On Sharpton’s Trayvon role: don’t hate the reverend, hate the game

Photo by Joy Reid
So Maragret Carlson is upset that Rev. Al Sharpton is leading the charge in the Trayvon Martin case? Welcome to the real world, ma’am, where it takes a media movement to make a black kid’s death something other than routine.

A clip from my Herald column this week:

In a March 30 column, Margaret Carlson recounted the painful circumstances facing the family of Trayvon Martin, a teenager shot to death by a neighborhood watch volunteer in February while visiting Sanford with his father.

Carlson said the case is ripe with naturally compelling tragedy. Trayvon was a “typical teenager” who “died for the crime of Walking While Black.” And she says that natural horror is quite enough to gain the story national media attention without the help of Rev. Al Sharpton.

Unless it isn’t.

Study after study has shown that young black men and teenagers are far more likely to be viewed as suspects; more likely to be profiled, arrested and jailed and more likely to be shot dead in America’s streets — by whites or fellow blacks — than any group. And their deaths, sadly, have become almost routine, from the standpoint of the media. Only in instances where the horror is captured on cell phone video and becomes a Youtube sensation, or when mass action takes place to galvanize national or global interest, do the dead become Trayvon Martin.

Martin was shot, eulogized and buried, without the media sensation Carlson claims should have naturally occurred. For 10 days, it passed as strictly a local news item in Central Florida.

Only after his parents, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, hired attorney Ben Crump — a Tallahassee lawyer who specializes in raising the profile of his clients’ dead loved ones, as evidenced in the case of Martin Lee Anderson, the 14-year-old beaten to death at a Florida boot camp in 2006 — did people start paying attention. It was Crump who contacted Sharpton, and Sharpton who helped organize the largest rally, in Sanford a week ago, which was among the events that made Trayvon’s death a national conversation.

As dismissive as Carlson is of Sharpton’s role, it was inarguably critical to helping Trayvon be not just another dead black kid. Combined with advocacy on social media by people like Kevin Cunningham of Change.org (which was also needed in the Martin Lee Anderson case, which bubbled up only after the surveillance tape of his beating went viral, and after a ruckus was raised by then-state. Sen. Frederica Wilson, who organized last weekend’s Miami march for Trayvon Martin’s family) Sharpton helped bring the case crucial attention.

Read more here.

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4 Responses to On Sharpton’s Trayvon role: don’t hate the reverend, hate the game

  1. pearl says:

    Thank you, Joy, for clearing up that “little” misconception — that the natural horror of Trayvon Martin’s killing is quite enough to gain the story national media attention without the help of Al Sharpton. Margaret Carlson is supposedly a liberal; if she believes that, just what kind of battle are we fighting here to try to get justice for this kid?

    People really don’t seem to know and understand the depth of racism and corruption regarding race to which African-Americans, and no doubt other minorities, have been and are being subjected by people in positions of authority in this country — police and judges alike. They don’t seem to understand that America is still rotten at its core, and it’s going to take all the Al Sharptons God can make to root it out.

  2. Arrogant Demon says:

    So according to Carlson, it would have gotten out eventually, despite it not being in the local news, despite Zimmerman not being charged and arrested, and despite the Sanford Police not releasing the 911 tapes.

    It would have all been out naturally

    She’s in the media, and still wants to be oblivious to how black issues dont or rarely get reported, unless its an angle for them to spin

    Gotta love these media types who want to be pissed off at Rev Al, Joe Madison, Michael Baisden and Mark Thomas for making this an issue and making everyone see the problem.

    But I guess us black folks should suffer in silence until the great merciful MSM deems us worthy to talk about……

    Yeah, thanks for that

  3. rikyrah says:

    what part of


    don’t they understand?

    and I don’t mean that in a negative way.

    It’s WHAT HE DOES.

    He is an activist. He agitates.

    And, in this case, he is trying to help this family get JUSTICE for their MURDERED SON.

    SO, ALLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL these media types clutching the pearls about Rev. Al and his involvement in this case can kiss my Black a–.

    Because their asses wouldn’t have picked up this case…they would have been in the ‘ well, this is what the police said’ camp, and told Trayvon’s parents to go sit in a corner and accept their son’s murder was justified.

    GO REV. AL!!!

  4. I agree with pretty much everything here Joy, except I want to make a small comment on development of the story.

    I first saw this story on the first or second day after the shooting, the local report from Sanford forwarded on by either the Florida Independent or the Florida Progressive news services. It then went to Twitter and Facebook, and the story got repeated with increasing frequency for the first two weeks or so. After it had gained a lot of traction on the social media, the mainstream media (if MSNBC can be considered mainstream – I think it can) and Sharpton took it up. This, I think, is closer to the actual development of this story than the ‘it was ignored and then suddenly Sharpton got into it’ scenario.

    The reactions – at least among my FB friends – early on was a mix of outrage, astonishment and heartbreak. But I think you are quite right that the reality is that the death of yet another young Black man or boy is so commonplace as to become, seemingly, inconsequential. It takes a case so egregious and a face so compelling as Trayvon’s for the MSM to see it as a story.

    Another sad aspect as I see it is that if the Sanford police had taken Zimmerman into custody, questioned him for a couple of hours and then released him, we probably would not know about Trayvon Martin, his short life and unjust, violent death. Trayvon would still be dead, and Zimmerman still free. It was the outrage of the killer not even being seriously questioned about the murder that gave this story legs, not Trayvon’s murder. Why? Because we take the violence, particularly against Blacks, as normal. Why? Because it actually is the norm.

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