Denying racism is not the answer

Shorter Question Everything

President Obama on race and Trayvon Martin

Remarks by the President on Trayvon Martin [Transcript]

There are very few African American men in this country who haven’t had the experience of being followed when they were shopping in a department store. That includes me. There are very few African American men who haven’t had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars. That happens to me — at least before I was a senator. There are very few African Americans who haven’t had the experience of getting on an elevator and a woman clutching her purse nervously and holding her breath until she had a chance to get off. That happens often. And I don’t want to exaggerate this, but those sets of experiences inform how the African American community interprets what happened one night in Florida.

Cue the right wing freakout

Justice Department to Florida police: Hold Zimmerman’s gun until our investigation ends. The FBI has ordered the Sanford, Florida Police Department not to return George Zimmerman’s gun to him while a federal civil case against him is still pending. According to the Orlando Sentinel, the request is a clear indication that the U.S. Department of Justice is moving forward with its investigation as to whether Zimmerman violated the civil rights of teenager Trayvon Martin on February 26, 2012, the night of Martin’s death.

• A new petition is calling on Florida lawmakers to revoke George Zimmerman’s license to carry a concealed weapon. Listed on, the petition states Zimmerman’s background makes him unfit to carry a gun: George Zimmerman is a dangerous, violent person. He has been accused of assaulting three people in addition to killing Trayvon Martin. He has even been arrested for assaulting a police officer! George Zimmerman should NOT be licensed to carry a weapon. One innocent person has already died at his hands. It is your job to not let another person be in danger!

George Zimmerman Is Not Unique: Like George Zimmerman, Michael David Dunn is a vile racist whose boiling fear and hatred—plus his almighty gun—all came together to take the life randomly of a young black man whose only crime was existing in a way that Dunn disapproved of. Dunn encountered a group of teenagers being teenagers, and seems to have felt that they should pay the blood price for being young when he disapproved. The rain of bullets took the life of Jordan Davis, 18. It should seem like straightforward murder, but as the Zimmerman trial shows (especially the comments of juror B37), in Florida, all you have to do to get a jury to let you walk away from murder is to say you were scared by the scary black teenager who, unlike you, didn’t have a gun. Dunn’s defense attorney will no doubt run a “black people are scary, amirite?!” defense, and I worry now, after the Zimmerman case, that it’s totally going to work.

The American romanticization of violence: In France and England, though, duelling was meant to reinstate an aristocratic code of honor against the encroachment of the middle class. (This is dramatized in the strange and wonderful Ridley Scott film “The Duellists.”) But in the ideal European duel it was likely that both parties would survive. In America, around the same time, the code of honor took a very different form. American duels were dangerous, usually fought to the death, and they left in their wake that special American thing the feud. Instead of dissolving personal quarrels in a solvent of honor, the American way of duelling intensified them. In 1808, for instance, two men fought a duel in Maryland—with rifles, and at thirty steps. During the Jackson Administration, when General Armistead Thomson Mason challenged Colonel John Mason McCarty, McCarty, it’s said, “would only consent to meet him on such terms as would result in the certain destruction of one, or both.” (McCarty had suggested that they fight with pistols at point-blank range on top of a keg of gunpowder.) In Europe, the honor of the duellist was a concept that ennobled and abstracted violence. In America, it was a concept that empowered and invigorated it. [PDF]

In other news

North Korea has broken its silence over a ship’s cargo of arms seized in a dramatic raid by Panama, demanding the vessel’s release, as its mutinous crew members refuse to cooperate with investigators. The communist state rebuffed suspicions of UN sanctions-busting, saying the shipment on the North Korean-flagged vessel formed part of a legitimate deal with Cuba. The ship’s captain tried to kill himself and the crew rioted, according to Panama’s president. The 35-man crew on Wednesday refused to answer questions about the cargo. Panamanian anti-drugs prosecutor Javier Caraballo told reporters late Wednesday the sailors may face jail for transporting arms illegally. “This type of behaviour could carry a sentence of between four and six years,” he said.

Marco Rubio still obstructing, refusing to cooperate on judicial nominations. Marco Rubio has “concerns” about the judges he’s already endorsed. Obstruction by Senate Republicans goes well beyond the filibuster, as anyone who has been watching the minority under Mitch McConnell for the past six years knows. Here’s a case in point: Sen. Marco Rubio’s refusal to allow the nomination of two judges he’s already endorsed to move forward. Members of the Congressional Black Caucus are slamming Rubio over his desertion of these African-American nominees.

Republican Who Tossed Voter Registration Forms Let Off The Hook. The young Republican who grabbed national headlines after being arrested for throwing voter registration forms into a dumpster before the 2012 election won’t be facing any legal consequences. A judge in Virginia dropped several misdemeanor charges against Colin Small on Wednesday, meaning the 23-year-old will not face any penalties for discarding a number of voter registration forms. Felony charges were dropped back in April, but Small was still facing five misdemeanor counts until this week.

• The federal government will consider making it a criminal offence to knowingly distribute racy photos of a person without their consent, newly minted Justice Minister Peter MacKay said Friday. It’s among several recommendations contained in a new report by federal, provincial and territorial justice and public safety ministers that was expedited following the death of Rehtaeh Parsons, a Nova Scotia teenager who took her own life in April after images of her alleged rape were circulated over the Internet.

Death toll in Lac-Megantic disaster now set at 47.

• A former CIA operative wanted in Italy for his conviction in the 2003 kidnapping of a Muslim cleric headed to the United States after being freed in Panama. Robert Seldon Lady was detained by border officials as he entered Panama Wednesday, then released Friday, The Washington Post reported. “It’s our understanding that he’s on a plane en route to the United States right now,” a senior official with President Barack Obama’s administration said.

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