Trayvon Martin case exposes hypocrisy of “free speech”

Brandon BakerColumnist Brandon Baker discusses the bigoted mindset surrounding the Trayvon Martin case.

I need to stop wearing hoodies.

Famous Fox News talk show host, and quite possibly the only thing (once) attractive about the conservative news network, has at last shoved his mustachioed head farther up his butt than even republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum can muster.

“I think the hoodie is as much responsible for Trayvon Martin’s death as George Zimmerman was,” Geraldo Rivera said on the morning show “Fox and Friends.”

To clue in the five people who remain blissfully unaware, Trayvon Martin was gunned down by George Zimmerman, a self-declared “neighborhood watch officer,” in a Florida community after being spotted holding oh-so-dangerous weapons: an Arizona iced tea and – wait for it – a bag of Skittles.

But worse yet, the deviant was wearing a hoodie. You know, that foul, criminal article of clothing we’ve all been forewarned about wearing in public at the risk of being confused for a ghetto criminal about to embark on a shooting spree. Employing such a description, every Temple student trudging to the TECH Center in the middle of the night would – and according to people like Zimmerman and Rivera, should – be considered a thug.

Can you imagine if Temple or Philadelphia law enforcement operated under this kind of blind ideology?

I understand where Rivera was going with his argument, but I also understand how absolutely absurd the idea is. By such logic, where do we draw the line on blaming others for blatant acts of bias? Is a raped female responsible for her assault because her skirt was a little too short? Is a drag queen responsible for being beaten because her bloated boobs were a little too obnoxious?

The Martin case gets to the core of a fundamental problem that persists all across America, in its urban centers, its rural communities, and yes, even places like Temple. The people of this naïve nation need to wake up and realize one very important thing: This is not a post-bigot society.

When Michelle Bachmann was approached by the fabulous comedian Kathy Griffin last year and was asked if she was born a bigot, her response was simple: “Hm, I’ll have to think about that one.”

Meanwhile, public figures like Sarah Palin, by comparison, outright reject accusations of bigotry by exclaiming the classic and incredibly eye-roll inducing, “But I have gay friends” line.

The obvious problem with this is, of course, that Palin probably doesn’t have gay friends. The deeper problem, is that even if she did have gay friends, that doesn’t mean she’s not a bigot.

I come from a town where it’s popular to boast Bachmann-ism and to outright say you don’t like gay people. And honestly, I kind of prefer that instead of the veiled bigotry of certain people I’ve encountered in populous cities like Philadelphia.

In some neighborhoods of Philly, the proclamation of “I’m not a bigot” in a conversation typically translates to, “I’m extremely bigoted.” And if you dare imply otherwise, you are somehow the bigot for even bringing up the subject.

Alas, it’s now impossible to even talk about bigotry and racism without being a part of the problem. Rivera doesn’t want to talk about the obvious. He’d rather talk about how those dog-gone kids these days are wearing those silly hoodies and sporting jeans that rest well below their bottoms. How do you fix a problem if it can’t even be discussed?

Think about it, folks. Even here in the safe haven of Main Campus, veiled bias is everywhere you look. My fellow male friends, why do you think you’re charged more to get into a frat party than a girl is? I won’t even get started on the looks received upon entering most frat parties as a gay man. And I can’t recall the last time I observed a class discussion on marriage equality where there wasn’t an awkward silence – a silence that speaks much louder than any arguments actually put forth.

It seems to me that bigotry is falsely promoted by those on the other side of the aisle as “free speech.” But at what point does free speech become hate speech? Is Zimmerman merely expressing his right to speak his mind when he’s holding a gun and whispering a racial profanity? Is Dharun Ravi to be considered a documenter of history by recording Tyler Clementi having sex in his dorm room?

The line needs to be drawn somewhere, because the illusion presently existing in a world where society embraces minorities is more hurtful and progress-halting than any direct act of bigotry could ever be.

As unfortunate as Martin’s death is, it can at least be said that he – if inadvertently – died as a martyr. I don’t like that he allegedly had his life taken for such hateful reasons, but I do appreciate that the nation finally has a modern example to point to that bigotry is alive and well.

Brandon Baker can be reached at brandon.baker@temple.edu.

4 Comments

  1. To understand the Trayvon Martin vs. George Zimmerman case, you need to listen to the recorded phone call made by the neighbor to 911.
    The fatal shot is heard during this call.
    Merely listen to it.
    Then draw your own conclusions.
    No need for experts. No need for pundits. No need even for an open mind.
    Just listen to the haunting call.
    A transcript won’t do. It must be heard.
    Here it is: http://soundclick.com/share.cfm?id=11548279

  2. died a martyr? He smashed Martin’s head into the concrete. He had been suspended from school 3 times in the last couple months leading to his death. He should not have been shot and probably was targeted because of his skin color… but that doesn’t mean he’s completely innocent. Have you seen this kid’s twitter account?
    Bigotry is alive and well?? We have a bi-racial president…which means a majority voted him in…
    and BTW I’ve been to frat parties too and nobody stopped (or barely noticed) when I came in…and I had to sneak in too because only guys are charged…it’s pissy but not what I would call discrimination. Being gay is totally hard, but has nothing to do with Trayvon.
    I’m not saying I think Martin is innocent in anything, but I do believe he was assaulted by Trayvon and you augmenting Trayvon’s status to martyr-like is ridiculous.

  3. Brandon Baker… continuing the regurgitation of bias media… You in your article are making comments about the problems with the media. Hoodies blah blah bu!!$#!T

    The fact is you are continuing with media lies yourself and just adding your own spin. You make reference to (George Zimmerman, a self-declared “neighborhood watch officer,”) This in itself is bias. it suggests he was someone looking for a fight. No one really knows the deal

    You also say (Trayvon Martin was gunned down… after being spotted holding oh-so-dangerous weapons: an Arizona iced tea and – wait for it – a bag of Skittles) Bias again

    Trayvon was not the innocent little boy with a bag of lollies. About 60 seconds of research would given you some idea.

    poor journalism!

  4. “But at what point does free speech become hate speech?”

    I’ve got some very disturbing news for you- there is no law against “hate” speech. It’s irrelevant at which point it “crosses the line”: the “line” doesn’t exist. You know that, your readers know that, I obviously know that- why are you pretending?

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