Given the huge amount of media coverage in the Trayvon Martin case, the fact that only a handful of attacks with some kind of tangential tie to the Trayvon shooting have occurred suggests that Americans are overwhelmingly resorting to words to settle their differences.
Indeed, some commentators suggest the case has helped to bring simmering tensions out into the open.
“I’ve sat … tight-lipped as my white peers questioned the existence of racism in their post-racial American, white privileged minds,” writes Rachel Hislop for the Daily Grind website. “But then a young black man named Trayvon Martin was killed and the dirty blanket was finally pulled off the taboo conversation of the very present demon that is race relations in America, and I’ve decided that I am tired of staying quiet. I am ready to have this conversation.”
Yet some observers question whether the story really has anything to do with race. That narrative has become complicated as more is known about Mr. Zimmerman, who mentored black children and whose Peruvian mother has black ancestry.
Many black leaders as well as news directors at mainstream media organizations “don’t see that you can’t just stir [race] up when it’s convenient and then turn it off when it’s not,” says Carol Swain, a law professor and race relations expert at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. “Once young people get worked up to where they’re committing acts of violence, you can’t turn it off like a switch.”
Professor Swain does not spare the president from her comments. His statement that “If I had a son, he would have looked like Trayvon” came off to many as a hearfelt and direct plea, but it immediately began polarizing whites and blacks along racial lines, she says. Since, some prominent blacks, including Bill Cosby, have said the case isn’t at its core about race, but about gun laws.