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March 30, 2012

The Trayvon Optics So Far

I’ve been working my way into a regular spot on the DC XM-radio show, PoliOptics. We’re taping tomorrow morning and, in preparation, I’ve been trying to put the Trayvon Martin killing, not just a huge cultural story, but also a major visual one, into perspective. The way I look at it, we’ve seen our way through four phases, so far.

Phase 1 was “the aftermath,” demonstrated by cherubic photos of an 11-year-old Trayvon (the most powerful showing him in a hoodie) circulated in the media along with a scruffy perp pic of George Zimmerman. If the Zim pic wasn’t nearly as bad as that infamous photo of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in his morning glory, to a lot of the public, it was just as damning.

Phase 2 I’d call “the Hoodie Phase” in which a mixture of outrage, empathy and solidarity gave rise to African-Americans and white folks alike donning the hoodie to try and de-stigmatize this article of clothing to the extent it can be associated to urban violence by people of color.

Bag did a “Phase 2″ post, focusing on a demonstration cleverly exploiting the perceived ominousness of young dark men in the notorious garb. What we missed, however, we’re two key images from this phase, the best one being a Lebron-inspired Miami Heat Trayvon Martin tribute portrait of the team in their hoodies. What was brilliant about it was the way it mirrored how this nation loves to glorify black man and black cool and hip-hop culture — and, yes, urban dress — as long as its in the service of the (largely white-owned) sports industrial complex … but that, otherwise, there’s just enough “boyz in the hood” edge there to remind America it isn’t that simple.

Bobbie Rush flaunting the “no hats” rule on the floor of Congress was the other classic image/statement we missed. If the impact got lost in the news cycle somewhere, the fact that the Congressman’s donning the hood would not only fail to elicit collegial understanding but, instead, elicit a protocol-freak out shamefully dramatized how f-ing regressed our leaders are when it comes to really opening their eyes to the issue of race and racism.

Phase 3 was the “backlash phase,” in which Team Zimmerman, aided by a much friendlier photo (as well as a police report that alleged Trayvon attacked him) coincided with scuttlebutt about less-than-Eagle Scout behavior on Trayvon’s part.(I think we did a pretty good job capturing “Phase 1″ and “Phase 3″ in this post on Thursday including a photo of Trayvon ABC pulled off a memorial flier that, we felt, over-represented the seventeen year old with a evil vibe. LINK.

And now? I’d say we’re into “Phase 4,” the “Trayvon Redemption” phase. What with the video discrediting of Zimmerman’s “I got bloodied” storyline yesterday, what we also saw was the release of a new set of photos from the Martin/Fulton family pulling, again (understandably), for maximum wholesomeness.

The most classic photo, seen atop this post, is Trayvon on a horse in an orange “Reeses Chocolate” t-shirt. If you want to deflate any possible allusion to the stereotype of the angry urban black youth, now depicted as a seventeen-year-old just nine days, in fact, before his death, then show him on a horse. (And who can’t relate to Reeses, the reference, like the Skittles he purchased that fateful night, making us see him that much more like a kid).

In my mind, though, I like this photo more. To the extent “Phase 4″ is constituted by a fresh appeal in defense of Trayvon by way of the family photo album, what I’m most wishing for are photos that make the young man more three-dimensional and complex. (That’s why the screenshots of Trayvon’s Twitter page that surfaced during “Phase 2″ were also important.)

Along those lines, if Tayvon was a little moody at times, or putting some attitude on display, or didn’t line-up with the family for some reason, in my mind, that actually situates him along teenage norms much more so than when I see him posed on a horse. At this point, what I’m keen to see are photos (and I’m sure there’ll be more) that illustrate Tayvon as less than a saint without jeopardizing the presumption — unless we see irrefutable evidence to the contrary — that he was the victim here.

(photo 1, 2 & 5:  Martin/Fulton family. photo 3: LaBron James Rush AP; photo 4: unattributed photo 6: screenshot via Dave Weigel.)

  • bks

    I think Photo #2 is the Rorschach Test.  To me he seems completely benign, but I have read many comments about how threatening Martin looks.   (BTW, why is the shooter called by his surname and the victim by his given name?)    –bks

  • bks

    I think Photo #2 is the Rorschach Test.  To me he seems completely benign, but I have read many comments about how threatening Martin looks.   (BTW, why is the shooter called by his surname and the victim by his given name?)    –bks

  • Shem

    “the video discrediting of Zimmerman’s “I got bloodied” storyline”

    One thing about this blog — it never hesitates to jump to conclusions.
     
    Here: http://bit.ly/GYsPkF at 2:50, we all see a bloody knot on top of Z’s head.

    And this is after he had already been treated/cleaned-up by medics at the scene.

    Hilariously, the MSNBC commenters persist in saying the vid shows nothing, but you have eyes to see. And it can’t be missed.

    “the video discrediting of Zimmerman’s “I got bloodied” storyline” — you really are making yourself seem like you’re prejudging this case.

    What do you say now? Still going with “discrediting”? Still pretending there’s “reality” on one habd and Z’s “storyline” on the other?

    • Glenn

       You seem to be conducting the trial in public, and proclaiming Zimmermans innocence as a foregone conclusion.

      Most of the people who sympathize with the Martin family are simply asking that there be an actual trial.

    • Glenn

       You seem to be conducting the trial in public, and proclaiming Zimmermans innocence as a foregone conclusion.

      Most of the people who sympathize with the Martin family are simply asking that there be an actual trial.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=570058329 Catherine McCallum

      I have seen the video in several places on tv, including on CNN, MSNBC, ABC and Fox. The only clip I’ve seen where a closeup of Zimmerman’s head is spliced in to show a smallish bruised or scraped bump is in the one you’ve posted here. And weirdly, the conversation between Martin Bashir and Joy-Ann Reid goes on as though that closeup is nowhere to be seen. In addition, in those shots where Zimmerman’s head is shown illuminated but at a distance, there doesn’t appear to be a dark spot in that area. What gives?

      (The closeup is clearly added to the tape, as the tape was made from a ceiling-mounted surveillance camera running automatically in the garage area. The view and distance are fixed.)

    • http://www.cybergal619.blogspot.com cybergal619

      Trayvon Martin was shot and killed in cold blood by George Zimmerman!  Trayon was unarmed regardless of how he may have bloodied Zimmerman!  Trayvon was shot and killed in cold blood!  That is something you obviously miss in all of this.  Where’d you get that enhanced vid anyway?  

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=570058329 Catherine McCallum

    Last night, listening to the interview with Zimmerman’s brother on Piers Morgan in which he suggests that Trayvon Martin tried to take Zimmerman’s gun away, the lyrics from one of my favorite songs from the movie ‘Chicago’ began running through my head: 
    Billy (as Roxie): And yet we both reached for the gun,
    Oh yes, oh yes, oh yes we both,
    Oh yes, we both, Oh yes, we both reached for 
    The gun, the gun, the gun, the gun,
    Oh yes, we both reached for the gun
    For the gun.

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  • ewgopiemiopegpom

    Why go against Z’s presumption of innocence, even after he was found not guilty? Trayvon was a thug who profiled a man he never met before as a “creepy-ass cracker”, a racist, and a rapist. Trayvon sucker punched Z for snitching, and then pounded his head on concrete, a deadly attack. No_Limit_ll!66t@rd deserved to die.

  • Shem

     The video is MSNBC’s. Whatever it shows is what they’ve provided. And it shows Zimmerman, injured.

    The point is that to call his claim of injury “discredited” is to reveal one’s own bias.

  • Shem

     Ask MSNBC — it’s their video. Your conclusion about what you say I “obviously miss” is unsupported and irrelevant.

    BagNews’ Michael Shaw is simply wrong about Zimmerman’s injury.

    The next step for you is to assert “so what if Z was injured, it’s almost nothing, and he probably did it to himself.”

  • Momly

    So. DID he do it to himself? You seem to know a lot about the guy.

  • http://www.cybergal619.blogspot.com cybergal619

    Trayvon had no weapon, there was no deadly force.  Period.  Your boy shot and killed an innocent and UNARMED teenager!  He needs to be brought to justice along with the crooked police department in Sanford.  

  • http://www.cybergal619.blogspot.com cybergal619

    Yeah, just like his “close” friend Joe Oliver!

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