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Featuring: The Brownening

Orlando’s Fox affiliate WOFL recently turned up the heat on the melting shitpot that is the Trayvon Martin Incident, airing a segment about the Neo-Nazi group known as the National Socialist Movement, which had apparently decided to become their own Neighborhood Watch for the whole racially riven town of Sanford. In order to protect their white brother, accused shooter George Zimmerman, they’d decided to mass in Sanford, put on black uniforms, arm themselves, and be on the lookout for black-on-white violence of the Rodney King Riot variety. (The 1992 Los Angeles riots are still the main motivator in putting white folks on edge, but you may be interested to know that five times as many non-whites died in the incident.) 

The fact that WOFL treated this invasion of racist vigilantes as if it were a charity bake sale was in itself bizarre, as was the fact that the segment, helmed by a black female reporter (see? not racist!), insisted on buying into the NSM’s own rhetoric and labeling it as — get this — a “civil rights” group. This is how full circle the racial argument has come since the days of MLK: now, not only are Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson considered culture Nazis, actual Nazis are considered Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson.

Lost in all the horror, however — especially amidst the kind of truly legendary media skullfuckery that will eventually make the OJ Simpson trial look like traffic court — was the even more bizarre idea that Nazis should rally around Zimmerman.  The NSM states quite openly that heterosexual, “pure-blood whites” are the only ones deserving of US citizenship. Their official website distributes .pdf fliers exhorting white America to “take America back from the Jews” and also explaining the difference between “Joe Legal” and “Jose Illegal.” One of its stated goals is “promotion of white separation.” Its membership “is open to non-Semitic heterosexual(s) of European descent.”

George Zimmerman is the son of a retired military man, a former US magistrate, a white man with a Jewish last name. His mother is a court clerk from Peru. Does that make him pure-blood white? Apparently when he gets vilified for shooting an unarmed black kid, it does. Adding to the confusion was Zimmerman’s father, Robert, giving right-wing media their talking points when he claimed that George couldn’t possibly be racist because, after all, he was a minority. QED.

This raises some interesting racial and legal questions. If Zimmerman had shot an unarmed white boy, would he be in jail? Probably. If he’d shot a fellow Hispanic, would other Peruvians have rallied to his defense, especially if the dead boy was, oh, Guatemalan? How do the Peruvians feel about the Guatemalans? I have no idea. Maybe Zimmerman’s Jewish side gets really angry at his Hispanic side? Would his Jewish side have ever killed a Hispanic kid? Did you know that if he’d shot someone who was also half-Hispanic and half-Jewish, he would have been legally allowed to take the victim’s clothes, and would also have the option of marrying the dead man’s wife? It’s true! That’s Florida law.*

The right’s had a good old time playing both sides of the race card with this killing. When it’s necessary to make white people feel threatened, the shooter becomes a white man (even though he claims “Hispanic” on his drivers license). When it’s necessary to prove that he’s not racist, he becomes a minority (even though about half of American Hispanics prefer to identify as white when country of origin is not an option, and though Zimmerman does not speak Spanish). Then, when the “liberal” media tried to make everyone happy and refer to George as a “White Hispanic” — technically a correct term, as far as the government is concerned, because he’s self-identified as both — they were accused of muddying the issue. This is an old propaganda trick: make things so confusing that nothing changes, play to the worst beliefs of both sides, then accuse your opponents of doing the same thing, further obscuring facts with feelings.

This may be the most amazing cultural development of the case: whites arguing that being a minority precludes racism. It’s important not just because it gives minorities cover for their worst beliefs, something the right is not known for championing; it’s important because it carries with it the assumption that only white people can be racist.

White people, please listen to me. I am white. I just found out that my entire family history in this country stems from one Frenchman who came to a fort in Alabama half a century before the American Revolution. His sons ran guns for the Americans when the war began. My immediate grandparents were of Irish, French, German, and English descent. Okay? White. Caucasianer than hell, even.

Racism is not racial. Being black or white or brown doesn’t make you more or less disposed to be racist at birth. Society does that. Racism is institutional. This is why there is no such thing as “reverse racism.” It’s why we have quotas in places where there aren’t usually very many minorities. It’s also why merely bringing up the subject of racism doesn’t make you a racist. It’s why electing a black man President hasn’t changed racism much. And it’s exactly why Trayvon’s murder required months of protest and the intervention of people like Al Sharpton to make justice seem important. The Sanford police, largely a white institution, believed George Zimmerman, who looks “white,” when he said he was acting in self-defense. QED.

Institutions, by their nature, try as hard as they can to keep themselves just as they are, and for much of America, that means keeping white people in powerful positions. In another country, it might be another race, but not here; this is our history, like it or not. It’s not your fault (or mine) for simply having white skin, but it’s an insult to pretend we weren’t born at the top of the racial totem pole. The people in Sanford don’t need to be, as the WOFL-TV report states, “concerned for their safety” when the police are clearly in their pocket. Or maybe you believe the leader of the NSM when he says, “White Americans don’t seem to have very many spokespeople.” That must be news to 97 percent of Congress, not to mention the Martin family. Making Trayvon Martin’s killer white doesn’t make him a killer, but it definitely doesn’t make him unfairly persecuted, either.

As for the other side of that coin: if you think that all minorities have each other’s back, simply because they’re not white, I cordially invite you to join Mr. Zimmerman in jail.

*Shame on you.

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