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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APRIL 6, 2012 2:29PM

Trouble in Sanford! Negroes Plot Revenge for Trayvon Martin!

Rate: 21 Flag
Holiday had been right about the tension. One of the first people I meet scans me up and down and looks at my notebook. “Write something down for me,” he says. “Get the fuck out of here.” He’s an exception. The people stopping and shopping in the late afternoon are reluctant to talk, until they get a few sentences in. And then it sounds like they’re picking up on a monologue they started weeks ago, stopping to take breaths.

Jamelia Jarrells and Jakivia Franklin talk about the killing as customers stroll in and out of the convenience store where they work. There’s no air conditioning, and the door’s constantly open, so most of the lights stay off while the fans stay on.
“I thought Zimmerman should have been arrested that night,” says Jarrells. “Regardless of the fact of whether or not he thought he was defending someone, he killed someone. Even if they arrested him, and he got out that same night, I think people would have felt better.”

...“If I shot somebody who looked like you, or you, shit, I’d be on death row.”
“If he was a white 17-year-old,” says Jarrells, “he wouldn’t have been shot.”
Rashid Abdul Rahman, a retiree, chimes in. “Since we’re in central Florida,” he says, “and there’s so many movements coming through here, it’s going to be OK. If we was in California, they’d be burning this up.”

Burning what up? “The city!”

Do you hear the drums? The natives are restless.

The national news media are going through the obligatory motions in their coverage of Trayvon Martin's murder at the hands of George Zimmerman. In an era of the 24 hour news cycle (when the public's attention span is short), the spectacle surrounding Trayvon Martin's shooting apparently still has some exhausted legs supporting it.

Race, crime, guns, violence, and the law are old elements in the American story. In keeping with this script, there are obligatory acts to our national play. The Trayvon Martin saga has featured many of them.

1. The good negro and "best black friend" of the white offender has been trotted out to defend him.

2. According to his associates and family, George Zimmerman is actually a "friend" and "defender" of the colored people. Zimmerman is misunderstood and unfairly maligned by the public, the NAACP, and the news media.

3. "Outside agitators" are riling up trouble among the good, peaceful, obedient, and docile black folks of Sanford, Florida. There would be no "race troubles" if characters like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson were not involved in the Trayvon Martin controversy.

4. The murderer is actually the victim. As a defender of white civilization, Zimmerman did what many conservatives (and others) wished they could...but lacked the courage or opportunity to follow through on.

5. White people are victims. Historically, it was an absurd fear of "white oppression" by free blacks that helped to legitimate white racism. In the present, this language has been recycled as "reverse racism." Both rely upon a White racial imagination which sees blacks as perpetual criminals, brigands, and killers.

Across the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries the formula remains the same: race, crime, guns,"scary" black men, and white fear. This holds true even if Trayvon Martin (unarmed and innocent) is dead at the hands of George Zimmerman (armed and hunting his human prey).

The historical irony is rich. For example, as demonstrated many times in places like Rosewood, Chicago, Tulsa, and East St. Louis, racial violence in the United States is almost the exclusive province of whites against blacks. Race riots are almost by definition the murderous mob actions of whites against people of color. Funny then, how in the popular imagination such matters are muddied and inverted.

The anxieties about a "negro uprising" in Sanford, Florida has a storied historical pedigree.

For example:

Negroes in Liberty City, Georgia are plotting an insurrection. They are gathering in the woods to burn down the homes of white people in retaliation for violence against them. The local Sheriff has sent out a plea for assistance to the Governor.

Evil progressives are attempting to excite mischief among the negroes of Helena, Arkansas. There is an armed revolution afoot as the black population is going to attack and destroy the white community!

The mayor has ordered 1,000 bullets! Communists are causing agitation as the negro population is planning violence and a Socialist redistribution of wealth against the good white people of their town.

Good white people have been surrounded and held hostage. Thank goodness though! A negro has been bribed to seek out help for the innocent whites laid siege in Orangeburg County, South Carolina by angry blacks. Fifty whites are in route to break the siege by 200 blacks against the vulnerable and at risk whites of Norway, South Carolina!

In thinking through the historical antecedents of Trayvon Martin's murder, and white apologists' reactions to it, here is an eerily prescient news item from the year 1904:


Memory echoes across time: our collective conscience is trans-historical. White supremacy, what is a changing thing, reaches back to the past to find life in the Age of Obama. While the temptation is to focus on the Southern Strategy of the 1960s in order to explain the virulent anti-black and anti-brown animus of the New Right and the Republican Party at present, the roots are in fact much older.

The Conservatives who instinctively rally to defend George Zimmerman are actually the intellectual and emotive kin of racist White populists who lived centuries before. In all, matters would be much improved if the reactionary Right owned their philosophical and intellectual wellsprings in the hanging tree, chain gangs, and press gangs of post-Reconstruction America.

History is real; the past is present in the year 2012. This is true for all black folks. It applied to Trayvon Martin. It also applies to someone as powerful as the President of the United States of America.

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"History is real; the past is present in the year 2012."
Oh yes indeed. History is real and is either repeating itself or just continues on and on. The more things change, the more the remain the same. Or maybe it's just that we are regressing. I would hope that there is more outrage across the spectrum of society today concerning
...concerning Treyvon Martin that at other points in our history.
Here's trivia question: What was the worst Race Riot in American history... Watts 1965 , Detroit & Newark/MLK Jr. 1968, LA/Rodney King 1992?
Nope: Adjusted for inflation, the Tulsa Race Riot , May 31 - June 1, 1921, between the white and black communities of Tulsa, Oklahoma, in which the wealthiest African-American community in the United States, the Greenwood District was burned to the ground. During the 16 hours of the assault, over 800 people were admitted to local hospitals with injuries, more than 6,000 Greenwood residents were arrested and detained. An estimated 10,000 were left homeless, and 35 city blocks composed of 1,256 residences were destroyed by fire. The official count of the dead by the Oklahoma Department of Vital Statistics was 36, but other estimates of black fatalities have been up to about 300.

The events of the riot were omitted from local and state history; "The Tulsa race riot of 1921 was rarely mentioned in history books, classrooms or even in private. Blacks and whites alike grew into middle age unaware of what had taken place."

In 1996, the state legislature commissioned a report, completed in 2001, to establish the historical record. It has approved some compensatory actions, such as scholarships for descendants of survivors, economic development of Greenwood, and a memorial park, dedicated in 2010, to the victims in Tulsa.
I was in Springfield,IL. last week and found in the tourist information a tour of the race riot of 1908. I've lived all my life in Illinois and knew about this from my own reading, but it was never mentioned in school and was not a part of the historic tour of Springfield I used to go on. I'm glad to see it is acknowledged now. We need to understand and learn from our history to make a better future. Dreams of equality will not be realized until we uphold justice.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but Trayvon’s death says nothing about racial violence in the United States. It’s simply a story about a crazy person not understanding what neighborhood watch is supposed to mean. As it relates to racial harmony in this country, let’s not forget:

-A black man was elected President of the United States by a huge margin despite running against a white man.

-The reason Tryavon’s death has made front page headlines is because white on black crime is very rare.

-Watching the desperate attempt by black leaders and people like you, to exploit Trayvon’s death as evidence of racism, is evidence we have come a long way from our ugly past.

Below is a link to an excellent article that disputes everything you just wrote (written by a black man, not that it matters in today’s more accepting society):
Thanks for this. Your voice is so needed. I only hope the many are listening and reading. Rated.
We studied the Tulsa race riot in high school, back in the 70s. I went to the Tulsa library and looked up the stories and the editorials, which were unbelievably harsh. It started when a black man supposedly "assaulted" a white woman elevator operator. Unable to get at him to lynch, the crowd turned on North Tulsa and the "Black Wall Street" of Greenwood, a very successful black business area near downtown.

I spoke to 2 old men then, both telling the same basic tale. They grabbed their guns and joined the attack. One told me he and his brother took a truckload of dead blacks to dump in the Arkansas River. Many black people were quarantined in a stadium near where I played as a kid, though it had been torn down and replaced by a grocery store. It's now covered up with a Home Depot.
So, it's not like it was a big secret in Tulsa, OK. It just took a long time before the city government officially and ceremoniously acknowledged it. I had heard about it well before we studied it in school.
Another worthy and profound post. I wish we would evolve from all this hatred and racism. Injustice seems on the rise in this country in so many forms. This is our biggest blight. We need to remember history, or we are going to keep living it until we finally get it. It is times like these that I think of forward thinkers like Gene Roddenberry who wrote Star Trek into our lives and dared to show us how life would and could be in the future, how we should and could evolve. I want that sense of life back, that sense of equality.

If man is to survive, he will have learned to take a delight in the essential differences between men and between cultures. He will learn that differences in ideas and attitudes are a delight, part of life's exciting variety, not something to fear.

"April 06, 2012 06:09 PM
Since Obama is black and is running for re-election, I wonder if the right wing media and interest groups are consciously trying to stoke the fires of racism, by way of the Trayvon Martin case, in order to racially polarize the electorate prior to election time?
Paul O'Rourke"

Paul, if there are any "stoking of the fires of racism", you need look no further than NBC, ABC and CBS.

The NBC edit of the 911 call made it appear that Zimmerman immediately told police that Martin was black, when, in fact, the full tape reveals that the neighborhood watch captain only did so when responding to a question posed by a dispatcher. NBC is conducting an internal investigation.

Last Wednesday, when ABC broke the news of the police video's existence and broadcast it, ABC News said "no abrasions or blood can be seen in the video." That sent the boys and girls on MSNBC giddy with delight, they HAD THEIR MAN COLD!
However, now, ABC News says, Forensic Protection Inc. has digitally improved the clarity of the video and there appears to be a "gash or mark" near the top of the back of Zimmerman's head.

The first pictures of the poor kid that was killed showed an angelic 12 year old. Everyone's heart in America was broken that the child was killed by a grown man with a weapon when all he had was a bag of skittles in his hand. It doesn't take away from the fact that a boy of 17 was killed, but can't you see that people started to feel as if another "set-up" was being put together to convict Zimmerman in the media.

People like the author of this essay, attack the white's for centuries of wrongs against blacks, but Zimmerman was a "Hispanic", half white half Puerto Rican. In order to protect its investment in the spread of racial disharmony, the once majestic New York Times, now deservedly called the New York Slimes, called Zimmerman a "White-Hispanic". I guess from now on President Obama will be called the first "White Black" President.

We have laws in this country. Sometimes they work slow and need a prodding. Today we have every agency in Florida on this case, along with the FBI. Rather than raise your sword and declare war on "white people" because on man allegedly murdered a child and did not resort to the use of his weapon to protect himself.

Wouldn't you think it better to wait for Grand Jury to analyze the "facts" of the case, evidence the media and many here don't have a clue, before coming to a conclusion that is no more justified at this point than a mob lynching.
You're spot on about how the story is playing out according to the standard tropes Chauncey.

re jmac's comment about the Tulsa race riot, which I had never heard about, there was also that terrible one on Rosewood, Florida in 1923.
I see the Neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement has come to Sanford to patrol the streets in defense of white people. Further proof that 'racism plays no part in this tragedy," I suppose. Their Commander says they aren't taking sides, just ensuring the safety of white people against possible Black violence. Good thing we live in "post-racial society". [r]
Joe Zollo,
I never wrote that.
The other day you claimed, after some garbled rambling, that the Founding Fathers fought the Civil War.
Thorazine much?
For how long we would continue to talk about slavery, injustice for black people, white supremacy, etc.? For how long we would live with our heads turned back, instead of looking forward? We have laws that allows black kids to go to colleges even if they don't deserve it; we have laws that protect black citizens from discrimination in the work place; we study together, go to schools together, ride buses together, live next to each other and still... we talk about what's happened 70, 80, 100 years ago. Why's that? Slavery was not just in the United States! Slavery was all over the world at some time, a long-long time ago. People in Europe were taking in slavery during wars. Egyptians had "as they called" Hebrew people enslaved; 90% (if not more) of Russians living now in Russia came from families enslaved by other rich Russian for centuries. With the same effect: they were sold, beaten, tortured, raped, etc... They didn't have any rights and weren't' even considered humans! The rich Russians (or aristocrats) left during the revolution, or were killed by communists after the revolution. And the grand-great kids of slaves are now govern the country, work and live in the country and some of them do just well, VERY WELL by all standards.

Let's stop bringing race everywhere. Zimmerman didn't do what he did because of race. He was attacked. Now everyone who has any sense of reality and who follows the true facts that're coming out of the investigation, understands that. There is a witness (or a few), his friends and facts of his life prove that he wasn't a racist, he was injured. He did what he believed he supposed to do, as a guard watch of the development. He was told not to proceed, he didn't proceed after that. He looked for the address and walked back to his car. Trayvon came from the alley and attacked him. Zimmerman couldn't fight him so he did what he did. Was he right? This is not for us to decide. We live in the country that operates by laws, not by emotions, or by what this or that one believes.

And Donegar Descendant, you're not worried that Black Panthers are there, offering money to catch Zimmerman (that's obviously and strictly against the law, do you understand that?) and making a lot of people (black and white) extremely nervous? This is fine with you, isn't it? But you're worried that some group (I never heard of them, therefore, I'm not going to repeat your words of who they are) is there as well, "ensuring the safety of white people against possible Black violence" is very troublesome for you. Unbelievable!!!
"We have laws that allows black kids to go to colleges even if they don't deserve it"

Oh really?

to David Ehrenstein: Is that the best you could come with? By using your ugly language to call me names that, from my point, had the only one reason: to kill the discussion without any proof that I'm wrong? fI pointed out that affirmative action often chooses students by the color of their skin, not by achievements that would allow them to get into schools of their choice. That's it! Recent studies reveal a high dropout rate among minority college students admitted under affirmative action programs. At U.C. Berkeley, for example, only 45% of black student admitted had graduated, compared to 73% of Anglos. Is my knowledge of this statistic makes me a "RACIST PIECE OF SHIT!!!"? Your stupidity doesn't make you a "fighter for the equality", my friend.

But let me finish by quoting a real specialist in this field - Roger Clegg, president and general counsel of the Center for Equal Opportunity. That's what he said in regard to the topic we're discussing here:

"As for racial preferences: The legal justification for them today is the supposed educational benefits that obtain from student-body diversity. Naturally, preferences based on race are a more efficient way of achieving racial diversity than are preferences based on socioeconomic status.

But I would much prefer that preferences be based on socioeconomic status rather than race. The educational benefits that supposedly flow from a diverse student body are rooted in differences in perspectives and experiences—not in skin color per se. Weighing socioeconomic status would provide such diversity to a similar degree as race, and without the ugliness, divisiveness, and myriad other costs of racial discrimination.

In a society that is increasingly multiethnic and multiracial, we simply cannot have a legal regime that sorts people according to skin color and what country their ancestors came from, and which treats some better and others worse based on which silly little box they have checked.

Final caveat, though: I doubt that the educational benefits of any sort of diversity can justify admitting students other than those most willing and able to do work at a high intellectual level."

That's exactly what I was talking about, you....
I've heard some blacks from Florida say they're tired of the media's attention on one case when there are bigger issues at hand. Racism does exist. So does sexism. I don't think anything will change minds or hearts of haters unless and until they've been smoked out of hiding.

Kudos to you and your writing on issues that've plagued our country for much too long.
Note mostly-forgotten historic fact in the newspaper clipping. Victims of lynchings were frequently black Republicans, perpetrators were usually white Democrats. Additional detail available in the extensive writings of James Weldon Johnson on the subject, particularly as to a White House meeting between Johnson and other members of the first stirrings of the anti-lynching movement. Woodrow Wilson, Democratic President, threw them out for getting uppity.
Man, you desperately need a new schtick. Take a bit of inspiration from your avatar if you must, but you are quickly becoming a one trick pony, and it's boring (and, you're obviously better than that, but you're pigeonholing yourself...honestly, I didn't even read past the 1st paragraph on this one).
Malcolm - it is not Chauncey that needs a new schtick. It is the OS editor. It has been made obvious to Chauncey that he will always get the pick when he writes this stuff.
Paul O'Rourke

I apologize. You did not write the comment I quoted. You had written a comment that appear just above it and I painstakingly thought it was your posting.
On the other hand, when did I ever write that the "Founders" fought in the civil war?
Painstakingly = mistakenly
Joseph -
Also, while I find myself uninspired to read this post, Chauncey is a bit of an Obama apologist, and while the racist criticisms of The President do need to be called out, what we need right now are talented, intelligent black writers and artists criticizing President Obama - not necessarily in an effort to unseat him, but one to try to get him to rediscover candidate Obama and wash his hands of President Obama (who has been a massive disappointment and has only served to perpetuate the liberty crushing policies of his predecessor).

And, I voted for him seven times (like he was gonna lose my state, anyway...we were like the only ones almost dumb enough to give Mondale the nod in '84), so it ain't like I didn't want him there in the start...I just ain't been very happy with him since he got there, and most of what I don't like is well within him power to reverse.
Your boy Derbyshire just got shitcanned Ignaz!
Yo Chauncey, bro. I iz a intellishent black mon. Where iz dez white womynz I kin rape an' eat deir eyebalz after...Prez Obama sayz it okay...wink

you can't live with them!
you can't live without them!
I don't see how having a racially charged episode a la Rodny King is going to do anyone any good. We are finally lifting off economically, and when times are tough, there is a lot of zero sum thinking that can be incredibly destructive.
I'm sorry that he is dead, but he's dead too. Will encouraging a racially polarized event bring him back to life, or, like Rodney King, will that put more people in the grave?
I'm with RW as to seeing some real downside risk to Obama over this, and, it wouldn't take a rocket scientist to see overseas either. Not at all, as they get certain uneasy features of American life that we aren't very honest about, noting however that being "hypocritical" about what was actually something of a haunting statement of Rodney King, "People, why can't was all just get along," is the tribute our vices pay to that tolerant virtue, some would argue.
I don't see how having a racially charged episode a la Rodny King is going to do anyone any good. We are finally lifting off economically, and when times are tough, there is a lot of zero sum thinking that can be incredibly destructive.
I'm sorry that he is dead, but he's dead too. Will encouraging a racially polarized event bring him back to life, or, like Rodney King, will that put more people in the grave?
I'm with RW as to seeing some real downside risk to Obama over this, and, it wouldn't take a rocket scientist to see overseas either. Not at all, as they get certain uneasy features of American life that we aren't very honest about, noting however that being "hypocritical" about what was actually something of a haunting statement of Rodney King, "People, why can't was all just get along," is the tribute our vices pay to that tolerant virtue, some would argue.
Good news today, the district attorney investigating the Treyvon Martin murder is insuing charges filed against Zimmerman, whether or not he will be charged with 1st degree premeditated murder is still an unofficial hope, but at least the state of Florida is coming to its senses. These politicians are afraid to speak openly about the florida incident because of the number of delegates the state contributes to the race for the oval office. Mr. Obama, Mr. Romney, Newt, and Dr. Paul, have not said enough to denounce this horrendous act by this alleged murderer. I have listened to the 911 calls, have heard the testimony of eye and ear witnesses and in my opinion I heard a 17 year old child criying out for help. To silence his cries a lone gunshot quelled the voice of this screaming, crying, and violent little nigger. Such a said American Tale, but it is the tale of america. As a historian and educator for over 13 years, this incident is no different from all the other murders of West Asians (falsely called African descendants) throughout the history of this nation.
Name one president you loved MORE after they were elected than before. Just one.

Nothing like winning an election to ruin your career.