Tag Archive | "Trayvon Martin-Hartford"

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Did Marijuana Use Make Trayvon Martin Violent?

By Earl Ofari Hutchinson

The instant that Sanford police officials in March, 2012 leaked to the media school records that showed Trayvon Martin had been suspended from school for possessing a trace amount of marijuana, there was little doubt that George Zimmerman’s defense attorneys would jump all over this to prove their point about Martin. The point was, and is the centerpiece of their Zimmerman self-defense claim, that Martin’s marijuana use made him edgy, aggressive, and violent. And since this is supposedly the case, it bolsters two of Zimmerman’s contentions that Martin came under his watch because of his drugged out, suspicious behavior and more importantly that Martin attacked him and he had to resort to deadly force to save himself from mortal harm from a doped out Martin. A toxicological report found a trace amount of marijuana in Martin’s system the night of his slaying.

earl-hutchinsonZimmerman’s attorneys wasted no time in loudly demanding that this be entered as prime evidence of Martin’s alleged aggressiveness. Prosecutors rightly opposed its admission as being irrelevant since Zimmerman could not have known this and even if he had ESP and did know it there is absolutely no evidence that marijuana use predisposes anyone to violent behavior. Judge Debra Nelson initially seemed to agree. Her reversal and decision to allow Martin’s alleged marijuana use into the trial is potentially a huge sop to the defense.

the-hartford-guardian-OpinionBut if facts mean anything it shouldn’t be. The few studies that have tried to link marijuana use to violent behavior have managed to prove only two things. One is that there is no firm connection between the drug’s use and individual violence. The other is that whatever violence an individual that tokes up may exhibit is because that individual has a violent or criminal history. In other words, there’s a predisposition to violence that has absolutely nothing to do with their marijuana use.

The White House, relying heavily on a report from the Office of National Drug Control Policy, takes a hard-nosed stance against marijuana liberalization and any slack off in tough federal enforcement of medical marijuana regulation. But it did not make any case that marijuana increases violence. It focused instead on the need for enforcing the law and continued to insist that marijuana represents a health hazard, and a harmful addiction, but violence due to its use, no. Even if there were no studies on marijuana use and violence or White House concern over marijuana use and its alleged harmful effects, the notion that marijuana use spurs violence notion is ludicrous.

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2009 and 2010, report found that nearly two-thirds of the nation’s adult population aged 21 to 54 has used marijuana at least once. Common sense would tell us that if even a fraction of the tens of millions of people that have tried marijuana rampage in their homes and in the streets, the jails would be bursting at the seams with those arrested for drugged out marijuana induced violent acts. However, that’s only part of the problem in trying to separate fact from deliberate distortion about marijuana use.

The other part is the public perception of who uses drugs and their effects. Studies and reports have overwhelmingly found that African-American students are far more likely than white students to be suspended or expelled from school for marijuana use and possession. They are far more likely to be arrested and convicted for drug use than whites. This despite countless studies that show that blacks do not use drugs in any greater incidence than whites, and in some cases, even less than whites. This reinforces the deeply ingrained stereotype that not only is the average drug user and pusher a young black male. But that a young black is the cause of most of the drug related violence in the country.

Zimmerman’s defense attorneys, however, aren’t interested in these facts or the corrosive effects of racial stereotypes and drugs. Their defense game plan is to tar Martin as a violent druggie and further muddle the issue for jurors whether Martin’s behavior was the trigger for his killing. This was crudely and insultingly put by one of the attorneys to Martin’s mother on the witness stand when he flatly asked her whether she thought he had any culpability in his death.

The issue then boils down to whether the Zimmerman jurors can separate his defense attorney’s deliberate muddle of the facts and trash of Martin and see that there’s absolutely no credible proof that marijuana use in and of itself induces violent behavior in anyone. There is not a scintilla of evidence that Martin was inherently aggressive and violence prone. The prosecution’s job is to make sure that they see this. Anything short of this could bolster the terrifying thought the defense has worked overtime to implant and that’s that marijuana use made Martin a legitimate target.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His new ebook is America on Trial: The Slaying of Trayvon Martin (Amazon).

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Zimmerman Case Ignites Dialogue on Latino Racial Identity

By Elena Shore, NAM

The killing of unarmed Florida teenager Trayvon Martin has ignited a dialogue about race among Latino journalists and bloggers over the complex racial identity of Latinos, and the simplified – and sometimes inaccurate — ways some media have reported it.

Coverage of the Trayvon Martin case has varied widely in different media sectors. Suspected shooter George Zimmerman, whose mother is Peruvian, has been labeled “white,” “Hispanic” and “white Hispanic.”

Meanwhile, the Pew Hispanic Center last week released a report that found that the majority of Latinos do not in fact identify as Latino or Hispanic at all, but by their country of origin. The study, “When Labels Don’t Fit: Hispanics and Their Views of Identity,” adds a new twist to the debate over whether suspected shooter George Zimmerman is Hispanic: If the majority of Latinos/Hispanics don’t identify as such, perhaps that is the wrong question to be asking.

‘Hispanics Can Be of Any Race’

“As a Hispanic, watching the media’s use of terms like ‘white’ and ‘Hispanic’ and ‘Latino’ in the Zimmerman-Martin case has been an occasion for much eye-rolling,” writes Ryan W. McMaken for the libertarian LRC Blog. “The way the press uses these terms betrays just how completely ignorant most reporters and talking heads are about even the basics of ethnicity and race in this country.”

The press labeled Zimmerman as white, he writes, “because that’s what the media has determined will produce the most fertile ground for ‘racial’ conflict.”

“I don’t know why this is so hard for people to grasp, but let’s just make this clear: According to anthropologists, ethnologists, historians and census takers, ‘Hispanic’ or ‘Latino’ is not a racial designation. It is a term that denotes ethnicity,” McMaken writes.

“Hispanics can be of any race. There are white Hispanics, black Hispanics, and even Asian Hispanics. Examples would be former Mexican president Vicente Fox, Cuban musician Ibrahim Ferrer, and former Peruvian president Alberto Fujimori, respectively. There are also, of course, mestizo Hispanics, such as Benito Juarez.”

‘How we see, hear and live with each other’

Dallas-based blogger Marisa Tresviño writes for the blog LatinaLista that the Trayvon Martin case – and the media coverage that has revolved around it – has brought to the surface underlying attitudes about race in America.

“This case has stirred emotions that have always existed but were buried so deeply that it took a perceived outrage to galvanize national unity on an issue that should have been on the front burner of the national dialogue long ago — how we see, hear and live with each other. In other words, race relations.”

The United States may be a country built on immigration, she writes, “yet we live with this prevailing notion, however subconscious, that you don’t belong unless you’re white.”

“The likelihood of another Trayvon Martin-Zimmerman confrontation is highly probable,” Tresviño concludes, “unless the national dialogue seriously starts to include addressing a topic that is long overdue and has a shorter and shorter fuse.”

‘Initially It Was Just Black and White’

Conservative media, meanwhile, criticized Latino organizations for their “silence” on the case, and for not standing behind Zimmerman. But Latino advocates say these remarks take away from the real issue, reports Soni Sangha for Fox News Latino.

“We have paradigms in this country: Initially it was just black and white,” Lisa Navarette, a spokeswoman for the National Council of La Raza, told Fox News Latino. “This is complicated because the media tried to put it into that paradigm but it didn’t fit.”

“This is much more complex than simply saying this guy is Hispanic and we [Hispanics] have to defend Hispanics,” Angelo Falcon, president of the National Institute for Latino Policy, told Fox News Latino. “There is a whole question going on like, ‘Are Hispanics capable of being racist?’ ‘Why are they calling him a white Hispanic?’… That shows a lack of understanding about the Latino community.”

‘Dividing Blacks and Latinos’ or ‘Bringing the Communities Together’?

Some Latino groups, meanwhile, took Geraldo Rivera to task for his comment that the hoodie worn by Trayvon Martin was as much responsible for his death as the man who shot him. A group of community activists calling themselves Latinos For Trayvon Martin accused Rivera of dividing blacks and Latinos.

At a news conference at Hostos Community College in the Bronx last Thursday, they called for the arrest of George Zimmerman. The action was a response to what they saw as an attempt by “some in the mainstream media” to “play the ‘Hispanic card’ to transform what appears to be a racially motivated murder to a Black-Brown division.”

“George Zimmerman is half Latino, but his mentality appears to be completely white supremacist. We suspect that Geraldo Rivera’s mentality is not far from Zimmerman’s,” wrote community activists José Alfaro, Ramon Jimenez, Esperanza Martell, Radhames Perez, José LaSalle, Rafael Sencion Marina Ortiz and Zenaida Mendez.

Rivera responded in a column on Fox News Latino, writing, “That provable falsehood cannot be tolerated.”

On the contrary, he writes, “If anything, isn’t the reaction to the tragedy bringing the communities together to express shared outrage?”

‘Irrational Fear’

Regardless of who perpetrated the crime, the case was a clear example of racial profiling, write editors of Spanish-language news network ImpreMedia.

“It is tragic that the mere presence of an African American teen walking at night is seen as a threat. But it’s even worse when legally, this mistaken perception is enough to justify a murder,” according to an editorial in New York’s Spanish-language daily El Diario/La Prensa.

“What happened speaks of racism in our society, which is reflected in irrational fear,” editors write.

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