peckerwoods, a derogatory term for white people. “90% of white ppl are nasty. #HATE THEM,” tweeted Edwards.
As Colin Flaherty chillingly documents in his frequently updated book, “White Girl Bleed A Lot,” the Knockout Game has become something of a recreational outlet for bored black youths.
Edwards’ tweets surfaced after he and two of his homies were charged with killing Australian baseball player Chris Lane in Duncan, Okla., Aug. 16.
Powell did not mention any of these or like incidents in his “Face the Nation” appearance. Still, he commended President Obama for speaking out on racial issues and encouraged “all leaders, black and white” to speak out more.
In speaking out a week after the verdict, Obama blew the chance he had to say something worth saying. Like Powell, he chose not to notice the violence that followed the verdict or the violence that preceded it.
If the president had called attention to the fractures in Martin’s domestic life, his suppressed criminal record, his all but unseen descent into drugs and violence, and especially his reckless attack on Zimmerman, Obama might have lent a dollop of moral seriousness to his remarks.
But he did not. Like Powell, he encouraged his listeners to think that their anger was justified, and too many of them appear to be taking that anger out on the most vulnerable white or Hispanic or “white Hispanic” within reach.