“Alabama police are trying to track down a mob that beat a man into critical condition — leaving their battered victim with the words, ‘Now that’s justice for Trayvon.’ Cops told WKRG that Matthew Owens got in an argument with some kids playing basketball at a court in the city of Mobile on Saturday night. The kids left and a group of some 20 adults arrived at Owens’ front doorstep, armed with chairs, brass knuckles, pipes and paint cans. The group, all African American, allegedly beat him into a bloody pulp before someone uttered the words that connected the crime to the death of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed teen who was shot and killed in Florida by neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman.”
UPDATE (4/25): New reports question some of the details above. The dispute may have started over thefts in the neighborhood witnessed by Owens’ niece; a neighbor says that Owens had been in disputes frequently; police now say that the beating was administered by only members of the group, with the rest standing by and watching. There has been at least one arrest. Also of note: Owens’ sister’s claim that one of the attackers said “Now that’s justice for Trayvon” may have been corroborated by other neighbors.
This was completely predictable, and indeed it is only the worst, not the first, incident in which an attack on a white victim was linked to “justice” for Trayvon Martin. Now, the reasons I laid out a month ago that made President Obama’s reckless comments about the Sanford, Florida killing divisive and dangerous ought to be obvious to all, but if not, here are some questions to consider:
- Is Matthew Owens’ beating a national, rather than a local event, justifying Obama’s intervention? The alleged national nature of the Martin shooting was cited as the justification for Obama to help ratchet the tragedy into a wedge in national race relations. Well, let’s see: if 15-20 whites went to a black man’s home and beat him, it would certainly be a national event, correct? And the mention of Martin’s death by one of the assailants links it to the Florida case, showing the degree to which the media’s drum-beating and the case’s exploitation by politicians and demagogues has caused an ambiguous and deadly encounter between two men in a gated community to throw America’s racial healing process into reverses. President Obama, who promised to bring the nation together, helped bring us to this point. Yes, it’s a national issue, even though the mainstream media appears to be attempting to ignore it.
- Is Obama willing to publicly condemn a real black-on-white hate crime in the same terms of urgency and sorrow that he did an alleged, dubious and still unproven Hispanic-on-black hate crime in March? If not, is it because Trayvon died, and Owens is merely lingering on death’s door? It can’t just be the death, can it? Again; young men and women are being killed every day. Death plus profiling? But Martin may not have been profiled, and Owens was more than profiled…he was targeted and assaulted because of his race. Or is Obama only concerned about white on black crime? If so, why?
- The President emphasized that Trayvon looked like him, like the son Obama never had. How does the President feel about victims of race hate who don’t look like him, especially when the haters do? It is not an unfair question: the President himself set the stage for it in March. He is a wretched ethics chess player: couldn’t he see that this day was coming? Couldn’t he see that he was making an impossible dilemma for himself?
Unlike the situation in March when he helped place a target on George Zimmerman’s back by allying himself with a family and its supporters who were calling for blood, Obama now needs to say something to the nation about the Owens attack, and the ominous rumblings of racial violence surrounding the Zimmerman trial. This is his job: to display moral and ethical leadership, to defuse violence and hate, to oppose demagoguery, and to demonstrate that what a victim of hate looks like has no bearing on his sympathies. The pressure of racial discord is rising, and he helped bring the nation to the brink of racial violence. He has a duty to act.
Yet I will be surprised if he does. Obama dropped the seeds of racial enmity by validating the claim that a dead boy’s “looks “—1.e. race—got him killed, and then stood silent, along with his Attorney General, as a literal bounty was placed on the head of an American citizen. He’s in full election mode now, and will be advised not to upset his “base”—base being defined as the segment of irrational ideologues in either party who should be upset regularly—when he needs them most. The Obama who ran for President four years ago, promising to heal all rifts and be driven by the nation’s best interests, not politics, would have made a speech about this crisis, and let Al Sharpton, the Congressional Black Caucus and Move-On scream in indignation, but I haven’t seen that Obama very often in the past three years. I don’t expect him to surface now.
I hope I’m wrong. We need him, and lives depend on it.