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Trayvon Martin & Psychological Displacement

Jonathan Capehart says the Zimmerman verdict highlights the “stolen youth of black children.” Excerpt:

What this means is that black adolescents cannot afford to be normal American teenagers. They cannot experiment with pot. They cannot fight in any way ever, even if it means protecting themselves from a stranger. They cannot take sophomoric pictures with middle fingers, bare chests or in silly gear. They can’t have improper conversations on social media. They can’t wear anything society views as menacing. And growing up, they can never ever make bad choices or mistakes — the types that teach life lessons, foster humility and build character.

As we’ve seen with the Zimmerman defense, any of those things can be used to put black children on trial for their own death. Never mind that they were profiled as “up to no good” or were pursued and confronted by an unidentified stranger. In the eyes of the defense, those children never have the emotions, reactions or fears of children. They are presumed guilty the moment they leave the safe confines of home.

Yet we need to be mindful of something else. That presumption of guilt doesn’t go away with the change of voice or the clearing of skin. It is never outgrown. And as a result of the Zimmerman verdict, black parents are holding their boys closer and tighter, no matter their age. “Be careful out there. Watch as well as pray,” my 71-year-old mother wrote me in a text message Sunday evening. “I pray for your safety everyday. Love you. Mom.”

I don’t understand this. I mean, I really and truly do not. Leaving aside the silly claim that Trayvon Martin — at 17, old enough to join the US military, with parental permission —  is a “child.” The idea that the greatest danger to young black men in America comes from people like George Zimmerman is simply deranged. In fact, the greatest threat to young men like Trayvon Martin comes from … young men like Trayvon Martin.

Take a look at this 2007 Justice Department report on black victims of violent crime, according to official crime statistics. It finds that:

  • 85 percent of black homicide victims were male
  • 51 percent of black homicide victims were between the age of 17 and 29
  • 93 percent of black male victims of homicide were killed by blacks

I wrote a post earlier this year looking at FBI crime stats for 2011, and they paint a similar picture: if you are a young black man, you are wildly more likely to be a murder victim than people in any other demographic group — race, sex, or age. And more than nine times out of 10, the murderer will be another black man.

Jamelle Bouie today wrote a Daily Beast post tied to the Trayvon Martin situation, claiming that the fact that nearly all black murder victims in America are killed by blacks just goes to show that there is no such thing as black-on-black crime, and that the concept is ginned up by white people to justify their fear of black masculinity and black criminality. Bouie also says that NYC’s stop-and-frisk program is racist, and not justified by statistics — this, even though NYPD stats show that 96 percent of all shooting victims are black or Hispanic, and 97 percent of all shooters were black or Hispanic.

These statistics are so clear, so consistent, and so overwhelming that it defies rationality to claim that the youth of black males is being stolen by the likes of George Zimmerman. It’s being stolen by other young black men. 

I understand why the problem of the wildly disproportionate involvement of young black men in violent crime is difficult to discuss, but this Zimmerman verdict is causing some people, apparently in the grip of psychological displacement, to lose their minds.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

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