In Tom Wolfe’s bestselling novel “Bonfire of the Vanities,” a liberal New York prosecutor who yearned for a “Great White Defendant” got his wish when a wealthy stockbroker named Sherman McCoy ran over a black teenager in a case of questionable self-defense. The prosecutor, left-wing racial activists and a sensationalist media fed off each other, leading to a state of pure hysteria where the facts were all swept aside.
Wolfe wrote “Bonfire” in the wake of the Tawana Brawley and Bernie Goetz affairs, and it seemed prescient during the hysterics brought against Dominique Strauss-Kahn and three members of Duke’s lacrosse team. While the prosecutors in the Zimmerman case are — if anything — under-zealous, the media and left-wing racial activists are setting up George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer who killed a black teenager named Trayvon Martin, as a “Great White Defendant.”
To briefly recap the case: In February, Zimmerman encountered Martin walking through Zimmerman’s Sanford, Florida neighborhood. Zimmerman believed (rightly or wrongly) that Martin appeared suspicious and called the police. He followed Martin and a dispute arose that culminated in Zimmerman shooting an unarmed Martin. A witness told the police that Zimmerman was on the ground and screaming for help when he shot the teenager. When the police found Zimmerman, he had a broken nose and wounds on the back of his head.
Because it’s unclear exactly what occurred in the skirmish, the Sanford Police did not immediately press charges against Zimmerman, though they did not fully exonerate him either. State prosecutors will convene a grand jury investigation to determine whether to charge Zimmerman on April 10.
Ever eager to exploit tragedies, Al Sharpton, the NAACP and the usual grievance-mongers have descended on Florida. Louis Farrakhan has tweeted “No Justice, No Peace” and demanded “retaliation,” one way or the other. The New Black Panther Party has issued a bounty on Zimmerman’s head, and Spike Lee has tweeted Zimmerman’s home address.
MSNBC’s Karen Finney went further, accusing Rush Limbaugh, Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum of “reinforce[ing] and validat[ing] old stereotypes that associate the poor and welfare as criminal behavior with African Americans and people of color. … In the case of Trayvon, those festering stereotypes had lethal consequences.”
Then, in order to rally his base, President Obama decided to inject himself into the controversy by calling for national “soul searching.”
There are over 14,000 murders in the United States every year. All of these deaths are tragic, so why is Martin’s death dominating the headlines and getting a comment from the president of the United States? Because liberals think Martin’s killing fits their narrative of a racist America. In their minds, a black teenager who was walking through a white neighborhood was racially profiled by a white vigilante who killed him, and the white criminal justice system is too racist to be concerned.