Right-Wing Race Baiting And The Florida Bus Beating

Blog ››› ››› ARI RABIN-HAVT

Florid BusThe release of a month-old video showing three black students beating a white classmate on a bus in Florida has resulted in a mass outbreak of misplaced self-righteousness from the conservative media. This is their "ah-ha moment" - evidence that racism is a two-way street and that black civil rights leaders are the real bigots.

"Where is the civil rights movement?" They ask. "Where are Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton?" Contrasting civil rights leaders' actions following the killing of Trayvon Martin, the right argues that their silence in this case proves duplicitousness.

This chorus of ignorance only substantiates the right's inability to confront issues of race in an honest manner, preferring to attack those working for equality with false charges of hypocrisy.

The attack that occurred on the Florida bus was both tragic and horrific, but it is only comparable to Trayvon Martin's killing if you view the world through a one-dimensional racial lens.

The national outcry after the death of Trayvon Martin was not instantaneous. It emerged over the course of the forty-six day period after the killing when George Zimmerman had yet to be charged with a crime. In contrast, the three attackers on the Florida school bus were all arrested and indicted soon after the incident.   

In the month since the attack, no one has excused the actions of the attackers, no one has suggested the victim deserved beating, no one has rooted through social media accounts in an attempt to blame the victim, and no one suggested that he had it coming because of his choice of clothing. Conservatives engaged in all of these actions during the 46 days between the killing of Trayvon Martin and the arrest of George Zimmerman.

Fox News' own reporting flies in the face of any notion this crime was racially motivated. According to an interview with the local police chief, the beating on the school bus was to punish the victim for reporting two of the attackers to school authorities for dealing marijuana.

Despite that fact, Fox insists on using this story as a way to demonize civil rights leaders, diminish their fight for racial justice, and disempower them politically. 

Since Wednesday, nearly half a dozen Fox programs have dedicated airtime to questioning why civil right leaders, specifically Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, have yet to make public statements on the case.

The Five co-host Andrea Tanteros set the tone for that show's race-baiting on Tuesday by asking "where are the civil rights leaders on both sides of the aisle when a child gets beaten?" She concluded that, "Because it is three black kids on a white, they don't say a word."

Later that evening Sean Hannity complained "the people that commented so often on the Trayvon Martin case, I haven't heard a word out of them about this video." His guest Michelle Malkin agreed:

This is what troubles me so much about so many of these self-appointed civil rights leaders who are enabled and catalyzed by a lot of the left-wingers in the media. That is [they believe] that some crimes are more equal than others. They will never pass up an opportunity to try and racialize certain crimes while the turn a blind eye to other crimes that do not conveniently fit their narrative.

Similar questions were raised the next morning on both Fox & Friends First and Fox & Friends. Fox Nation covered the case from the same angle with the blaring headlines "Civil Rights Activists Remain Silent on Fla. School Bus Beating" and "Critics blast Jackson, Sharpton over silence on Florida school bus beating" in which they cite George Zimmerman's brother criticizing Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton on twitter.

Laura Ingraham, subbing for Bill O'Reilly on Thursday, interviewed Geraldo Rivera who proclaimed: "I think it's fair to say if three white kids had stomped on a 13 year-old black kid, you would have had, particularly in the post-Trayvon era, you would have had a massive movement. Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and all the others would have been one of the crimes of the century."

By gawking at the camera and shrieking, "See! Some black kids attacked a white kid!" the conservative media demonstrates their own racial animus.

By engaging in this kind of racial trolling, the conservative media creates a false impression of our nation's struggle with equality. This is not a new strategy - it was why Fox spent an excessive amount of airtime trying to falsely tie Barack Obama to the New Black Panther Party, a fringe hate group. Bigotry in all its forms is abhorrent, but Fox consistently exaggerates the prominence and impact of black on white racism in order to instill fear in its primarily white audience.

At no point in our country's history has the rule of law been used to enact a system of discrimination against all white Americans. For the vast majority of our history, our legal system in many states was specifically used to keep black Americans an impoverished underclass. Rather than acknowledge that fact, the conservative media distracts their audience with disparate cases of black-on-white violence - which, while repugnant, has never been the source of structural inequality.

Without these distractions, they and their viewers might actually be forced to confront solutions to the problems of racial injustice, instead of ignoring them.

Sean Hannity, on his show last night, paraphrased Andrew Breitbart's oft-repeated aphorism: "I think one of the worst things you can call someone is racist."

You know what's worse? The conservative media's brand of race baiting.

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