The brutal thrill killing of Australian baseball player Chris Lane by three teenage thugs, has generated a great deal of commentary from right-wing pundits quick to compare the case to the Trayvon Martin slaying. Both Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh were quick to weigh in with predictable diatribes crying media hypocrisy and chastising Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson for not immediately jumping in front of cameras to condemn the senseless killing. Rush Limbaugh went so far as to call the killing the Trayvon Martin case in reverse only worse.
Of course both rightwing pundits completely miss the point. The outrage over the Zimmerman slaying of Trayvon Martin was not the unique brutality of the crime, but rather it was directed at the nonchalant initial attitude of the police and county prosecutors towards the killing. The police did not make an arrest or even subject George Zimmerman to toxicology tests which should be routine in a homicide case. The prosecution did not press charges.
If the Lane killing was truly a Trayvon Martin case in reverse, the defendants would still be walking free instead of sitting in jail, held without bond, facing first degree murder charges and staring the prospects of spending life in prison in the face. The two black suspects in the Lane killing, James Edwards, 15, and Chancey Luna, 16, are being held without bond. The third suspect, a 17-year old white male named Michael Jones, is being held on one million dollars bond. In his efforts to make the incident seem like a case of anti-white racism, Beck did not bother to highlight the fact that the white suspect, who according to Glenn Beck’s own web site, confessed in court by saying “I pulled the trigger”, is the only suspect who is eligible to be released on bail.
What Beck, Limbaugh and others like them fail to comprehend is that the initial media outrage over the Trayvon Martin case was slow to materialize, and that the objection of Sharpton and Jackson was not directed so much at the nature of Zimmerman’s crime as it was at the nature of our criminal justice system. In the wake of the Zimmerman trial, Right wing pundits and bloggers have tirelessly sought out cases of blacks killing whites to level charges of hypocrisy against the media and black community leaders for not giving these crimes the level of outrage they directed at George Zimmerman’s crime.
The angry diatribes usually run along the lines of “Where are Sharpton and Jesse Jackson” or “why aren’t Obama and Holder doing anything about this crime?” The answer of course is that in cases where black assailants kill white victims, Sharpton and Jackson do not need to step forward and Obama and Holder do not need to get involved, because the system is doing its job in arresting and prosecuting these attackers.
The three youths accused of gunning down the baseball player were all quickly apprehended and charged with either first-degree murder or in the case of the white suspect, other serious felonies related to the murder. They were not released by the police. They are being charged appropriately and each of them will probably spend most if not all of their remaining lives in prison.
The crime is incomprehensibly senseless, but the police and prosecution are handling the case in ways that the community would expect them too. Once pundits understand that black leaders have been speaking out against disparities in the justice system, not against the specific viciousness of each and every violent crime ever committed, then its clear that black leaders are not engaging in the breathtaking hypocrisy Limbaugh and Beck accuse them of committing. There are two separate issues. The first issue is inequality based on how the justice system prosecutes interracial crimes that are white on black compared to black on white and the second issue is the unique senselessness or brutality of the crime.
Pundits who are critical of black leaders are conflating the two issues and acting as if black leaders focused on the Zimmerman case because of its unique brutality and not because of the way the crime was handled by the police and the courts. The reason Holder and Obama aren’t getting involved in the Oklahoma murder is because the system is working in this case so they do not have too get involved. The perpetrators of the crime are being held accountable by law enforcement officials and by the court system. Limbaugh, Beck and others on the political right either misunderstand or are misrepresenting the response of black leaders to the Zimmerman-Martin case. Sharpton, Jackson and president Obama expressed outrage or concern not at the unusual severity of the Trayvon Martin murder but rather at the lackadaisical attitude of the police and courts in responding to the murder of a young black man by a white Hispanic assailant. Limbaugh and Beck are probably aware of this distinction, but it does not fit the narrative of “liberal hypocrisy” that they are trying to promote.