Black Mood

By Brown, Tina | Newsweek, April 18, 2012 | Go to article overview

Black Mood


Brown, Tina, Newsweek


Byline: Tina Brown

America, beset by race.

Has the killing of Trayvon Martin given the lie to the idea of a "post-racial" America? Is it proof of a submerged white racism we choose to ignore? Those heat-of-the-moment inferences may yet be falsified. George Zimmerman, the officious vigilante with a gun, didn't identify the unarmed Martin by his color until asked by the police dispatcher. And even use of the categories white, black, and Hispanic is questionable: Zimmerman himself is an ethnic jigsaw. Ramped up by cable news, op-ed pundits, and the ranting echo chamber of the blogosphere, we seem to be at one of those flash points like the O.J. verdict, or the arrest of a black Harvard professor innocently trying to enter his own home.

With so many assumptions masquerading as truth in the Stand Your Ground killing in Florida (which has suffered a tripling of "justifiable homicides" since 2006), we offer evidence, context, and commentary. The hard evidence is on current racial attitudes. The commentary, drawn from personal experiences, is from Walter Mosley and Paul Theroux, who writes, "If I had a son, he'd look like George Zimmerman." Context is provided by a vivid piece of firsthand reporting by Tony Dokoupil of a less publicized case in Mississippi, where Deryl Dedmon, a local teenager, was accused of murdering a black man while on a nocturnal expedition--violent, nihilistic hijinks in which Dedmon and a posse of friends sought out indigent black people as prey. In this instance, the victim, James Anderson, was beaten, then run over by a truck and left to die in an impoverished part of west Jackson. The killing recalled the state's past: Emmett Till, Medgar Evers, and Mississippi Burning. What's most unsettling about Dedmon's crime isn't just its brutal depravity, but the fact that the kids involved (and I choose the word "kids" deliberately) don't consider themselves racist. "It's heritage, not hate," one of the other boys present tells Dokoupil. …

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