Why did the Trayvon Martin case become such a huge national story?
Is it because an innocent black teenager lost his life at the hands of a man, George Zimmerman, who "racially profiled" him? Is it that the victim is black and the shooter was not? Is it because the major media push the narrative that white anti-black racism remains an "unresolved" national issue? Is it because "civil rights activist" and MSNBC host Al Sharpton demands the shooter's arrest, threatening peaceful civil disobedience and "economic sanctions"?
If violent black-white crime generates headlines, where were the media after the sickening racially motivated assault that occurred in Long Beach, Calif., on Halloween night, 2006?
Three young white women were brutally kicked, punched and beaten by a mostly black mob of 30 to 40 teens and adults. According to witnesses, during the rampage the mob yelled: "We hate white people. F—- whites!" Yet only two local papers reported the story, and one — the Los Angeles Times — published its article a full week after the attack! National Public Radio got around to mentioning Long Beach a month later, but only to raise the question of whether blacks, given America's history of racism, can even commit a "hate crime."
The way The New York Times covered the 1991 Crown Heights, N.Y., riots shows how the major media downplay black violence. A Columbia University professor called the three days of anti-Semitic rioting "a modern-day pogrom."
The Crown Heights riots started after a 7-year-old black child was killed in a traffic accident when a car driven by a Hasidic Jew went out of control. The Rev. Sharpton led 400 protesters through the Jewish section of Crown Heights, with one protester holding a sign that read, "The White Man Is the Devil." During the ensuing nights of rock- and bottle-throwing, nearly 200 people suffered injuries. Surrounded by a mob yelling, "Kill the Jew!" a young Talmudic scholar, Yankel Rosenbaum, was stabbed to death.
Last year, on the 20th anniversary of the Crown Heights riots, Rosenbaum's brother wrote: "It was Sharpton who repeatedly bellowed to the rioters, 'No justice, no peace!' And Sharpton claims his remarks at Gavin Cato's funeral were misinterpreted. Here is what he said ... : 'Talk about how Oppenheimer in South Africa sends diamonds straight to Tel Aviv and deals with the diamond merchants right here in Crown Heights. The issue is not anti-Semitism; the issue is apartheid. ... All we want to say is what Jesus said: If you offend one of these little ones, you got to pay for it. No compromise, no meetings, no coffee klatch, no skinnin' and grinnin'.'"
But according to a New York Times reporter, Ari Goldman, the Times insisted on reporting a false narrative: that during the riots Jews were as likely to be the aggressor as were blacks. Frustrated over the misleading reporting, Goldman said he called his Times editor to complain, "'You don't know what's happening here!' I yelled. 'I am on the streets getting attacked. Someone next to me just got hit. I am writing memos, and what comes out in the paper? 'Hasidim and blacks clashed'? That's not what is happening here. Jews are being attacked! You've got this story all wrong. All wrong.'"
The New York Times simply did not want to hear about the one-sided nature of the riots. Nor is accurately covering the extent of black-on-black crime apparently news that's fit to print.
Following Trayvon Martin's death, the Rev. Jesse Jackson said, "Blacks are under attack" — presumably by the George Zimmermans of the country. And Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., a black lawmaker and former member of the Black Panthers, stood up on the floor of the House. Against House rules, he donned a hoodie, presumably to demonstrate the unfairness of profiling a black man based on his clothing.
Rush later described himself as "an African-American father whose son has been killed on the streets." Rush implied that his son, like Trayvon Martin, was an innocent black victim of random street violence.
The details remain murky about the death of Rush's son. But Rush's son, Huey, was allegedly working as a drug-runner. Evidence suggests that Huey was targeted. One of the murder suspects said Huey had been paid $100,000 to procure drugs that he failed to deliver. And tragically, in 2002 another member of Rush's family, Dennis Rush, was convicted of first-degree murder and attempted armed robbery during a narcotics transaction. The crime had nothing to do with randomness or profiling.
For many in the media, the Trayvon Martin case is a referendum on "race relations" in America. But the case is really a referendum on the media. The media are intensely interested in covering white-on-black violence, even when rushing to do so — as in the Duke lacrosse "rape" case — compromises the truth. But the media are far less interested in reporting about the No. 1 cause of death of young black men age 15 to 24: homicide by other black men.
Larry Elder is a best-selling author and radio talk-show host. To find out more about Larry Elder, or become an "Elderado," visit www.LarryElder.com. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.