Chauncey DeVega

Chauncey DeVega
Chicago, Illinois, USA
September 11
A (Sometimes) Respectable Negro
Editor and Founder of the blog We Are Respectable Negroes He has been a guest on the BBC, Ring of Fire Radio, Ed Schultz, Joshua Holland's Alternet Radio Hour, the Burt Cohen show, and Our Common Ground. His essays have been featured by Salon, Alternet, the New York Daily News, and the Daily Kos. The NY Times, the Daily Beast, the Utne Reader, Washington Monthly, Slate, and the Week (among others) have featured his expert commentary and analysis on race, politics, and popular culture.

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MARCH 19, 2012 2:06PM

Trayvon Martin and Life Lessons for Young Black Boys

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Scholars have long maintained that race is merely a social construct, not something fixed into our nature, yet this insight hasn’t made it any less of a factor in our lives. If we no longer participate in a society in which the presence of black blood renders a person black, then racial self-identification becomes a matter of individual will.

And where the will is involved, the question of ethics arises. At a moment when prominent, upwardly mobile African-Americans are experimenting with terms like “post-black,” and outwardly mobile ones peel off at the margins and disappear into the multiracial ether, what happens to that core of black people who cannot or do not want to do either?
Trayvon Martin was killed for the crime of being black, young, and "suspicious." Like many other young black boys and grown men throughout United States history, he was shot dead for the crime of possessing an innocuous object (and likely daring to be insufficiently compliant to someone who imagined that they had the State's permission to kill people of color without consequence or condemnation).

The facts are still playing themselves out. From all appearances,the police have failed to investigate the incident properly. Trayvon Martin's family has been denied the reasonable care, respect, and response due to them by the local authorities. Observers and activists have gravitated towards racism as the prime motive for the shooting and murder of a young black boy by a grown man and self-styled mall cop, Charles Bronson, Dirty Harry wannabe vigilante.

Common sense renders a clear judgement here: if a black man shot and killed a white kid for holding a bag of Skittles he would already be under the jail; in this instance, the police are operating from a position where a young African American is presumed "guilty," and his murderer is assumed innocent.

Yes, race matters in the killing of Trayvon Martin. However, and I will explore this in a later post, it is significant in a manner that is much more pernicious than the simple calculus of whether to shoot a young black boy for some imagined grievance or offense--as opposed to being asked a question, or perhaps sternly talked to. The latter is also problematic: it assumes that black people's citizenship and humanity are forever questionable, and subject to evaluation, by any person who happens to not be African American.

Cornel West famously suggested that all black children are "niggerized" at some point in their upbringing. Moreover, black children learn to live in a state of existential dread because they are always subject to wanton and unjust violence. Trayvon Martin's murder reminds me of a parallel and complementary observation. Black people live a paradox. We are simultaneously both children and adults in the white racial imagination regardless of our age.

Black people are treated as adults even when they are minors. In the courts, black young people are disproportionately subjected to punishments which are typically meted out to adults. As research has repeatedly demonstrated, to be young and black is to be an adult for purposes of arrest, the gas chamber, or imprisonment.

Historically, black people have been treated by whites as though they are children in regards to political matters. Thus, the contemporary rhetoric from conservatives that African Americans are childlike, zombies, on a plantation, or somehow hoodwinked or tricked into supporting the Democratic Party. Despite all of the available evidence, grown folks who were either heirs to, or participants in, a Black Freedom Struggle that salvaged and saved American democracy from its own weaknesses, lies, and hypocrisies, are depicted as naive infants, unable to be full and equal political actors.

The sociological imagination draws many connections. To point, Trayvon Martin's murder is also a surprising (and for many, counter-intuitive) complement to The New York Times' excellent series of essays on race, interracial marriage, and identity.

As someone who has loved across the colorline, and also believes that there are many ways to create a family, I have always held fast to a simple rule.

In this society, in this moment, and given what we know about how race impacts life chances, if a white person is going to have a child with a person of color (especially one who is African American or "black"), a parent is committing malpractice if they do not give their progeny the spiritual, emotional, philosophical, and personal armor to deal with the realities of white supremacy.

By implication, young black and brown children must be made to understand that they are not "special," "biracial," or part of a racial buffer group that is going to be given "special" privileges because one of their parents is white. These "multiracial" children are some of the most vulnerable and tragic when they are finally forced to confront the particular challenges which come with being a young black boy or girl in American society. In post civil rights America, this notion is politically incorrect. Nonetheless, it remains true.

Here, Thomas Chatterton Williams offers a great comment on blackness and the dilemma of "post-black" identity:
Still, as I envision rearing my own kids with my blond-haired, blue-eyed wife, I’m afraid that when my future children — who may very well look white — contemplate themselves in the mirror, this same society, for the first time in its history, will encourage them not to recognize their grandfather’s face. For this fear and many others, science and sociology are powerless to console me — nor can they delineate a clear line in the sand beyond which identifying as black becomes absurd.
Question: what happens for those young people who do not see themselves as "black" or "brown," yet run into the deadly fists of white racism? Do they have the skill sets necessary to survive such encounters whole of life and limb?

Because we are both part of a diaspora, the wisdom of our Jewish brothers and sisters is also instructive here. Continuing from The New York Times piece:
For Judt, it was his debt to the past alone that established his identity.Or as Ralph Ellison explained — and I hope my children will read him carefully because they will have to make up their own minds: “Being a Negro American involves a willed (who wills to be a Negro? I do!) affirmation of self as against all outside pressures.” And even “those white Negroes,” as he called them, “are Negroes too — if they wish to be.”And so I will teach my children that they, too, are black — regardless of what anyone else may say — so long as they remember and wish to be.
Trayvon Martin was likely taught the life lessons necessary to survive an encounter with the police (or their posse cousins) by his parents and other elders. Because black life is cheap, a young person of color can do everything "right" and still end up dead. What does this mean for blackness, when a century or more after the end of slavery, and decades after the end of lynch law, that your guilt is still assumed?

Whiteness and White privilege involve the luxury of being able to decide how, in what ways, and under what conditions, you will be allow yourself to be uncomfortable. White privilege also involves the luxury of not having to have a conversation with your kids about how to avoid being murdered by the cops because of your skin color. In many matters of life and death, white supremacy remains, in many ways, unchallenged. Black and brown folks, if they are responsible parents, cannot avoid such conversations with their children. The foot-dragging by the police in regards to the murder of Trayvon Martin reveals this ugly truth.

Dr. King is gone. A black man is President. Yet, life remains unfair...does it not?

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rated! Zimmerman was armed with a gun, Trayvon with a piece of candy in a Black hand. In that "battle," candy always loses.

Regarding the conduct of the police, I posted the following open letter to the Secret Service on the Huffington Post:

“Dear Secret Service:

Please do NOT trust the SANFORD POLICE DEPARTMENT to do anything to help protect our President of the United States should he visit their community.

Clearly, based on SANFORD POLICE DEPARTMENT behavior in the TRAYVON MARTIN MURDER they would excuse anyone who made an attempt on the President's life based on the justification that they "PERCEIVED" President Obama to be a "THREAT" because he shares the same "SALIENT" characteristics as TRAYVON MARTIN.”
I can't even begin to imagine anyone who would want to be combative and threatening when faced with someone holding a Glock. It makes no sense.
I don't even want to try to comment on this young man killed by the neighborhood watch nimwit or my head will explore Clancey.
You have used the words I would have left.
But I do urge you to write more often about what you see, for you do so well using just the right amount of words.
Write more often.
So I had to use the name of a friend I had on my mind instead of yours Chauncey.
My humble apologies.
The big problem is that most white Americans simply can't grasp how bad so many cops are. I didn't-- until I was victimized by corrupt and arrogant cops . I am so sorry for what African Americans have to go through at their hands , and ashamed that I lived 38 years oblivious to this harsh reality.

Trayvon's death, and the resultant lack of arrest, are a tragedy on so many levels. The presumption that the "authorities" will investigate, and do the right thing is very likely a bad presumption. And, if they don't do the right thing, barring a miracle, they will not be held accountable. Internal affairs, Departments of Justice, ACLU, FBI? Good luck.
The public outcry will help .It also helps that Trevonn is such a beautiful looking kid.
Yes, life remains unfair. Always was, and will be.
beautifully written both in style and content. I really enjoy the way your essays "come back up to be chewed again". I am sure I'll read it again as I have your others. Yes, we have a black president but he'll only be allowed to be black if re-elected and freed of political restraint, I really look forward to his book of ten years from now
Chauncey,I have signed a petition a few days ago.
I have to go now but will come back later.

Rated in hope for justice.
It is in no way comprehensible that crimes like that can happen today and the person accountable for it can get away with it.
I am simply shocked as I was shocked when Troy Davis was executed.
"Moreover, black children learn to live in a state of existential dread because they are always subject to wanton and unjust violence."

Herein lies the lie of false equivalence, and the source of so much of the struggle to perform identically on socially biased educational tests.

"Dr. King is gone. A black man is President. Yet, life remains unfair...does it not?"

Indeed. But our BLACK HAWAIIAN FEARLESS LEADER is not at all African American by descent, not one iota, he is black by the one drop rule, and not Hawaiian, but instead a "Chicago Machine" south sider by inference, ignorance and easier to understand categorization.

"These "multiracial" children are some of the most vulnerable and tragic"

BUT NOT IN HAWAII!!!!!!! Here they are, in a word, average, the norm, the majority.

The FBI and Justice Department are the only answer here. I started college life in the KKK section of Florida- and left ASAP ... simply too much hate, and, like our children of color in school today, it was highly disruptive to my studies.

"Americans are cowards on race."

AG Holder, and now it is his time to step up.

Auwe (Alas)
I agree. You do need to keep writing. I know how much literature exists in academia about the African American experience, but I think most Americans don't know this, and are unfamiliar with reading the wisdom, brilliance and stark truth of these issues. That is why the right is so anti-intellectual. Their power comes in clichés, over-simplifications, and flat-out lies. The more they can demonize entire groups of people to the uneducated, the more they can drive their selfish, hateful agenda. ... I'm raising a son who looks "white," but is half Mexican American, and he is already fighting the good fight in middle school. I'll blog about it soon. Thanks. R.
You speak well as a voice for how it really is. I am not always comfortable with what you say; but then, if I were comfortable with it, it wouldn't have the impact that it does. Even after 23 years of a wonderful marriage that "crossed the colour line", I cannot say that I know anything at all of what it's like to be black in today's America. I have the good fortune to be Canadian. Some racism exists here, of course, yet it is on the run here and what I see happening in the US is unlikely to happen to the same degree here.

Oddly enough, when I commented on this situation in the US to American friends, I was accused of "America bashing." From what I can glean from your writings, America could, it seems, do with a whole lot more "bashing" at times.....
I'm at a loss for words to respond to this other than well done.
Thanks again Chauncey.

Colonial America wasn't too different in many respects.

Native Americans were an "Inconvenience" to be dealt with in the most efficient, least troublesome fashion.

Like the Iraqis, and Afghans.

The following conversation took place BEFORE Rand Paul took office, while he was only promoting the destructive (Regressive) policies we're familiar with today.

AS PREVIOUSLY POSTED, Conversation with "Conned".

Yes, of course. The “Native Americans” Conned was reviling SHOULD be given the “BAD” label, of course.

That’s because they were sitting on resources that “Colonists” were vying for, an easy comparison would be George W. placing U.S. troops in Iraq based on OIL INTERESTS.

Resources have always been targeted by colonialism, George W. (IE the Imperial President) wasn’t the least bit timid about demonstrating THAT.

So the Iraqis became “BAD” when we decided to take their petroleum.

But early “Native Americans” were running all over Europe plundering for GOLD and various other resources, right? Hence the “Bad” label? Conned?

Because of that, they deserved WHATEVER punishment colonists decide to inflict on them, right?

Oh wait, no they weren’t. That was the “Colonists” plundering the ENTIRE GLOBE.

So the REAL CRIME of Native Americans is that they were sitting on territory that the “Colonists” valued, right?

Suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that Libertarians like Conned support Colonialism, Rand Paul likely does too.

Rand WOULD like to revoke most of the CIVIL RIGHTS gains of the last 1/2 century, if he NEXT proposes taking away federal prevention of SLAVERY that wouldn’t be too much of a surprise either.

Which is what much of 17th century Colonialism was ABOUT, right Conned?

Human beings met the definition of RESOURCES at that time as demonstrated by the abundant slave trade recorded during early U.S. history.

And I’ll bet Conned would like to blame Native Americans for THAT too.


Colonialism is the subject I addressed in the main, you’ve not answered for THAT or the actions of your former officeholder of choice, George W., actions taken on behalf of the entire United States by him IE Pre-Emptive war and the ensuing OCCUPATION of Iraq.

What a shame that McPain didn’t make it into office, ruinous GOP policies could have dragged our failing economy even further into debt in service of their “War Profiteering” enterprises.

Pakistan, Yemen, Iran, so many targets, so little time.

We’re STILL in Iraq much to the regret of non-Neocons like myself, and over half of the U.S. population agrees with me to date, George W. imposed his IMPERIAL petroleum ambitions on the rest of us with our troops paying the brunt of the price, along with AT LEAST hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis.

That falls under the definition of thinly-veiled Colonialism.

Behavior the Native American tribes CERTAINLY didn’t engage in.

As I’m sure you’re aware, Conned, Native Americans weren’t inflicting slavery on any other CONTINENTS, the “Whites” (and assorted Portugese/Spanish/International Traders) engaged in THAT since slave trade relied on sea lane trade routes.

Don’t pretend that being White/European/”Civilized” excuses Colonial behavior, Conned. Not against Native Americans or the Iraqis.

Rand Paul (namesake of Ayn Rand?) is mistaken in thinking that telling the TRUTH about the policies behind Libertarian politics will gain him public respect.

That’s because his opinions, now on display at the National level, reveal those policies to be indicative of him being a NUTJOB, particularly as pertains to civil rights and his OPINION that the Federal Government shouldn’t impose legislation related to discriminatory policies in PRIVATE Business.

Bottom Line BS.

We should all appreciate that he wasn’t clever enough to cover up those opinions until after the election :-)


And yet Rand Paul WAS elected, incredibly enough.

MUCH further conversation followed, think I'll post that elsewhere.

Point of all of this, Chauncey, is that effects of Colonialism never quite diminish to the point of being overcome, can't be ignored even if less "active" today.

Effects of Centuries Old Colonialism are still being "Echoed" in the damaged results of our current society.

And the effects of CURRENT Colonialism (Middle East) will likely prevail for centuries to follow.

Thanks NeoCons. Thanks George, Dick, ET AL.
I appreciate every post you write, and this one is no exception. I would bet my life that my daughter does not think she is special for having one white parent. She does, however, identify herself as biracial.
Some people, both black and white, seem to have a hard time with that notion. "If one parent is black, then she should identify herself as black." I heard it right here from a black mother raising her baby with her white husband. "She is BLACK," she told me.
I say, society will judge people by their brown, black, and tan skin anyway. Shouldn't the person living inside that skin decide who and what they are? ~r
This is just so sad and beyond horror, when they play the 911 call on the news, and I hear that poor kid yelling "help!" and then the gunshot. I don't understand the depths to which people allow fear to rule their lives.
Joan,what a lovely,considerate comment!
I can't believe that this would still be an issue 2012.
It sounds much like the apartheid in South Africa.
All this discussion,unfortunately,is not helping the boy to come back to life.A destroyed future,a broken family.Of course I had to think about Martin Luther King as well,and I always had the impression that J.F.Kennedy was killed for the same reason,as he was supporting the Black movement.
I listened to all the 9/11 audio recordings. As far as I can tell there has been no independent confirmation from any witness of Zimmerman's claim that Martin was checking him out, and that Martin ran away. If Martin ran while Zimmerman was still in his car talking to 9/11, I'm not quite sure how Zimmerman would have caught him.

One of the calls is chilling: You can hear Martin screaming for help again and again until a gunshot is heard in the background and there is silence. I've never seen someone scream for help while they were attempting to take someone's life. That recording alone is pretty damning evidence against Zimmerman. This was a cold blood murder.
So many kind and insightful comments. Thank you.

@Joan, you wrote "Shouldn't the person living inside that skin decide who and what they are? ~r"

I am all for radical self-autonomy. But, we must also prepare our children who are "multiracial" (a silly word by the way, but I digress) for reality. Sure, they can be "mixed" (whatever that means) but they must also understand how society will see them as a person in a raced body. They must also be mindful of how the "mixed race" movement is also an exercise by some to get some degree of white privilege as anything other than black or brown for their children.

There can be strength from that legacy--much so actually. Also, one's "blackness" is not separate and apart from one's "whiteness" or other identity. As I fondly said to a friend as I reflected on my own adventures, I almost married a Chinese American woman, one of my rules was the kid is black but his mom is Asian. No contradiction least to my eyes.
"Dr. King is gone. A black man is President. Yet, life remains unfair...does it not?"
...and yet racism seems to be rampant in more insidious ways than ever before. When did people come up with all these euphemisms?
I live in a city and area of SoCal where there is still a lot of "driving while brown" infractions and even checkpoints. I always thought that San Diego would be a bit more enlightened than that.
How many more generations do we have to go through before this is done? Or is the answer that it will never be done?
The proximate cause of Trayvon's death is a psychotic cop wannabe with a concealed carry permit. That Zimmerman wasn't arrested even though he was the one who initiated the contact is due to a legalized murder law. I have no doubt that when he confronted the kid he presented and thought of himself as an authority figure, but Trayvon saw him for what he is -- a person with no authority, and reacted accordingly. This caused Zimmerman to act in his fantasy role, escalating the incident. I have zero doubt that at that point Zimmerman asserted his fantasy authority, making demands he legally couldn't make, ironically, considering the murder part was legal under Florida law.
I hope the Feds can prosecute him for violating Trayvon's civil right to life and get the psychotic, blood-lusting freak off the streets. It's logically impossible to claim a reasonable perception of danger when he's the one who initiated the incident.

Then the legal murder law should be challenged and dismantled by federal authority. It's about time Americans put a halt to the NRA and the Republican right-wing freak show.
I can only say thank you for your article. I am forty -four and emotionally exhausted with these occurrences. No words can express the depths of how I feel right now.
Carrying Skittles while black is now a capital offense. ?
Life is not fair and this is a tragedy. Some of the posts here are at best bizarre and pathetic" What does Iraqui oil and Bush have to do with this sad case? Having grown up in Boston and seen some of the incredible black on black violence/crime and peer pressure that keep the downward spiral perpetually cycling through the city streets ,it is tragic to see this crap thrown at the feet of - Rand Paul and George Bush.
Is there racism in America? DUH..... THere is racism in Africa were Blacks are massacring other tribes for genetic differences I couldn't detect. We have whites killing whites in N.Ireland and in the Balkans.
AMerica is flawed but, it is the greatest place in the world to be black,white green yellow or pink. Let's start from that premise and fix the details.
Throwing at the feet of Bush when the streets are full of blood tonight with black on black crime might make Cornel West another 100k on his white guilt lecture tour but, the real damage was done by LBJ.
In 1960 85% of black births were in a two parent family. The black family survived reconstruction two world wars,racism and a depression, what it could not overcome was a "helping hand". Call me a bad guy but please don't call it a coinicidence.
Identity is not a matter of will. It is self-in-the-world.No matter how much they tell you to colour does not matter or all equal if there are people in society who believe that your physical characteristics mark you as inferior that identity is still yours.

The only real choice is what we do with these social identities. Can we ignore them, if they put us in peril due to others' hate. Disadvantage us in the workplace, etc.
We cannot.

Should we claim them? I do, but my identity as Black goes beyond the social construct to my identity as an African. That no-one can take and I can use it as an affirmation.

The lesson is here is you cannot be colour-blind unless everyone else is.
Life does indeed remain unfair...especially for the young and innocent.
Well congratulations to all of you on teaching that skill set because this incident - which I am observing from the very safe distance of both geography and white privilege - makes me so angry .... I suppose it speaks to the very definition of incomprehensible oppression ... oh hell, I can't make the words. How do people go on living under this kind of thing?

Where I grew up, in the 50s & 60s, effectively all-white world, the cops routinely brutalized white boys, mostly working class. When he was about 16 my brother had an encounter with some cops in my neighborhood, where they didn't brutalize white boys and they didn't brutalize him. When it was all over I spoke with him on the phone and his response to the cops was a contemptuous, "Chumps." He was contemptuous because the cops had been polite to him when he expected to be beaten up for no reason at all. Or at least treated very rudely. Does this translate to the black experience? Do authorities/white people not get that ... oh never mind. Of course they don't.

So one night this winter I was in a supermarket parking lot and a black man who was parked next to me asked me if I had jumper cables he could borrow. I told him that I didn't and he didn't believe me. He said, "Oh, come on, of course you do." WTF? I said, "I have two sets in my garage but I don't carry them." I am a late middle-aged middle-class(ish) white matron and I have both AAA and Allstate road service plus a healthy, strong car battery. I have no need to carry jumper cables with me. So I opened the back of my car and invited him to take a look. Which he did. And I said, "Sorry, I'd lend them to you if I had them. Good luck."

Then, driving away, I felt foolish, questioning if I had acted on white liberal guilt letting the guy call me a liar in a parking lot where a black man had recently been shot by a white man pursuing the black man for mugging a woman (of unpublicized race.) I wondered if it would have been smarter of me to have feared the black man, (he was a very big man) refused to speak to him and gotten the hell out of there as fast as I could have. Now I'm kinda I didn't because, really, what I did was just respond to him like he was a regular person. Which he was. Except that I think he assumed a white woman would lie to avoid interacting with him. Was he facing me down unthreateningly - I never felt threatened - because he was sick of that?

And why should either of us have had to play any of these thought games? It all just makes me so angry.

Sorry for the length, Chauncey. You write the best stuff on OS.
Now I'm kinda glad I didn't
Rated. Chauncey, you post essays of lasting value. I hope the murder of Trayvon Martin and its full implications remain on the front pages for a long, long time. Not for vindictive or partisan reasons but for reasons of potential enlightenment.
To J.R.

Conned, is that you? First name Neo, right?

So you've difficulty with following a thread nothing to be ashamed of. Much ;-)

But you've never (Seriously?) considered that bigotry, racism, presumed white privilege of today, they're all interconnected?

And that those "Accepted Behaviors" are actually descended from a literal "lineage" of ambitious, repressive policies that brought about and perpetuated Slavery early in our national history, haven't considered that?

Hence my mention of centuries of enforced Colonial Empire in support of Slavery and other resources. (Above)

But FEAR is what's really behind the current Right Wing agenda :-)

POSTED ELSEWHERE: Conservative Bigotry

Which brings us to the core of their behavior, FEAR is what drives the outward anger displayed by "Fringe" racism.

Combined Fear, Anger, and stupidity, of course. Unwillingness to learn or compromise, failure to overcome Dogmatic principles of Conservative "White" self-aggrandized identity.

Adaptation would require that they LEARN and acquire traits foreign to their "Supremecist" leanings, in order to gain insight into the repression they've imposed on others they'd have to be able to "Sympathize" and have "Empathy" for others, not going to happen.

Since they'll never learn to adapt, they'll never overcome their fears and accept EQUALITY of current minorities. Entrenched Conservative values (Doctrine, actually) won't allow for such adjustment of their current privileged vantage point.

The white majority is finally forced to face the likely outcome of one day becoming the "minority", the prime fear of hate groups (KKK, Skinheads, Supremecists, Neo-Nazis) throughout the U.S.


ALSO PREVIOUSLY POSTED: Religious and Racial Intolerance Supported by the GOP

Right Wing leadership recognizes that those emotions can be twisted into Political Capital, insecurities of today's "White America" can be played upon for GOP profit.

It's an old and proven method, a "Call to Arms".

Like "Shrub" George W. did when he pushed our troops into Iraq for his Imperial Petroleum ambitions.

By playing on the insecurities of US citizens in support of the GOP "Fear Agenda" after 9-11, blending Politics and Religous Bigotry to suit their needs, to cover for policies that the public would never have otherwise allowed. For instance, show me a Liberal who’s in favor of RENDITION or PREEMPTIVE WAR.

How many of today's GOP are following this formula, sewing the seeds of "hate groups" to play on the insecurities and fears of anxious whites, nothing new going on there.

Hey, the FBI has opened an investigation into the Martin case! Perhaps justice will prevail?
Thank you and Please keep writing, Chauncey. There are people willing to listen and learn. It's ignorance, silence and denial that has gotten us to where we are today. Those who have a voice, venue and audience owe it to the generations to come, not to mention Trayvon Martin.
As usual, Paul J O'Rourke gets to the heart of the matter -- as you do. But there's another aspect to this story that's important to keep in mind, too; and that is that the law which is protecting Zimmerman is fatally flawed. As I understand it, it has already led to the deaths of 11 people in Florida, 10 of whom were unarmed. This felonious excuse for a law attempts to justify acts that don't even rise to the level of vigilantism. There was nothing here to avenge except a pathetic little man's wounded pride.

That Zimmerman felt threatened can hardly be an excuse, since the evidence strongly suggests this guy was paranoid to begin with. And how is it that someone who assaulted a cop is able to get a permit to carry a handgun?

Let's assume for the sake of argument that Zimmerman, despite the order given him by the police operator, accosted Trayvon and demanded to know what he was doing in the (white) neighborhood? Certainly, Travmon had no duty to answer that question or otherwise respond to a belligerent white man who showed no identification establishing him as an authority figure.

And let's assume that Zimmerman, emboldened by the 9mm tucked in his belt pushed the issue and stepped into Trayvon's path and continued his belligerent demands. And let's suppose Trayvon, who in such a situation would be the one who was actually threatened, tried to push past Zimmerman.

From that point on, any further escalation by Zimmerman was -- or certainly should have been illegal. In most jurisdictions, he was already guilty of assault and any physical contact with Trayvon would make him guilty of battery as well.

But instead of returning to his vehicle as he had been advised by the police, he chose to escalate the confrontation. It's possible that words and blows were exchanged. But there seems to be no evidence or any real suggestion that Zimmerman was in imminent danger, and thus there was no need to "stand his ground".

In fact, the most telling evidence against Zimmerman are his own words -- "they always get away with it". Leaving aside the hateful aspect of who "they" are, this clearly indicates motive and intent to commit a crime, that is to take the law into his own hands.

At any point, Zimmerman could have just walked away. Had he done so, he would not be facing a real threat to his freedom, and if incarcerated, a likely real threat to his life, given the nature of this case.

But far more importantly, had Zimmerman done so, Trayvon could have walked away, too.
Re some of the comments here:

If colour really didn't matter then no one would find it necessary to say, "Colour doesn't matter."

There are always those, like cops and wannabe cops, who have such an innate, well-deserved low self-esteem that they will use any excuse they can find or manufacture to put themselves 'above' someone else. Any excuse will do but if they can, inside their own group of sad, sick jocks, agree on a readily identifiable section of our society, then they can get out there and try to build themselves a rep while using mistreatment of that group as a pass to enter into and be admired in their own group.

Needless to say, developing severe prejudice against the target group is a necessity in order to establish a "differentness" for their own group. It is that "differentness" that allows them to feel superior to the targets they have chosen. When that feeling of superiority over the target group is combined with even the smallest amount of power over a member of the target group it becomes imperative to their own self-identification as "superior" that they attempt to maintain that perceived superiority at any and all costs.

Killing the children of the target group is just another one of those costs.......

So sorry to know this info. Chris Rock has a good video on YouTube on how to avoid getting beaten by the cops.
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M Kitt-Thanks for the history lesson but, the reality is that most inner city youths of all ethnicity do not have a sense of history or what/who preceded them, they just know what is- not the why and how.
Your posts just make you feel better, there is no advice and little reality.
I am not a Neo-con, I hate war and I actually quit a lucrative job at GE when I realized we were selling parts that were going into road side bombs that killed our soldiers. GE's CEO is on Obama's advisory board and gets incredible tax breaks from him. IS that the lobic of a NEO-CON.
What oil will/have we every gotten out of Iraq. THere is more oil in the US than in all Iraq and if we changed our liberal policies then, we would stop funneling money to those that hate us most and provide enough tax revenue to bring down this oppressive debt that will destroy our ability to help those you so feel oppressed going forward.
Neocons are dangerous but, the true enemey is far closer to your door than you want to believe.
Chauncey, thank you for your response. A 17 year old boy is dead because of the color of his skin. It wouldn't have mattered if he considered himself biracial, multiracial or anything else. He is dead because he was seen as black man. Point well taken.
The reality of 'negrophobia' has returned with a vengence during the Obama era once it was a feature of white america it now lives in all communities of color. Being Black in America is an equation that brings fear, anger, the soft bigotry of low expectations, the aura of inferority and the specter of nothingness.
America is the place where the reality of slavery and dehumanization of a human being based upon one's hue is our national pasttime.
America's best practices begin with the rule that Black folks are not worthy of due process, the benefit of doubt , we remain an aferthought .
America lost it's patience with negroes and colored folks decades ago when we became Black and African-American tour country created the culture and license of 'negrophobia' other communities of color and even progressives who once were our comrades in the quest for humanity have now purchased 'whiteness' and this condition frees one of principal and dignity when it comes to relations with Black folks.
Negrophobia is the standard and best practice which lubricates our nation's people currency.
Murder, Poverty, Contempt, Excuse, Denial, Avoidance, Dismissal, all live in the place we now know as NEGROPHOBIA.
Trayvon and Zimmerman both played their parts both were the outcomes of decades of NEGROPHOBIA it is a reality that wounds and stains even those who wear the hue of Blackness.
Such is the nature and the state of affairs and best practices in the land of NEGROPHOBIA.
Thank you for telling it as it is!
"We are simultaneously both children and adults in the white racial imagination regardless of our age." Heartbreaking, profound, and it corresponds very closely to the psychology of shooter George Zimmerman's 911 call that night.
@JR We're NOT in the Middle East for Oil? Really?

"Your posts just make you feel better, there is no advice and little reality."

And You're the one to inform me, right JR?


We're in the middle of OIL EXPORTATION AGREEMENTS in Iraq, JR, unless you've not followed the news for the last several years I'm sure you SHOULD BE aware of that too.

Last I heard those agreements include a percentage of revenue to the UNITED STATES regardless of whether the product is exported by the U.S. or the European Union, Etc. This will translate to TRILLIONS over time, siphoned out of their economy by virtue of SPOILS OF WAR.

BP is a big contract player in those agreements too, not surprising.

The fact that there's very little exportation going on now reflects the STATE of WAR we inflicted on that country, JR.

Something Neocon supporters like you ALSO pretend not to know.

Former GE employees, right? Who won't admit to being a former George W. "Shrub" supporter, I'll bet ;-)

We can't leave Iraq (completely) without a stable government in place there, as I'm sure you ALSO know fully well. The entire USA is familiar with the "Pottery Barn" theory that once we have troops on the ground we're committed to remain until that stability is achieved. Certainly we won't be leaving until the Iraq provisional government has signed off on the current version of the EXPORTATION AGREEMENTS linked above.

Which is a large part of why we STILL retain troops and advisors on the ground, although they've been much reduced.

Dragging us there IN THE FIRST PLACE is entirely the responsibility of W/Cheney, WAR INCORPORATED, a completely separate issue from withdrawal, and YES I DISAGREE with the "Oil Revenue Sharing Agreements" that are being contracted in Iraq, since they reek of the IMPERIAL COLONIALIST policies I've already pointed out.

Obama is in a position of not wanting to ENTIRELY DISCARD our investment there (Troops, effort, $ spent), meaning that before withdrawal he'll see thru our obligation to protect the Iraqi citizenry by emplacing a stable government.

AND he'll allow the exportation contracts to be carried out, not that I agree with that.

But even as far back as 2008 it was a difficult DEAL to get the Iraqis to sign off on.

And future Iraqis aren't likely to want to align with these agreements since they're being signed with U.S. Occupation Forces on the ground, an obvious THREAT OF FORCE, otherwise known as EXTORTION.

Just keep pretending that Petroleum wasn't on George W. and Cheneys agenda when we breached the border of Iraq, JR. (REVISIONIST HISTORY).
In America of late the narrative does not include a template that values humanity and civil rights. Our nation views such concerns as passe. America in the post industrial era has to flex it's grit not compassion.

Our nation has become a ugly nation where the majority still seeks to express it's divinity. Individualism has taken on the posture of celebrity . The Zimmerman's of the world like the Goetz's of this culture seek to become the town marshall and the guardians of this civilization. These cowards are on a mission to save pristine America from the primative negroes who wear hoodies and trespass in sacred areas and venues of white privledge.

The legacy of white privledge has now contaminated a whole array and spectrum of colored people in our nation. White teens are joined by other non-whites that polluted the internet with nappy headed negro rants lapoons about Black Americans.
The code of conduct now is demonize Black folks not in whisphers at the water cooler but out open up front and personal.
Words even those of the caliber of this author no longer have any currency with people like me I am no longer interested in drafting words that speak to the realties of injustice and inhumanity. I am pass singing gospels, marching, talking , protesting. America needs to feel the wrath of the reality it has created for Black America even in the post racial world of Obama .
To EricaK: "Life is unfair and always will be." What do you mean by that statement? Life is unfair--children will be shot and we just need to accept it because life is unfair?

If your child had been killed, I imagine you would not be so sanguine.

Good God--an innocent child was killed for no reason. The police won't arrest the offender. Where is your outrage?
Every time I read about this incident, I feel ill, thinking about the beautiful little kids I know who happen to be black. And it makes me realize that all of their parent's efforts to make sure they get a good education, live in a "nice, safe" area etc could be for naught someday, if they are in the wrong place at the wrong time. This case is yet another illustration of why citizens should NOT be able to carry guns. This Zimmerman guy is nothing but a one-man lynch mob, 21st century style.
beautifully and painfully written. just read it to a class of my high school math students - mostly black and mexican kids - and had an alarming (to this middle aged white guy) discussion of just how true are your words. multiple examples of grotesque injustice from every kid. thanks for the good writing and true thinking. rated of course.
I'm afraid that Ron Robinson has it nailed down. I could expand on how physical appearance effects police and citizen behaviors from my long haired hippie days in 1960's Texas but that's another tale to be told on another day. My greatest fear about vigilante justice in the 21st Century involve a redneck with a deer rifle going after President Obama. Regardless of the rhetoric, facts or circumstances - in his heart and mind that frightened desperate ignorant red neck will believe he's Superman striking a blow " ... for truth, justice and the American way."
I'm glad you are a 'respectable' Negro Chauncey. I respect 'respectable' Negroes. But young punks like Trayvon have to learn to be 'respectful' themselves to their social superiors. There is nothing more infuriating than an 'uppity' black punk not being compliant with his/her social superiors. The penalty for that indiscretion can sometimes be privately administered 'capital punishment.' So the Taco-eater, with the fat pimply mug, who 'offed' Tray-VON will get off hisself, cuz that's the way society works. Why would a 'respectable' Negro have a problem wid dat?...wink
This is so incredibly true on so many levels. I've told friends of mine that I cannot imagine what it must have been like for my mother to her 6-year-old son what a "nigger" is, because I was called that by my White neighbor's mother. That was the first of many lessons she had to teach me. I'm now 52 years old, and those lessons must still be taught to my nephews. Trayvon, as tragic as your murder was, you are bringing much to the forefront of our national discussion.
Don't any of you DeVega fans see something wrong with his exploitation of this tragedy to advocate forced hypodescent and the "one drop" myth? Hypodescent is based on the very racist idea that the "superior race" must be kept "pure" while the "inferior race" is "improved" by the "superior" DNA. Regardless of whether you advocate this in the name of superior/inferior genes or a bogus "moral obligation," you are essentially telling the public that there is something very wrong and very inferior about even small amounts of African ancestry. Morally, the use of government-imposed racial classifications is no more justified than the old "Aryan/non-Aryan" racial classifications of the Third Reich.
Chauncey, you not only did a great job of educating us on the sinewy musculature of racist reaction in this country. I have lived in other countries and there is no comparison that we can can come close to most civilized countries. We have a long way to go. On the positive side, there are a lot of us that do care. The problem is that we can not put our energies in the right direction , with enough force, to effect change. We are deeply flawed on so many levels that most just cocoon, huddle in the truths of what works, is comfortable, and fits our situation at the time.
As I write this, a North Chicago cop beat a suspect to death. No trial. No judge. The cop did apprehend the guy -- but does this have to be accepted. Like rain. Traffic jams. Where the Hell are we now?
It's an appalling case and I'm hoping that tghe Justice Department comes up with something. I also admired how you described the psychology of teaching the kids how not to get killed by cops.
"In many matters of life and death, white supremacy remains, in many ways, unchallenged."

Shameful truths here in this essay. Thanks for taking the time to open some eyes.
I am not american, I am a witness . It is white month every month, I see what your underlying motives are, and how can race be forgotten when a white man can hunt down and gun a black boy carrying skittles and ice tea in his hand, and walk away as a free man? Its within the very core of the system, and its the ignorance and arrogance that allows you to believe that you are supreme, when in your minds know you can be out bred. Your fears will hunt you to hell.. so you can think that we are over it all you want.. but you are the very people that are causing the door to open wide, and the Leaders will not be forgotten, because they still exist today.
Why dont you research where you are all from, and take a good look at where YOU are from. Because we all come from somewhere, and If you think you are born american blood, then you are claiming to be native american then you can hang youselves, and put the fire water to the flames. How would you feel if you child was murdered for his race? Its the hate you bred into the innocent.. and there will be a repercussion of that. It called God.
p.s if you think I am black then wake up!! there are non-black people thinking like me.. so be aware, because your ignorance is my greatest enemy, You make us look bad? then pay the price!
I too crossed the color line and birthed tawny, bi-racial children. Although instinct drove me to raise my children as "black" children, they still suffered the pain of their racial difference from both black and white kids. Our son returned from Sweden after playing in the Gothia Cup at 16 feeling even more at risk than before he left. There, in Europe, he intuited that he was not a natural target for the authorities, nor the black and Latin gangs that permeate the streets in Los Angeles County. Note that my son's fears were valid in 1991 and sadly, are still too true today. As a black educator, I have had foreign students question my credentials just because I'm black. So, being targeted as a "lesser than" individual because of my race transcends the prejudices that exists within American society. Zimmerman's family states he is a Latin immigrant. Exactly when and where did this immigrant develop such distrust of an American black teen?
Chauncey, Thank-you so much for this marvelously informative post. Congrads on the EP!
Each time I see Trayvon's picture, or see his parents on TV, I get physically ill. I am so saddened for his family to have to go through the rest of their life without their son. All of this tragedy due to having a wanna- be- cop, with a violent, hateful history be in this type of authoritative position. When will human beings take the time and energy to see beyond our physical differences, and live in harmony? How can we help things change? Thanks for this.

@ To Mr your comment!
Thank you for the article, I got to this blog via Mark Mardell’s article.

It’s interesting reading about the shooting of Trayvon Martin (a tragic event) from the perspective of it being a purely racially motivated crime (which I may have been), the perspective of cops being racially motivated and about white supremacy. It’s good for me to read/listen to others views. However (and of course you where waiting for the however) I don’t not agree with Chauncy De Vega assessment of the situation, as whole. I find his argument limited, perhaps trapped in a past that no longer is 100% accurate. Not to say the past isn’t who we are today, but that to applied it in such a extreme and limited way to a problem boiling it down to White supremacy and its all based on race- I just cannot do. The examples listed by Chauncy are easily applied to support other arguments that oppose his view. Maybe it comes down to your world view, the individuals experience, their culture, ones religion and etc… One could argue that in order to eliminate acts of discrimination based on race, creed and etc. we as a society would need to eliminate multiculturalism and focus on building a single culture. My point is…it’s just not as simple as Carlston is white and therefore can never understand Black, that in and of itself in bigotry. Indeed the arguments of race will have to be left behind by all in order to forget it completely.
Barack Obama threw the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Van Jones, Shirley Sherrod, and, at least according to him, Cornel West, under the bus, did he not? Is Barack Obama not part of the problem? Has he not very carefully distanced himself from the black community in order to be more acceptable by white voters? I mean, I know that he was raised by his white mother's family, but still -- I often wonder if a truly progressive white president would have done more for blacks than Barack Obama has done because he doesn't want to come off as an "angry" black man (which the wingnuts are going to paint him as anyway).
P.S. The rather obviously racism-based murder of Trayvon Martin is a tragedy, and hopefully it raises awareness of the fact that this "post-racial" thing is bullshit.
RC- The"Wing Nuts" or the ones who celebrated Condi Rice,Clarence Thomas and look forward with anticipation to an article or book by Thomas Sowell. Do you know who Walter Williams is? Read some of his work, he is one of my heroes.
Everyone should rest assured that Zimmerman will be prosecute. The admitted facts (in his own words) and the plain language of the statute assure he is toast.

 Thank you for this perspective.

 This might also interest you. See Trayvon Martin: Defense a Pig-Sty Beneath a Racist Facade?
If you were Zimmerman, an unstable armed and dangerous Neighborhood Watch kook, and a black kid comes walking through your hood with a hoodie on with candy, what would you do? I sure as hell hope you don't kill an innocent citizen whose only crime was meeting up with a nut who has made other emergency calls to 911 reporting suspicious activities in his neighborhood...wonder why Zimmerman chose to ignore the 911 dispatcher's advice to stay away from this suspicious person lurking his neighborhood with a hoodie and candie.
Saracasm aside, I honestly believe that following a thorough and complete investigation of ALL facts leading up to his horrific tragedy, Zimmerman will face criminal charges. I also hope Trayvon's family sues in civil court as well for wrongful death and I'll also add that my thoughts and prayers are with them. There is absolutely nothing worse than losing a child except to lose one to ignorance.
"DeVega is one of the foremost "one-drop" supporters who appeals to white guilt and gives bogus "advice" that parents of mixed-race children have some kind of moral obligation to teach their children that they are "black" in order to supposedly arm them against "white racism." Blacks like him know that they don't have the law on their side, so they are using their inflated moral authority and the myth of a black high priesthood of knowledge on racial issues to intimidate people into accepting forced hypodescent as politically and morally correct."