Carl Davidson : Trayvon Martin, Newt Gingrich, and the ‘Race Card’

Demonstrators call for justice for Trayvon Martin. Image from AllVoices.

Tragedies, crimes, and Trayvon Martin:
How Newt Gingrich played the ‘race card’

By Carl Davidson | The Rag Blog | March 29, 2012

Every so often an outrage happens that lights up the sky, like when lighting strikes at night, and all of a sudden everything previously hidden in darkness and shadow stands out in sharp, bright relief.

The murder of Trayvon Martin was such an event, even though it took a while for the rolling thunder of its full impact to spread across the country. Slowly at first, and then in greater leaps, the news media, after being nudged, picked it up.

I have one quarrel with most of the reports and statements. This was not so much a tragedy as a crime. It was an old-fashioned lynching dressed up with modern-day “gun rights” being exercised in today’s gated communities.

But put that to the side. Most everyone now has dutifully called it a tragedy, called for an impartial investigation to “get to the bottom” of it and see that “justice is served.” Even President Obama finally spoke up, with the proper caveats against prejudging “current investigations,” but adding that if he had a son, he would look like Trayvon, a point he made to show empathy with the Martin family.

Then we have our former House Speaker and GOP presidential candidate, Newt Gingrich, who, after deploring the tragedy, came up with this attack on Obama in an interview with Sean Hannity:

“It’s not a question of who that young man looked like. Any young American of any ethnic background should be safe, period. We should all be horrified no matter what the ethnic background,” Gingrich said. “Is the President suggesting that if it had been a white who had been shot that would be OK because it didn’t look like him?”

“That’s just nonsense dividing this country up. It is a tragedy this young man was shot,” Gingrich continued on Hannity’s show.

“It would have been a tragedy if he had been Puerto Rican or Cuban or if he had been white or if he had been Asian-American of if he’d been a Native American. At some point we ought to talk about being Americans. When things go wrong to an American, it is sad for all Americans. Trying to turn it into a racial issue is fundamentally wrong. I really find it appalling.”

Newt, I have news for you. There’s something truly appalling here; in fact it stinks to high heaven. But it’s not Obama, and if you want to see the source of it, look in the mirror.

Gingrich fancies himself an historian, even something of an expert of the Civil War and its aftermath. He should then know something about lynching. If so, he would know that when the Reconstruction governments were overthrown, the KKK terror started in South Carolina by lynching nearly as many poor whites as Black Freedmen.

The aim was to deeply drive home the wedge of the original “Southern Strategy” aimed at dividing the working class in the South and elsewhere. But as lynching rolled on over the decades, tens of thousands of Blacks bore the brunt of it. Anti-lynching laws, also for decades, were promoted mainly by Blacks and a few radical allies, while white reactionaries blocked them.

There is nothing colorblind about lynching. It never ceases to amaze me when Republicans claim to be color-blind lovers of Dr. King, while being “appalled” at what they consider the main racists in high places, who are the African Americans supposedly “playing the race card.”

The trade union movement over the years has paid some high tuition to learn that mutual respect among nationalities is not rooted in being “blind” to each other’s distinctiveness. Solidarity with a white top and a Black bottom simply doesn’t get the job done.

But the race card is indeed being played against us. It’s been constantly played by those who would keep us under their thumbs, from Jamestown, Virginia, in 1619 up to a “gated community” in Stanford, Florida.

If you want to see it in action, for starters, watch Fox News or the GOP campaign any day of the week — then to oppose it, gather up some friends to attend a “Justice for Trayvon” rally and work to defeat every candidate and incumbent of the party of the Southern Strategy in November.

[Carl Davidson is a national co-chair of the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism, a national board member of Solidarity Economy Network, a writer for Beaver County Blue, the website of PA’s 4th CD Progressive Democrats of America, and a member of Steelworkers Associates. He is the author of several books, including New Paths to Socialism, available online. In the 1960s, he was a national leader of SDS and a writer and editor for the Guardian newsweekly. This article was first published at the United Steelworkers’ blog. Read more articles by Carl Davidson on The Rag Blog.]

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4 Responses to Carl Davidson : Trayvon Martin, Newt Gingrich, and the ‘Race Card’

  1. Anonymous says:

    I suggest Carl rethink his definition of race card.

    I stipulate that circumstances are likely as portrayed. An overzealous sorta white sorta hispanic looking guy shoots a black kid without any good reason for doing so. Certainly not a self defense reason. The cops and prosecutors then botched the investigation.

    But lets be honest. The only reason this has turned into the media event that it has become, is that it provides a forum for black leaders to make hay over the racial overtones and to further gun control efforts.

    As you fulminate about how horrible that comment is. Go write a reply to this question. Where is this SAME level of outrage over black on black killings and black on white killings? In a report entitled “Homicide Trends In The U.S.” the Bureau of Justice Statistics says that from 1976 to 2005 when an interracial killing occurred where the actors are strangers to each other, whites are killed by blacks at a rate 372% higher than blacks are killed by whites. Also, 94% of black victims were killed by other blacks!

    I believe that the whole universe of outraged black leaders getting their fifteen minutes over this event, IS the race card being played.

    After all its much easier to whip up a race based firestorm, than to deal with the fact that decades of progressive policies in large urban cities have been absolute failures for their black citizens.

    – Extremist2TheDHS

  2. Anonymous says:

    “playing the race card”

    it’s not a fucking game

    it’s our kids’ LIVES

  3. Anonymous says:

    “it’s our kids’ LIVES”

    Thanks for making my point. If it WAS about black kids lives, the outrage at the deaths of black kids at the hands of other black men would be deafening.

    But like I sad, that would mean confronting progressive dogma about teachers unions, liberal social policies, welfare, out of wedlock births, the destructive nature of victimization, drugs, hip hop culture, etc etc.

    Much easier to focus attention on when some dumb ass white guy behaving badly.

    – Extremist2TheDHS

  4. Ozzie Maland says:

    Bob Herbert, a black man, used to be allowed to opinionate on the NYTimes op-ed page, but with opinions like the one excerpted below, is it any wonder that Herbert is out at the Gray Lady?

    The New York Times, August 12, 2002
    Justice Goes Into Hiding

    [excerpts]…A couple of years ago, the Justice Department, after receiving complaints from the N.A.A.C.P. and others, did open an investigation of Tom
    Coleman, an undercover narcotics agent who conducted a
    clownish one-man sting operation that resulted in the arrests
    in the summer of 1999 of more than 10 percent of Tulia’s black
    population… George W. Bush was the governor of Texas during Mr.
    Coleman’s Tulia shenanigans. And when Mr. Bush became
    president and appointed John Ashcroft attorney general, the
    Justice Department investigation [of Coleman] was doomed. ..Tom Coleman with a Texas “Lawman of the Year Award” for 1999.
    …Tom Coleman’s investigation was a nightmarish blend of
    incompetence and malevolence [end excerpts]

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