Corrine Brown and the Forgotten Innocent
Congresswoman Corrine Brown (D-FL) is no stranger to finding her foot in her mouth. Among the more hilarious examples that I can remember (impossible to forget, actually) was when Ms. Brown chose to defend the practice of gerrymandering. She said:
"Do you know who Gerry Mandering was? He was a white legislator that had a lot of power. And what we want to make sure is everybody has a fair opportunity to have representation in the United States Congress. In the House, the Senate, the city council and the school boards."
She is speaking, of course, about Eldridge Gerry, Massachusetts governor and U.S. Vice President who, in 1812, arranged district lines in such an unconventional way that it was said to resemble a salamander. Thus, "gerrymandering" became the preferred nomenclature for the practice redistricting for political purpose rather than legislative efficiency.
But history isn't the only thing Corrine Brown forgets. Recently, she famously forgot the name of a murdered "young white female" in her district.
"Would you, would your fellow African American lawmakers be as concerned about this case if Trayvon wasn't black?" CNN's Brooke Baldwin asked.
"Oh let me tell you something. We had an incident in my area where a young white female was murdered and I was just as concerned, absolutely, I care about all of the children," Brown said. "You know, you can make this -"
"Congresswoman Brown, what was her name?" Baldwin interjected.
Brown paused, then asked, "The young lady that got killed?"
"Yes ma'am," Baldwin said.
"In, in Orange, uh, County," Brown stammered. Looking off camera, she seemed to be conferring with someone, and said, "Yeah, yeah, the young lady who got killed."
"Do you remember?" Baldwin pressed.
"Uh, I don't - I don't remember, but we had all kinds of rallies in the community, in Jacksonville,
Understandably, it was embarrassing for her. She flew into a passionate (or perhaps desperate is a better adjective) tirade about class war, "reverse Robin Hoods" in government, and something about black people having pneumonia. But there's a deeper implication here that is easy to miss.
The "young white female" whose name Rep. Corrine Brown could not remember was named Somer Thompson. She was a beautiful little 7 year old girl, abducted and murdered by a pedophile who was later apprehended on unrelated child pornography charges. Little Somer's body was found in a Georgia landfill.
This got me thinking. In the context, it almost seems that Rep. Corrine Brown was drawing parity between Trayvon Martin and the little nameless white girl that "got killed." After all, she was "just as concerned" about the "young lady who got killed." But isn't there something unsettling in that?
Trayvon Martin was the victim of an enigmatic confrontation, where an assessment of guilt is obscure in the eyes of the law. Somer Thompson was an innocent child, robbed of life by a wretched creature that is much less publically vilified than the potentially innocent George Zimmerman.
And not even her mother's political representative knows her daughter's name, much less her attacker's. And though Ms. Brown works tirelessly to make sure everyone knows what an injustice happened to Trayvon Martin, America would not even know that a little girl named Somer Thompson once lived, if not for the Congresswoman's gaffe.
This further exposes our exploitative media, and highlights a serious problem in the racial discourse of America. But I think, unlike Ms. Corrine Brown, that little Somer Thompson deserves to be remembered as something more definitive than "the young lady who got killed."