How Responsible Is Obama for the Oklahoma Killing?
See also: The Hood Comes to Duncan, Oklahoma
"Ayeee I knocked out 5 woods since Zimmerman court!" young James Edwards tweeted on July 15 in the wake of George Zimmerman's acquittal for the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. Edwards's tweets surfaced after he and two of his homies were charged with killing Australian baseball player Chris Lane in Duncan, Oklahoma, last Friday.
For the record, "woods" is short for peckerwoods, a derogatory term for white people. If Edwards, who is black, knocked out five woods as claimed, he would hardly be unique. As Colin Flaherty chillingly documents in his frequently updated book, White Girl Bleed A Lot, the "knock-out game" has become something of a recreational outlet for bored black youths.
This "game" is just one form of black-on-nonblack assaults. Although hard to quantify, they seem to have intensified after the media put a racial spin on the Martin shooting eighteen months ago. Occasionally, the attackers have made the link explicit, claiming they were "doing it for Trayvon," revenge being a more honorable motive than boredom.
Two weeks after the Martin story surfaced, President Obama had the chance to defuse tensions. "Obviously this is a tragedy," said Obama solemnly in response to a planted question. After some empty bromides about everyone pulling together and the like, the president cut to the chase: "But my main message is to the parents of Trayvon--If I had a son, he would look like Trayvon."
By this time, the White House had access to all the information the Sanford Police Department did. The courageous step for Obama would have been to defend the Sanford Police Department and to demand an end to the media lynching of George Zimmerman. As an African American, he had more latitude to do this than a white politician would have. Instead, he chose to identify fully with the black "victim."
If Obama's son would have looked like Trayvon, he would have also looked like James Edwards and Chancey Luna, both charged with first-degree murder in Lane's death. Although south central Oklahoma would seem to be a long way from south central LA, the national media have created a dysfunctional culture accessible to all disaffected youths everywhere, even the occasional white kid like getaway driver Michael Jones.
These young thugs apparently pulled their language, their vices, their aspirations, and their prejudices-- "90% of white ppl are nasty. #HATE THEM"-from what was broadcast their way. That same media told them what to think about the "Zimmerman court," and Obama refused to tell them otherwise.
After an evening session on day eleven of the Zimmerman trial, the media had the opportunity to share with Edwards and Luna the real character of Trayvon Martin. Richard Connor, an attorney as well as a certified computer forensic expert, had explained to the Court the content of what Martin had communicated on his cell phone.
Connor laid it all out for those who cared to listen. In the week before he died, Martin had had at least four conversations about purchasing a .22 caliber revolver. In the cache recovered by Connor was a photo of a hand gripping a pistol. Whoever took the photo used Martin's cell phone. It appears to have been a self-portrait.
Although Martin's enthusiasm for guns spoke to the unfortunate turn his life had taken, the defense team had more interest in the data related to MMA-style fighting. In a semi-comical turn, defense attorney Don West had Connor read word-for-word from Martin's November 2011 conversation with a girl named "Lavondria." After Martin told Lavondria he was "tired and sore" from a fight, she asked him why he continued fighting. "Bae" is shorthand for "babe." Here is what Connor related:
MARTIN: Cause man dat nigga snitched on me
LAVONDRIA: Bae y you always fightinqq man, you got suspended?
MARTIN: Naw we thumped afta skool in a duckd off spot
LAVONDRIA: Ohh, Well Damee
MARTIN: I lost da 1st round :( but won da 2nd nd 3rd . . . .
LAVONDRIA: Ohhh So It Wass 3 Rounds? Damn well at least yu wonn lol but yuu needa stop fighting bae Forreal
MARTIN: Nay im not done with fool..... he gone hav 2 see me again
LAVONDRIA: Nooo... Stop, yuu waint gonn bee satisified till yuh suspended again, huh?
MARTIN: Naw but he aint breed nuff 4 me, only his nose
As West had Connor establish, over several objections, Martin had engaged in an MMA-style fight with a distinct advantage going to the fighter who could establish the dominant position. This became evident in a second conversation with someone named "Michael 'Suave' French."
A day later, Martin would tell French that his opponent "got mo hits cause in da 1st round he had me on da ground nd I couldn't do ntn." This all mattered, of course, because after Martin knocked Zimmerman down with a sucker punch, breaking his nose, he assumed the MMA-style "ground and pound position" and flailed away. The best eyewitness described what he saw in exactly those terms.
The fact that the jury was not present for Connor's testimony gave the media the excuse to ignore it, but their collective neglect did not make the data any less true or real. They knew that Martin's savage attack on Zimmerman was hardly out of character. Had they shared this information with the public, they would have helped dispel the widespread illusion about innocence of this seventeen-year-old "child," a word they and the prosecutors used repeatedly, and helped prepare the nation, black America in particular, for the eventual outcome of the trial.
Although not allowed to know it, Edwards had a lot in common with brother Trayvon. He too boasted of his drug use, his affection for violence, his disdain for bitches. He too even took a photo of his hand on a pistol. Though only fifteen, Edwards was on a slightly faster track than Martin. "With my niggas when it's time to start taken life's," he tweeted three days before the shooting. Apparently, he was not kidding.
Six days after the Zimmerman not-guilty verdict, Obama made an unexpected appearance at a routine White House press conference specifically to address the "Trayvon Martin ruling." As a first priority, Obama sent his "thoughts and prayers" to the family of Trayvon Martin. As to George Zimmerman and his extended family, still in hiding after a year and a half of death threats, Obama offered not a word of hope or encouragement. Nor did he rebuke those whose threats forced the Zimmermans into an internal exile.
Expanding on his remarks from more than a year prior, Obama once again identified himself with Martin, now even more intimately. "Trayvon Martin could have been me thirty-five years ago," said Obama. Although at seventeen Obama was living in Hawaii with his white family and attending an exclusive prep school, their color apparently was bond enough.
Like all men of color, said Obama, he knew what it was like to be followed in a department store or have women clutch their purses upon seeing him enter an elevator. Even if true, Obama neglected to mention the motive behind this seeming bad behavior: according to best evidence, blacks commit interracial muggings, robberies and rapes at thirty-five times the rate of whites, and everyone more or less knows it, Jesse Jackson included.
"There is nothing more painful for me at this stage in my life," Jackson admitted in a rare honest moment twenty years ago, "than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start to think about robbery and then look around and see it's somebody white and feel relieved. How humiliating."
Obama did acknowledge that young men black men "are disproportionately both victims and perpetrators of violence," but he abandoned this thread prematurely. Avoiding the opportunity to shake up the debate, he pulled his ultimate punch, not in what he said, but in what he did not say.
The president let the idea stand that Martin was one of the victims of violence, but not one of the perpetrators. If Obama had called attention to the fractures in Martin's domestic life, his suppressed criminal record, his all but unseen descent into drugs and violence, and especially his reckless attack on Zimmerman, he might have lent a dollop of moral seriousness to his remarks.
But he did not. Instead, he tacitly encouraged his audience to project their anger and anxiety on to racial scapegoat, George Zimmerman and, indirectly at least, on to other "woods" like Chris Lane. If nothing else, Lane's killing gives Obama one final chance to set the record straight. Smart money says he won't do it.
Jack Cashill's new book on the Zimmerman trial, If I Had A Son, is available for pre-order.