Revolution #264, April 1, 2012
What Barack Obama (and the Republicans)
Did NOT Say About Trayvon Martin
Only in the face of a spreading wildfire of mass outrage... only as it became clear that all the firemen could not damp it down... only as this mass anger began to threaten to roar out of the confines of “politics as usual”... only then did Barack Obama feel compelled to speak on the murder of Trayvon Martin. (And only after Obama spoke did his Republican opposite numbers chime in.)
First, note that this was NOT a special presidential address and it was NOT a speech given specifically on the murder of Trayvon and the connections of that murder to the deep roots and everyday reality of this society—it was merely a staged answer, supposedly given off the cuff, to a shouted question at the end of a press conference about something totally unrelated. This in itself was designed to send a message minimizing what was done and its importance. (Commentators applauded his “low-key” approach.)
What Obama did not say says more than what he did.
He did NOT link the cold-blooded murder of Trayvon Martin to the whole history and present-day reality of these awful and notorious cases... from Dred Scott to Emmett Till to Oscar Grant... all rooted in white supremacy and the oppression of Black and other “minority” peoples that is bred in the bone of this capitalist system—no, this was covered over...
He did NOT connect the killing of Trayvon to the ways in which Black youth have been stigmatized and demonized and criminalized by the media, by bullies like Bill Cosby, and by top politicians—including Democratic politicians and even presidents like Bill Clinton and, yes, Obama himself in their “blame-the-youth” speeches (not to mention the “conservative”—that is, blatantly fascist—commentators)—to the point where a young Black man walking down the street in a hoodie is “fair game”...
He did NOT connect the way in which Trayvon was gunned down to the ways in which this system targets Black youths from the time they are born, to the way in which it mis-educates them and funnels them into the prison system (now bursting at the seams with nearly 2 1/2 million people), to the massive meat grinder these youth face that lets only a relatively few out of its clutches... because, after all, he has never said anything about that before, so why start now?
He did NOT talk about the similarity of the way in which Trayvon’s killer seems to have assumed, in his 911 call, that this Black youth was a criminal threat just by virtue of being Black and walking around, and the ways in which the police departments of every American city assume the very same thing and stop and humiliate Black youth every second of the day...
What Obama did NOT say speaks volumes. And the fact that he, and his Republican opposite numbers, said anything at all also speaks volumes—volumes about how much they fear the depths of the righteous anger this outrage has only begun to tap into.
We cannot and must not stop now. The outrage must not be dammed up. The demand for justice must grow louder and spread wider, must become more determined. The truth—the whole truth, right down to the root causes of this and the revolutionary solution—must come pouring out, on the crest of a wave of mass action.
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