This small-town tragedy has been turned into a national crisis partially by manipulative media. The racism card that drove up the ratings of media outlets covering the case was, to a large extent, a result of NBC’s deceitful splicing of George Zimmerman’s call to police. We can’t know how intentional this was, but we do know that the media had a hand in playing the racism card, that it benefited greatly from the ensuing chaos, and that the people of the United States are extremely vulnerable because of the anger and hate it has spurred. Government and media thrive off the emotional fallout of a misinformed people.
Perhaps Zimmerman deserves punishment for his mistake of following Trayvon Martin. If he had done his job correctly, Martin would not have died. Nevertheless, whether the murder was a hate crime is a completely different question, and possibly one injected into our minds for the sake of media ratings, much to the humiliation of the American people. The media is familiar with this kind of manipulation; OJ’s and Casey Anthony’s are gold mines.
That being said, one ought to also acknowledge that the protesters are not so much concerned with putting Zimmerman in prison as they are with exposing subterranean racial tensions that can’t receive the same attention they could half a century ago.
It isn’t easy to have a conversation about racism anymore. American social etiquette dictates that we be pleasantly diplomatic with each other, that we be moderate, uncontroversial and politically correct. This makes it very difficult to voice deep passions such as anger about racism (which is nowadays prevalent yet subtle due to a similar process of sublimation). America wants to talk about racism and is frustrated that it can’t. How often is it the subject of our jokes, comedies, music and films? In those contexts, it is easier to mention. You can’t just sit down at a lunch table and unprecedentedly rattle off some educated talking points about post-MLK American racism. It’s much easier to recite Dave Chappelle jokes.