A FoxNews article today begins with this provocative title:
Taking Liberties: Arrested for reading the Bible?
The title and the article give the intentional impression that Christian Fundamentalist Mark Mackey was arrested for simply reading the Christian bible.
As if he was dragged from his home and thrown into prison for reading a religious book.
As you might guess, there’s a bit more to it than that, for example Mackey wasn’t quietly reading the bible to himself at home, he was engaged in the obnoxious asshatery of “witnessing” to folks waiting in line outside of a California State DMV office. He was asked by both security and police to cease and desist, he refused and continued to annoy the hell out of people who had the choice of either listening to his unsolicited proselytizing or giving up their position in line (I suppose they also had the choice of punching him in the mouth repeatedly, which would have been my first impulse, but I digress).
Despite Fox’s deliberately misleading and alarmist headline, Mackey was not arrested for “reading the bible,” he was arrested for being an irritating asshole.
The editors at FoxNews know this, of course, that’s why they used the yellow journalism technique of casting the title of the article as a question. Arrested for being a Christian? Are they arresting Christians now? You can’t even read the bible? Well, what do you think, poor persecuted Christians? Wink, wink. One has to wonder how the folks at Fox would have written this story if it had been a brown skinned man in a turban shouting Suras from the Quran.
However, be that as it may, a rather large number of the faithful regard this arrest as just one more example of the ongoing bigotry against Christians in America, on par with being burned at the stake or thrown to the lions in the Coliseum. Commenters on Fox Nation lament this supposed “war on Christians” and rage against the abuse and bigotry that poor persecuted followers of Jesus have to endure every day as a repressed and harassed minority in America. You can read the story in much more detail for yourself, it’s been widely repeated on numerous Christian conservative websites and a video of the incident is, of course, on YouTube. With a little GoogleFu, You should have no trouble finding numerous examples.
Now, here’s what I find interesting, if you read the various articles on those same sites, articles about this incident and the recent killing of a young black man in Sanford, Florida, and if you read the articles and comments under various faith blogs and the mainstream media reports of the aforementioned shooting you’ll notice a few things:
1. There is no racism in America anymore, because a black man is president, Q.E.D. However, despite the fact that an overwhelming majority of American presidents have been openly Christian, including the current one, there is an ongoing American bias against Christians.
2. A white man cannot harbor racist prejudice against people of color if his mother is Hispanic. However, a president whose mother was white and father was black clearly hates white people.
3. A man who pursues another man lawfully minding his own business on a public street and then provokes a confrontation resulting in death, is not guilty of either murder nor manslaughter, but is, in fact, a patriot defending the constitutional freedoms of all Americans. However, an American citizen lawfully minding his own business on a public street who is confronted by an armed man has no right to either stand his ground, defend himself, or meet force with like force. He is, by the simple nature of his appearance, a thug who deserves what he gets.
4. Conservatives, gun owners, police, neighborhood watchers, and Christians should not be judged by a few extremists in their ranks. However, all black teenage males wearing hoodies may, in point of fact, be labeled thugs and criminals until proven otherwise.
I suppose this form of doublethink isn’t particularly surprising, coming as it does from a group of people who seem to think that a country steeped in Christian tradition up to and including national icons, official mottos, symbols, phrases, traditions, oaths, federal holidays and composed of an overwhelming majority of Christians who have unashamedly declared this a Christian nation at the exclusion of other beliefs, and whose government, military, and law enforcement agencies are in fact composed almost entirely of Christians, is engaged in a war on Christians.
A number of you wrote to ask my opinion of the Trayvon Martin shooting, or to ask why I had not already posted something – do I not care?
Of course I care.
But one thing we should all know by now is that the nature of 24-hour news media and social networking will inevitably lead to an evolving story in high profile situations like this one. Passion, rage, outrage, and hysteria are high on both sides and plenty of folks have their stock kneejerk responses all ready to go. The gun nuts and the anti-gun nuts are out in force, so are the racists and anti-racists, so are the law enforcement defenders and the cop-haters, so are the liberals and the conservatives, and so are the usual talking heads, agitators, deniers, haters, sympathizers, conspiracy theorists, flacks, hacks, loons, goons, and poltroons - on both sides.
What does that have to do with the first few paragraphs of this article? Well, for one thing the cognitive dissonance of those particular observations is indicative of a far, far larger issue – one that led almost inevitably to Trayvon Martin’s death.
A young man not much older than my own son is dead.
He’s dead because another young man shot him down.
He’s dead, and there’s no good reason why he should be.
He’s dead, and his family is devastated.
This incident and the circus surrounding it should serve as a clarion call to all Americans, every single goddamned one of us, because the shooting of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman is a stark and abject example of everything that is wrong with this country.
This incident is a harbinger of what will one day bring down the United States of America if we stay on the path we are on.
Is Zimmerman a racist?
Is Zimmerman a racist, did he target Marin because Martin was black? Would this incident have ended differently if Martin had been white, or Hispanic, or Asian, or Native American?
I don’t know.
I don’t know. I wasn’t there. I don’t know George Zimmerman. And so, I don’t know if Zimmerman is a racist.
But here’s what I see, America immediately and predictably divided itself into camps over this incident, kneejerk opinions based not on evidence but on race, on stereotypes, on preconceived ideas of what really happened - and there’s no better indicator that racism is alive and well in America than that, right there.
Should people of color automatically assume that Zimmerman is a racist?
In different world, no, of course not.
But in America, this America, this one right here, the one we actually live in, the real question is this: Is there any reason whatsoever why people, of any color, should not automatically assume that Zimmerman is indeed a racist?
black people are the most disgusting race on earth , the parents making hoodies . what are they gonna do when the truth comes out and the punks guilty? they better take the money and go hide . they are very sick people . selling their sons soul, and probably for crack.[sic]
Yo, idiots. Its OBVIOUS, that the kid thought Zimmerman was unarmed. Typical black youth behavior of CONFRONTATION, led to Zimmerman pulling out his gun. [sic]
It certainly adds to the problems poised by this case, that the response of millions of black males to the fact that they are stereotyped as criminals, is that they dress and act like criminals!! Of course, no one deserves to be shot for dressing or acting like a criminal, but on the other hand, no one should be suprised that those who dress and act like criminals, get treated like criminals. If a group of people is being stereotyped as criminals, the last thing in the world they should do, is ACT LIKE CRIMINALS!. Meaning, in this case, wear "gangsta" attire, go about in public with their faces concealed like criminals who are trying to hide their identity, behave in an insolent and hostile way. If you behave exactly in accordance with people's stereotypes about you, you are simply giving them reason to believe the stereotypes are true. Stop confirming the stereotypes and things will go better. [sic]
Trayvon Martin was no longer the cute little 12 year old from all of the photos the Media has been showing... He was a 6'3" football player who apparently had a taste for doing burglaries. I would bet that is what he was doing in that gated community parking lot, looking for something to steal. He attacked Zimmerman from a concealed position and severely injured him. This justifies self defense. Case Closed! [sic]
If some 17 year gorilla in a hoodie stalks me to my car, jumps me, breaks my nose and then punds my head on the cement sidewalk... I'm going to shoot the rotten S.O.B. So would anyone else who wants to stay alive. You want to know who's at fault here? The parents of the dead boy. It's their fault for raising him to be a thug. [sic]
Those comments, and thousands more like them come from those aforementioned Christian and conservative news websites. Go look for yourself, you’ll have no trouble finding a whole bunch more just exactly like them, or worse. Note that I’m not saying racist garbage like that quoted above is the exclusive purview of either Christians or conservatives, there’s plenty of this horseshit to go around, across all strata of America, in all directions. I simply used the examples from the sites I did, because they are easy to find and readily available.
Was the Trayvon Martin shooting racism?
Is the fact that the shooter has not been arrested racism?
Well? Is it racism? Look around. Be honest. Give me one, just one, good reason why people of color, or any person for that matter, should assume that it isn’t.
Was the shooter racist? I have no idea.
Is Trayvon Martin dead because of racism?
A black youth. Hooded sweatshirt. Saggy pants. Gold tooth. He comes into your store, your bank, approaches your car, gets in an elevator with you. What do you think? Black, white, brown, yellow, red, what do you think? Be honest, what do you think? Thug. You think he’s a thug, don’t you? A gansta from the hood. You can’t help it. He looks like a thug. He wants you to think he’s a thug. Is that his fault? For dressing like a thug? Yes. Just like it’s your own fault when people assume you’re an ignorant gun-toting sister-humping Klan-lovin’ redneck because you drive a big truck with a Confederate flag plastered across the back window. Is it your fault when people assume you’re a terrorist if you’re sitting on an airplane wearing a headscarf and speaking to your seatmate in Arabic? No, but they do, don’t they? My son is about the same age as Trayvon Martin. My son is white. My son listens to music that makes my teeth ache. My son wears hoodies. But you wouldn’t automatically assume he was a thug if you met him on the street, would you? Welcome to racism. It comes in all forms and it’s all around us, isn’t it?
A black youth in a hooded sweatshirt, is it his fault you think he’s a thug? Perhaps. But it’s your fault too. It’s all our faults.
And yes, some black men in hoodies are real thugs and you have every reason to be afraid of them.
But here’s the thing, many folks, black and white, glorify that thug life. It’s in the music, it’s on popular TV shows, it’s in the movies, it’s in advertising, and on the web and at the mall.
Why the hell shouldn’t our children, black, white, brown, yellow, red, want to look like that?
Terrible, this glorification by popular media and culture of criminals, of thugs and gangsters. Almost as terrible as when previous generations glorified outlaw biker gangs and made popular movies about them and adopted their style of dress and transportation, or idolized the mobsters of the Roaring Twenties and dressed up in fedoras and double-breasted Zootsuits, or turned the bandit gangs and gunslingers who once terrorized the Old West into popular heroes of song and silver screen. Then there is our ongoing love affair with pirates, who in reality were, and are, some pretty terrible sons of bitches. Oh, yes, how terrible that the youth of today should glorify outlaws and violence and gangsters, because Americans don’t have a long, long history of doing exactly that.
This culture of thuggery didn’t happen in a vacuum you know, no more so than it did in the biker bars of Southern California or on the streets of Chicago during the 1920’s or streets of Laredo during the 1880’s. What changed it back then was law enforcement, education, government, and citizens who cared enough to do something about it. If you’re tired of being afraid of a thug in a hoodie, then the root causes that gave rise to that image have to be addressed. The solution isn’t a law that lets you shoot down people in the fucking street, the solution is education, healthcare, development, access, opportunity, rule of law, and citizens who give a good goddamn about each other.
The solution is inclusion instead of exclusion.
The solution is long and difficult and it requires sustained effort and organization and resources.
If it could be solved by killing people, well we wouldn’t be having this problem, would we?
Here’s the thing, so pay attention: You can not leave the root causes of this situation behind, sooner or later they will catch up to you – even if you move into a gated community.
Liberal, Conservative, Black, White, Left, Right, do you really, really, want to live in a community where the law allows a man to shoot another down in the street with impunity? Really? Do you really want to live in an armed camp? Hemmed in by armed patrols? Do you really want your kids to have to answer to armed civilian militia? Really?
If you do, if you think armed patrols and gunning people down in the street is the answer, then you’re insane.
And where do you go when that isn’t enough? A castle? A fortress? Where?
And after that, what?
I’ll tell you what comes after that, because I’ve been in countries where it all finally hit the wall.
What comes next?
Trayvon Martin was just a kid in a hooded sweatshirt who went to the store to buy a drink and a bag of candy. He wasn’t a saint, he got in his share of trouble. But he wasn’t a thug either. He was just an average kid, a football player, a guy with a girlfriend, an American just exactly like my own son, no more, no less.
Trayvon Martin was just a kid who should have been able walk down any street in America without fearing for his life – no matter how he looked or what he was wearing.
Trayvon Martin died because he committed the fatal sin of being a black youth in America.
His death and all those things that led directly to it are a blot upon all our souls.
Like the folks at the beginning of this article, there are far too many Americans who falsely proclaim themselves the targets of bigotry and prejudice and unjust persecution, who would gleefully pretend to martyrdom, and turn a blind eye to real injustice.
If they want to know what real bigotry is, they should put on blackface and a hoodie and walk the streets of America.