Opinion

Zimmeran not the only racist

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George Zimmerman's father and his attorney, Craig Sonner, claim that Zimmerman is not a racist. But it's clear that he made certain racist assumptions about Trayvon Martin on the night of Feb. 26.

And then here's another clear truth no one wants to confront: Zimmerman isn't the only one to blame for stereotyping Trayvon Martin.

Martin, only 17, was visiting his father, Tracy Martin, in a gated community in Sanford, Fla. Trayvon left the home of his father's fiancee, who lived in the community, to walk to a nearby 7-Eleven, where he bought some Skittles and an Arizona iced tea.

George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch captain in that gated community -- where the gate evidently wasn't working -- initiated the tragic events of Feb. 26 when he made a 911 call to report Trayvon as a "suspicious person."

We don't know what Trayvon did in Zimmerman's eyes to warrant the description of being a "suspicious person," other than being a black male teen wearing a hoodie. We do know, according to 911 tapes the Sanford Police Department only reluctantly released, that Zimmerman said at one point he thought Trayvon was on drugs.

After the events that unfolded, we know that Trayvon was not on drugs. (We don't know that about Zimmerman, who was never tested at for drugs or alcohol at the crime scene or at the police station.)

We know that Trayvon committed no criminal acts, at least not before the alleged attack that Zimmerman claims he made against him. We know Trayvon had just as much a right to be in that gated community as Zimmerman.

In short, every assumption the Zimmerman made about Trayvon Martin the night of Feb. 26 was completely, utterly wrong.

Zimmerman saw a young black male wearing a hoodie walking in his neighborhood and immediately decided the guy was "suspicious" or on drugs. He held several stereotypes about Trayvon that weren't valid.

All that said, those rushing to condemn Zimmerman's "racism" might also do well to consider the others who have just as recklessly created such stereotypes of young black men -- all in pursuit of profits.

I refer, of course, to those other young black males known as "gangsta rappers." And yes, I'd also include those record company executives who seem so eager to produce music in which young black men are proudly stereotyped as dangerous thugs.

I don't say this as a 60-year-old fogey who detests rap music. The truth is, I'm a fan of some rap music. ("Rap helped kill disco," I'm fond of telling youngsters. "I owe rap and rappers a debt I can never repay.")

But, as I listen to gangsta rap, I notice certain elements that run through it. There's a little bit of the "b" word, way too much of the "n" word and quite a bit of the "g" word: "gangsta."

And that "g" word isn't used in a negative sense. Young black men being "gangstas" is celebrated, not condemned.

I worked for another newspaper in the 1990s and I had a black editor whose son traveled to Mexico. When he went, the Mexican authorities and people he met presumed that he was either a rapper or a drug dealer. The reason? American rap music videos.

Who knows if George Zimmerman's stereotyping of Trayvon Martin wasn't the result of his watching too many of those same videos?

Examiner Columnist Gregory Kane is a Pulitzer-nominated news and opinion journalist who has covered people and politics from Baltimore to the Sudan.

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Gregory Kane

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The Washington Examiner