How Does the Media Profit by Besmirching the Reputation of a Dead Child?

They said they would come for him, but I didn’t believe it. I should have had less faith in society’s veneer of decency…then perhaps I’d be less shocked.

In the month since Trayvon Martin has been murdered and buried, tidbits of information surrounding the circumstances of that night have been investigated and/or leaked to the media. Anyone who has been following the case knows who the characters and what their (presumed) roles are in this tragedy. What is unclear for some is what the motive for killing an unarmed child walking home from the convenience store might be. I have my theories, but it is up to a lawyer to prove or dispel those.

My friends and I have been following this case very closely. We do hourly searches for new information. We attended the ‘Justice for Trayvon’ rally in Atlanta this week. We pray that the truth will be made to prevail in the face of this calamity. Some of us stay away from the comments section that proceed articles that discuss Trayvon Martin and his killer George Zimmerman, but some of us scour them to determine what the pulse of the nation says. A lot of it has been ugly. I knew there where racist sycophants amongst us, but I never imagined a cross section of America to be this cruel.

I am sure by now, Reader, you are well aware of the smear campaign being launched by a segment of the American media. Their goal is to paint 17 year old Trayvon Martin as a more “menacing figure” than his parents and the liberal media would have us to believe who was “dogged by a troubled past” at school. After trolling his MySpace and Twitter pages, they were able to unearth two images of Trayvon sporting gold teeth and tattoos. These, they say, were evidence of a boy entrenched in gang culture – not the baby-faced imaged “being forced down our throats”. (I refuse to link the articles purporting these ridiculous theories, as I will NOT drive traffic to them from my site, but the trolls among us know where they can pick up this garbage. I’m sure they would be happy to direct to towards the cyber sty.)

The more I read, the more amazed I am by the majority’s need to demonize this dead child. As weeks stretch on into months, the legend of Trayvon grows with time. When we first heard about Trayvon, he was about 6 feet tall and 140 lbs. By the end of this week, gun rights advocates and White supremacist would have us believe was actually 6’3” and twice that weight. Every day that goes by, Trayvon adds another inch to his height, and 10 more pounds to his girth from beyond the grave. Add the hoodie he was wearing, and Presto! You have a verifiable gangster prowling the streets of a gated community. Astounding!

Have a look at these “menacing” images. What do you see? As someone who remembers the age of 17 quite vividly, I’ll tell you what I DO not see: a thug or a killer. And what are his tattoos of? Praying hands encircled by rosary beads, and the name of his mother on his wrist. Nothing says “killer” like a tattoo of the name of the woman who birthed you, does it?

I see a kid who was messing around on his webcam, possibly in his bedroom or a game room (note the dart board behind him) who was wearing a white singlet because it is hot as HELL in Florida. ALL. THE. TIME. This is a kid who was exploring a part of hip hop culture, something White teens, may I add, do every day in the comfort of their suburban homes. And let’s talk about White teens for a moment, shall we?

All these keyboard Kamikazes and Comment Nazis are on a mission to sully the reputation of this deceased child. To what end, I wonder? Is it so that they will not have to take a look at the mess in their own homes and backyards, basements and bedrooms? You might recall an incident a few years ago here in Georgia in Rockdale County in the city of Conyers. Conyers is a middle-to-upper class environ, with well bred, church-going families. Seventeen teenagers tested positive for syphilis, about 200 others were treated for exposure and about 50 reported engaging in group sex and other “extreme sexual behavior.” Between the hours of 3pm to 7pm, these children – children as young as 15 – would engage in perverse sexual acts with each other, quickly spreading the disease and its symptoms from one to another.
Now, disgusting as that may be, let’s assume something far worse were to happen. Let’s assume one of these children were kidnapped and raped by a marauder strolling through the neighborhood. We’ll call her Becky. She’s a blond 14 year old. In the midst of pleas for the child’s safe return by parents and teachers, let’s pretend that the media looked into the checkered past of poor Becky. Well, of course she was singled out to quench this man’s appetites. Surely he cannot be to blame? After all, Becky was constantly and consistently engaged in casual sex. Surely something about her aroused this primal reaction in him?

Would we be disgusted by any media outlet who made such an assertion? Absolutely. Would there be massive cries for the firing of any journalist who proposed something so heinous? You bet’cha.

But why stop there? Let’s take it a little bit further. Let’s ask ourselves what part Natalie Holloway played in her disappearance. What business did the 18 year old high school grad have hanging out in night clubs? She had to be drinking…isn’t that what they do in night clubs? Perhaps the media should have gone through her diary and photos taken with or by friends. She was 18 after all. If she was in a night club, she couldn’t have been all “mom and apple pie.”

Jaycee Duggard and Elizabeth Smart: what was their portion in their rapes and abductions. Were their parents not to blame? After all, one of them should have been picking up Jaycee from school. If they had performed their parental duties, she never would have been taken. If Elizabeth’s father had set the alarm that night they went to bed, Brian Mitchell never would have been able to enter their home undetected, would he? If we apply the same standard that Tray Martin and his parents are receiving to these cases, these are fair questions.

But that’s just it: They are not fair. They are vile.

I sat in my home fuming about Geraldo Rivera’s ridiculous comments earlier in the week when he alleged that Trayvon’s hoodie was just as much to blame for his death as Zimmerman.
“His parents should have made him take the hoodie off,” he said. “They should have known that when you see a minority child in a hoodie, there is going to be a visceral reaction from others.” (I’m paraphrasing, so here’s the video. http://video.foxnews.com/v/1525652570001/geraldo-rivera-trayvon-martins-hoodie-is-as-much-responsible-for-his-death-as-george-zimmerman/ )
His parents should have told him that hoodies draw suspicion. Where have I heard that before?

  • Your parents should have told you not to look a white man in the eye, it could get you whipped.
  • Your parents should have told you not to drink out of this water fountain or enter this establishment from the front door. It could get you killed.
  • Your parents should have told you not to look at White women a certain way. It could get you killed.
  • Your parents should have told you that those locks/natural hair/afro makes you look unkempt, threatening and angry. You will never get a job looking like that.
  • His parents never should have let him leave for school in those Jordans. Now he’s dead in the street.

We have all these rules that are supposed to govern our conduct and mode of dress in order to make certain people feel more “comfortable” around us, and for what? Are these not the same people who very often emulate the conduct and mode of dress we create as a culture?

Wow. How far have we really come? Geraldo could have used that moment to reach across the growing racial divide that feasts on fear based on the fashion choices made by minority youth, but instead he chose to pander to those fears, explain away foolishness and lay blame at the feet of a corpse.

And that is the sad, sad thing. Trayvon Martin is a corpse. Someone’s son was inhumanely ripped from his family and all the media wants to do at this point is look into how his 10-day suspension contributed to a bullet ripping into his chest? How wearing an item of clothing to protect him from an evening drizzle justifies the seizing of his living breath? How some fake gold teeth and a sloppy smile made him a menace – and an unarmed one at that? Who gains from tarnishing the memory of a child, barely cold in his grave? What dark, demonic pleasure does broadcasting these irrelevant details satisfy?

America, America. You bill yourself as the land of the free and the home of the brave. Was Trayvon Martin not free to walk back to the home he had just left? Was he indeed not brave when he fought off his pursuer, even to last moments when he howled in horror? Listen to the 911 tapes again, and remember why we’re having these protests America. A boy who went out to buy some candy is dead. Does anything else really matter?

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9 thoughts on “How Does the Media Profit by Besmirching the Reputation of a Dead Child?

  1. bessieakuba

    Well. You already know what I’m going to say. YOU are SICK with a pen..well keyboard. (Great Writer) Now i feel like flipping over some tables and getting on the next flight to Germany.

  2. NM

    Thank you Malaka for this thought provoking piece. This tragedy has been sobering to say the least, I had no idea people could be so blinded by hate.

    What’s disheartening and fury provoking is the collective thought of some that black people are playing the ‘race card’. A 17 year old is dead at the hands of man who previously sent out emails telling people to beware of black young men in the neighborhood. Race was a factor long before black people cried foul and was indeed a catalyst for Zimmerman’s actions on 02/26/2012. These attempts to assassinate Trayvon’s character and the subsequent comments show the state of race relations in this country, we are in complete denial.

    They can muddy up the waters & kick up dust but this will remain when it all settles: an armed man, stalked (they’ll say surveyed), pursued (they’ll say followed) and murdered (they’ll claim self defense) an unarmed 17 year old boy. Nothing about Trayvon’s character, poor choices and fashion sense warranted his death just as nothing Natalie Holloway, Elizabeth Smart and Jaycee Duggard (or any other victims) do or did, said or wore would justify the heinous crimes committed against them.

    April 10th can’t get here soon enough.

  3. David S.

    How does the media profit? The media is a business. All they do is deliver what their consumers want. And their consumers, mainstream America, want someone to validate their ingrained racism. Because the average American DOES think that wearing your hair a certain way, having a certain skin tone, talking with a certain accent, having academic problems in school, or having grown up in certain neighborhoods means you deserve to be treated as a suspected criminal. The average American wants someone to justify what George Zimmerman did because the average American sees themself in the man, and can’t honestly say they wouldn’t have done what he did if they were in his shoes.

  4. Andrew

    Pockets of racists abound the world over…it’s not just the US. Here’s the UK version short of a (Trayvon) bullet. When people perpetuate the view that the problem is being black, well, then what do we expect when they come across such a person? They pull the trigger – act now think later kind of attitude. It is sickening. Lately, I am aware of how conscious of it all I am. I walk the streets in Holland and sometimes wonder, cold as it is, should I may be not have worn a winter hat as that makes me look stereotypically black, or, gang affiliated? And I get questioning that stereotype. Man, I could go on, but ultimately the world has to change. I am at a loss how to effect that change when I would consider myself an object of the attack. Trayvon was at no fault, except as the British police officer says in this clip
    “The problem with you is you will always be a nigger” (I shudder at the words). Thank you for the post Malaka.
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2012/mar/30/police-racism-black-man-abuse

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