“It doesn’t matter what he looks like.”
That’s the broken-record response of several prominent conservatives to President Obama’s statement about Trayvon Martin, the unarmed black teen-ager who was pursued for no good reason and ultimately killed by a neighborhood watchman in Sanford, Florida.
Obama stated that if he had a son, “it would look like Trayvon.” Naturally, it didn’t take long for conservatives to deploy the “everything Obama says is automatically wrong” strategy. Newt Gingrich raged, “It doesn’t matter what that boy looked like. We should be horrified no matter what the ethnic background.” Michele Bachmann seconded Gingrich, saying, “Race shouldn’t be a factor. All human life is valuable.” Rush Limbaugh weighed in, declaring that the left was “obsessed with race.”
These conservatives think they’re making a penetrating and enlightening argument, but they’re really just revealing their own cluelessness.
Of course race is a factor — an enormous factor, actually — in the Trayvon Martin case. When was the last time you heard about a white teen-ager falling under suspicion for “looking at houses?” It’s just another painful reminder that the right-wing elite has no idea what racial discrimination is, or how it feels, and evidently they have no interest in finding out. They can’t even project what it must be like to be walking down the street, minding their own business, only to find themselves pursued because they’re wearing the wrong sort of clothing.
Then again, these are wealthy white conservatives we’re talking about, a group of people whose idea of “oppression” is no longer being waited on hand and foot, such as they were before women and minorities organized and decided that maybe they might have some rights, too, besides staying out of sight unless they’re carrying trays.
Maybe George Zimmerman did act in self-defense. The facts of the deadly final confrontation have yet to be fully determined. But what is indisputable is that it would not have happened if Zimmerman hadn’t decided — based on no evidence whatsoever — that Martin was a thug up to no good, if he hadn’t ignored the 911 dispatcher’s specific directive to stay in the car. And what criteria did Zimmerman use in deciding that Martin was a thug? You might have noticed that the conservative right is remarkably silent on that question.