If you’re still following the fallout from the George Zimmerman verdict, you might want to know about a new talking point that has emerged. Whether or not Zimmerman was racist is irrelevant. Trayvon Martin was a bigot himself. How do we know? Because he beat up Zimmerman, strictly because he thought he was gay.
This strange, jump-to-conclusions-mat hate-crime switcheroo was brought to us by controversial talk show host Rush Limbaugh.
The new “Trayvon Martin was a bigot” talking point originated during Rachel Jeantel’s interview with Piers Morgan on Monday night.
Jeantel suggested that her friend ran because she was afraid that George Zimmerman might be a rapist. “For every boy or every man who’s not that kind of way, seeing a grown man following them, would they be creeped out?”
She said much the same thing during the trial, but most publications picked up on the “creepy ass cracker” line instead. When the reverse-racism argument failed to tread water, the homophobia one took its place.
Drudge Report carried the headline “JEANTEL WARNED ZIMMERMAN COULD BE GAY RAPIST,” but it was Limbaugh who dedicated the most airtime to the new talking point.
“For every boys, or every man, every who’s not that kinda way,” meaning everybody who’s straight, “see a grown man following them, would they be creep out?” She’s telling us the reason Trayvon Martin descended on Zimmerman and started pummeling him was because he was offended. He thought, because what she said to him, that Zimmerman was gay. Zimmerman got beat up because Trayvon thought he was gay.
Notice the jump from “the reason that Trayvon Martin was afraid of George Zimmerman” to “the reason that Trayvon Martin targeted and beat George Zimmerman in an apparent hate crime.”
It can be incredibly hard to parse all of this, and the media is absolutely shoe-horning multiple perspectives into a binary “bigoted/non-bigoted” narrative.
Elspeth Reeve of The Atlantic Wire said it best (and with far more measure than I) “This is a fascinating example of how America has changed when it comes to talking about race. Almost everyone agrees that being a bigot is bad [...] and no one wants their ‘side’ tagged as the bigoted one.”
And that’s really all it is. A game of “pass the bigot ball” because no one wants to be seen as or called a bigot. It’s a game of tag taking place on the grave of a 17-year-old kid, who might have been deeply flawed, but what teenager isn’t?
Last time we checked, the punishment isn’t death.
What do you think of George Zimmerman apologism, or how “bigotry” is used in the Trayvon Martin story? Can we all just agree that a dead kid is a bad thing and start there?