How Dangerous Lies Become Accepted Truth: D.C. Theater Embraces The False Emmett Till-Trayvon Martin Comparison

If we want it to be true, then it will be true...

If we want it to be true, then it will be true…

I awoke to find this in my Washington Post Style Section this morning, in the column devoted to notable events in D.C. theater. My personal Facebook page is fairly well linked to the Washington , D.C. theater community, so I decided to register my disgust there. I’m continuing it here, and in the interest of economy, will simply repeat what I just posted on Facebook.

I will just add this: I foolishly assumed that the irresponsible, and either ignorant or malign attempts to equate the killings of Emmett Till and Trayvon Martin were isolated examples of race-baiting excesses, and would be widely rejected and debunked by more responsible figures and authorities. Not only did this not happen, but that indefensible comparison, and the damaging falsehoods it is intended to plant, like a deadly virus,  in our national fabric, is beginning to take hold as truth.

Anyone, regardless of race and political or ideological belief should be able see how intolerable this is. Everyone has an obligation to do what they can to stop it.

Here is my Facebook post.

I am shocked and disappointed to learn that Woolly Mammoth is contributing to the cultural and societal acceptance of a lie as truth by hosting “From

Emmett Till to Trayvon Martin: A Town Hall Meeting on Black Bodies and American Racism” this Friday. Theater is a crucial medium to explore important societal issues openly and passionately. It cannot do this if it yields to partisan agendas and frames issues in ways that make objectivity and enlightenment impossible.

The story of Emmett Till has no parallels whatsoever with the tragedy of Trayvon Martin, and I would expect honest, educated, fair-minded professionals, whatever their point of view on the Martin-Zimmerman case, to use their influence to counter-balance and oppose the disgraceful and ignorant statements by Oprah Winfrey and others. That Carolyn Boyd, minister of organizational development at Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ; Louisa Davis, adjunct professor of religion and ethics at Montgomery College; Dennis B. Rogers, assistant professor of political science at Bowie State University, not to mention Woolly itself, would lend their names, prestige and credibility to any forum with such a deceptive and factually untrue title ( “From Emmett Till to Mr. Magoo” would be as accurate) is disillusioning beyond words. As an ethicist, or as theater artist, I would not only refuse to appear at any forum so irresponsibly titled, but also release a statement condemning it.

Just so the reasons for my strenuous objections are clear: Emmett Till’s murder was a horrific, open-and shut case of racist, Jim Crow era hate. He was tortured and murdered for doing nothing at all (he supposed flirted with a white woman). His white, smug and unrepentant killers were gleefully acquitted by an all-white jury that didn’t regard Till as a human being, then came forward under the shield of double jeopardy to accept payment for an article proclaiming their guilt—and pride.

Trayvon Martin, in contrast, a black teen shot in a pointless confrontation sparked by a mixed race, law-enforcement officer wannabe who was over-zealously guarding his gated community’s security. The evidence on whether Martin’s race was a determinative factor in the event is equivocal and circumstantial at best. There is no evidence that Zimmerman attacked Martin, or intended to attack him. It appears that the teenager was reasonably frightened at being followed, made a poor decision to confront Zimmerman, the confrontation escalated into a fight in which the teen got the upper hand, and Zimmerman discharged his weapon either accidentally or in self-defense….not because the teen was black, but because the teen was beating him and he felt helpless to defend himself.

If the facts were otherwise, there were no witnesses and no way to prove this beyond a reasonable doubt, which is the correct, vital, long-standing, fair standard for determining criminal guilt. The Zimmerman jury not only acted correctly and justly, but also courageously, and is as far removed in every way from the racist, kangaroo court jury in the trial of the Till slayers imaginable.

Nevertheless, out of ignorance, malice, hate,emotion or cynical political agendas, figures such as Oprah Winfrey, the Martin family’s attorney, the New York Daily News, Al Sharpton and others have been attempting, apparently with success, to equate Till and Martin….and virtually no one in a position to do so has called this what it is: a Big Lie, and a terribly destructive one. Why? I presume because they are afraid of being called “Zimmerman supporters” (Zimmerman was 100% at fault for starting this fatal chain of events, and the evidence might have been sufficient to convict him of manslaughter in another state—that doesn’t make him like the killers of Emmet Till) and racists. So the voice of reason and moderation, as well as historical accuracy, has effectively been silenced by intimidation.

When theater starts spreading politically useful lies and distortions, that is called propaganda. When those lies are as harmful to the fabric of society as this one is, it is called artistic malpractice….and yet there is the Washington Post, hailing a local company’s decision to throw gasoline on the fires of racial miscommunication started by the Martin trainwreck as if such irresponsible conduct is exemplary.

This is how lies become accepted truth. Neither the theater community nor journalists should be a party to it—especially in the sensitive area of race–indeed, they have an obligation NOT to.

91 thoughts on “How Dangerous Lies Become Accepted Truth: D.C. Theater Embraces The False Emmett Till-Trayvon Martin Comparison

      • Well, how hard is it, really, for most people to see the clear inequalities between the deaths of Trayvon Martin and Emmett Till?

        How willfully blind can people tolerably be?

        I feel like hunting down some Oprah-fied gullible loon who sides with that “Trayvon same as Till” trash, and shaking them until they thank me for ceasing to shake them. At this point, I would make the move to shake Oprah like that, if I had access to her.

        It’s like these Big Lie-hustlers are going back to Sept. 11, 2001, and trumpeting with self-righteously enraged hearts that the actions of the several passengers on United Flight 93 were as evil as the actions of the hijackers on the other three planes.

        At some point, decent people have to say “enough” to these big lies in enough numbers and, with enough organization and resolve, to openly revolt beyond mere words, with irresistible and invincible force, against the self-serving liars, their enablers, and their scams of division to promote their twisted notions of “justice,” “progress,” and “profit.”

        • How hard is it? Too hard, apparently—read that link. I can understand the theater types, actually—artists tend to be uncritical, low information, passionate knee-jerk liberals who are sitting ducks for this crap…but the members of the panel? How could they be a party to this? It’s amazing.

          • There is a another interpretation, cynical and depressing as it may be. They may not be fooled, or ignorant, or malicious. They may REALLY see the two events as the same. They may feel that any time a black individual is killed by someone who is not black, it is wrong. They may feel that it doesn’t matter what the circumstances are, it is always wrong. You can assume they are deluded, blinded by racism, or whatnot. The possibility remains that they actually do mean exactly what they say.

          • “…artists tend to be uncritical, low information, passionate knee-jerk liberals who are sitting ducks for this crap…”

            Thank you for the grossly-broad generalization about theatre artists! While I was wont to agree with you on some points, I now am thankful I read your ignorant and half-baked comments before I said anything in your defense.

            Feel free to stay out of the D.C. theatre community if we are all so uneducated; we will surely not miss you.

            • “Tend” is pretty easy to verify, and I’d say the performance of Hollywood backs me up. “Low information” does not mean “uneducated,” which, as someone who is educated, you should know from its context. It means people who do not follow politics closely and get their information, say, from “The Daily Show” rather than a variety of sources. As for being a sitting duck for this crap, the fact that a major DC Theater like Woolly would promote an event with the despicable and misleading title, “From Emmett Till to Trayvon Martin: A Town Hall Meeting on Black Bodies and American Racism” illustrates that point rather well.

              My opinions are quite fully baked. Meanwhile, I don’t pay much attention to attacks from people who don’t have the guts to sign their comments…like I do, so I can be criticized by people like you.

              • Nice try, Mr. Marshall, but how about spending more time worrying about running a successful and respected theatre company instead making asinine and unsubstantiated comments behind the keys of a message board. There is a reason so many artists avoid working with you and your theatre company, who aren’t exactly known for producing quality work in the first place.

                • Oooh! Ouch! Actually, The company’s quality is high, and nobody we want working with us has turned us down. This past season was positively reviewed in all five productions, and had strong audiences as well…given that we are competing with companies that can spend more in single show than we have to spend in a season, the 18 year record of the company speaks for itself, for those who care to listen. I am perfectly capable of chewing gum and walking at the same time, and as for “asinine and unsubstantiated comments,” if you don’t name them, I can’t show you where you’re full of beans…which I’m sure is the point.

  1. Jack,

    Lets be appropriately cynical. Don’t you think that the left is worried about minority (specifically African American) voter apathy after obama’s dismal performance in two terms? They need a racially charged America before 2014 and 2016, so they can play to racial animosities when getting their base voters out. Never mind the needless damage to discourse and harmony.

    • They need a racially charged America before 2014 and 2016, so they can play to racial animosities when getting their base voters out. Never mind the needless damage to discourse and harmony.
      ******************
      Oh, I think they are going to wind up with a racially charged America, all right.
      Just not in the way they were hoping.

  2. All this potential energy being turned into kinetic racial divisiveness. The real dangers facing black men are being completely ignored because people who promote these inflaming meeting do not want to look into the mirror.

    I like the way your posting was written.. Would have added one clarification:
    Zimmerman may have been found guilty in a state that did not have the Castle Doctrine. Would also argue that if there were no Castle Doctrine, Zimmerman would not have pursued with his concealed weapon, if at all.

    • Thanks. Two points: 1) I think the argument via SYG is a big IF, and I’d say an unlikely one. Once the confrontation has the victim on top of the shooter, SYG is irrelevant, and its pure self-defense (or not.) Zimmerman couldn’t retreat if he couldn’t get loose.
      2) You give George too much credit. I don’t that he was that calculating—what he did was stupid and reckless under SYG or without it.

    • One might as well argue that had the streets not been paved right there, Martin could not have beaten his head against the concrete; or that if there had been no corner store, Martin would not have left his house in the first place.Zimmerman followed (perhaps foolishly so) Martin attacked (definately foolishly so) Zimmerman responded with greater force, and Martin died.

  3. I note that in your Daily News graphic that Michael Donald is also referenced. Michael Donald’s killer was tried, convicted and executed for his crime.

  4. I want to know when Obama is going to apologize to Australia.
    After all, he spoke out twice on Trayvon.
    Or wait…is it that he only cares about dead black kids?

  5. Go see the show. Perhaps it will discuss this at a more complex level. The fact is that black male teens die at a higher rate than other races and females. The reasons for this are quite complex, and maybe the show talks about it and doesn’t just engage in “race baiting.”

    • “Go see the show.”

      “Show.” Mm-hm. That’s a precise word choice. The “town hall meeting” is going to be a show – like the trial of George Zimmerman was expected to be a show trial. There is nothing but a show to expect of the event, based on its title and the synopsis (might be the incorrect term) that contains the invitation to the public. There is no way that either the fact you cite above – or any of the reasons for the fact, complex or not – will be discussed in any context other than in an atmosphere of presumption that “whitey got away with another one.”

    • Nope. 100X more people will see the title, and the title is lying, race-baiting, hate-mongering bullshit, to be blunt. And it’s not a show. How about “From Benedict Arnold to Barack Obama”…would you dignify THAT “show” with your attendance? Really?? That one is exactly as fair and historically accurate.

      • I thought it was a show — I thought this was some sort of art event. Sorry — up since the crack of dawn. I stand by my comment, I’ll just replace “show” with “town meeting.” Go see what’s being discussed before you criticize. As for your crazy analogy, perhaps a more apt one would be, “From George Washington to Barack Obama” or “From Benedict Arnold to Bradley Manning.” Certainly, people will be talking about Martin for years to come — so in that respect, he is very relevant in the discussion about the issues facing black male teenagers.

        • Beth, my analogy was absolutely correct, because it was pejorative, inflammatory and misleading. Tell me…what is the class in which both Martin and Till fairly and accurately belong, other than “dead African American teenage men”? You know what that title implies and is meant to imply, and it’s an insult to have you pretend it isn’t obvious. Two boys murdered because of racial hate. Two murders where a racist court system let the killers go free. Two examples of how young black men were and are targeted for extermination by a racist white majority. And if the title isn’t supposed to mean that, then the title is either incompetent or intentionally misleading—and you say I should endorse such tactics by letting such cynical a device work, by attracting more participants!

        • “And it’s not a show.”

          I meant (and understood) “show” in this case as in “fiction with a partisan purpose” (more for entertainment, if nothing more than a “sermon to the choir”).

          In 1983 or 1984 (appropriately enough, perhaps, given the title by Orwell), I attended what was a town hall meeting (before the term “town hall meeting” came into vogue), about the movement for a “nuclear freeze.” There was a panel of presumed elites, and there was discussion, and there was some audience participation. The event was, I am thankful, surprisingly civil despite its shamelessly lopsided presentation that “THE FREEZE MUST BE DONE!” – despite that the meeting was in a town with substantial opposition to such a freeze.

          I am all but absolutely confident that if I attended the August 23 Trayvon-and-Till show, I would see almost identical repetition of the one-sidedness that I saw at that meeting in the 1980s, which to me was reminiscent of the “hippie days” of on-campus “teach-ins” on all sorts of radicalism.

    • Go see the show. Perhaps it will discuss this at a more complex level. The fact is that black male teens die at a higher rate than other races and females. The reasons for this are quite complex, and maybe the show talks about it and doesn’t just engage in “race baiting.”
      ****************
      I’m fairly certain they will not discuss all of the reasons, because most of the reasons aren’t convenient for them.
      Such as having multiple unwanted children out of wedlock with only government entitlements to support them.
      How many times do you think that will get mentioned at their “town hall”?
      I’m guessing no times.

  6. Are people equating Till and Martin or just focusing on those things they find similar and sad?

    Much like your criticism of the use of the word “literally”, many people use the term “equate” when they usually mean “compare to”.

      • Oprah is one perosn. And does she go on to explain why she feels it is the same thing?

        Perhaps to her that it was a young black male who got killed with a state court not giving what she felt was justice is all that matters. Everything else to her may be irrelevant.

        I personally don’t believe the cases to be equal but there are general comparisons that can be made between the cases that are valid.

        I am also not a black person and have never had to deal with the problems that black people have to deal with in our country to this day.

        • ARRRGH #1: Oprah is one person. She is a hugely influencial person in the culture and in the nation. What an awful rationalization.

          ARRRGH! #2 Perhaps to her that it was a young black male who got killed with a state court not giving what she felt was justice is all that matters. And that is an ignorant, factually wrong, misleading and dangerous position. If she believe sthat, then she doesn’t believe that justice is served by requiring unequivocal evidence of guilt.

          ARRRG! #3 Everything else to her may be irrelevant.She has a public forum, and she is marketing a movie about civil rights. She has an obligation to be accurate, fair and responsible. I don’t care how she “feels.”

          ARRRGH! #4 I personally don’t believe the cases to be equal “I personally don’t believe the President was born in Kenya but…”

          ARRRGH! #5 “…but there are general comparisons that can be made between the cases that are valid.” Other than broad, general parallels that have no use in this discussion? Name one.

          ARRRRRRRRGGGGHHHHHHHHH!!!!! I am also not a black person and have never had to deal with the problems that black people have to deal with in our country to this day. SO WHAT? So blacks have a right to their own facts because of their special problems and suffering? They have a right to distort history and claim racist injustice where there was none? So nobody should ckallenge politically motivated lies when African American hate mongers launch them????

          • Arg #3 is an indicator of the problem of pluralistic attitudes, believing that “anything goes as long you believe it” and rational virtue subject to whimsy and feeling; in other words, not rational.

            So what if Oprah thinks all the other factors are irrelevant? She doesn’t get to decide that. Rationalism requires consideration of all those other factors.

            • I would say that she gets to decide what issues of the case are important to her. She likely believes that our system of justice is one that lets the killers of black men go free. As such, the other facts (to her) do not detract from that belief.

              You and others here may not understand how people like her (or myself) can view Martin as being murdered… people like her (or myself) likely question how you can view that he wasn’t.

              • Except that our understanding of the case is based on the existing facts, and yours are based on defiance of them. Intensity of belief does not overcome reality. There is no evidence of murder, ergo, the belief that it was murder is just dogged stubbornness, and not respectable or valid. And in the absence of sufficient evidence, the belief that, based on this case, “that our system of justice is one that lets the killers of black men go free” is no less than sinister and/or idiotic.

                • I believe that there was plenty of evidence of murder. I also believe the prosecution screwed up.

                  And I misspoke. Black killers of black men can be locked up. White killers of black men are more likely to get off. Better?

                  (And I am sure you do not view that as better, but I find that we have several systems of justice in this country. One that benefits the rich, another that benefits the poor. One that benefits white folks and one that harms black folks. If you don’t think black people have a harder time in our system than white people, then I am not sure what more I can say to you)

                  • As usual in this matter, the desire on the part of the race-baiters and hucksters is to shoehorn Zimmerman’s conduct into a construct where it doesn’t belong. I don’t deny that the justice system and the jury system has many built-in biases against minorities bsed on entrenched prejudices. The Martin case and the Zimmerman trial, as a matter of record and fact, have nothing to do with those issues. Denying that they do no more rejects the problems in the justice system than it refutes global warming.

            • Now, as to the comparisons between Till and Martin, it really depends on where you stand. If you believe as I do that Martin was murdered and that Zimmerman is walking free when he should not, then you are more likely to see certain comparisons to Till than someone like yourself who does not believe that Zimmerman is a factually guilty man who gets to walk free.

              Of course you reject the comparisons. In one case you see a boy who was murdered and who was failed by a system of justice in a state that refused to convict obviously guilty people. If you don’t see Zimmerman as obviously guilty then you won’t see the comparisons.

                • I find this last comment laughable. People who believe Zimmerman should have been found guilty are more likely to find similarities between Martin and Till than those who do not.

                  That is factual, not mindlessness or foolishness.

                  • Although your logic is sound, it is based on unsound premises, therefore leading to a truly dumb conclusion. Your premise “People who believe Zimmerman should have been found guilty” is utter folly.

                    There is no need to have this discussion again, you can peruse the half-dozen or so arguments on this topic from the past month or two.

                    There was no evidence, none whatsoever, of murder. None. To continue to pursue such accusations is, quite simply, stupidity. Willful obtuseness at best, and at worst an utter disregard for rule of law, due process, and proof beyond reasonable doubt.

                    • Tex, your last paragraph is the best summary of the Martin-Zimmerman encounter and justice “issue” I have read to date. As I have heard a friend of mine say (but only maybe once to me), “Well spake!”

                    • Read the link to what posted. It gives my argument on why I believe the evidence was there to show that Zimmerman had malice towards Martin and that Zimmerman persued Martin… making Zimmerman the bad guy here.

                      You disagree, fine. But just as you believe my premise is flawed I believethe premise of Zimmerman just defending himself is flawed as well.

                  • People who ignore facts and construct opinions based on what they want to be true rather than where the facts point will make unjustified and counter-factual conclusions, yes. That’s not the same thing as being accurate, fair or truthful. You have described the process of being consistent in one’s acceptance of falsehood.

                    • I don’t want them to be true but the evidence from the 911 phone call makes them true.

                      You disagree. Fine. We disagree on it. That is no excuse for you to attack my character. You want to talk about ethics but you resort to name calling based on a disagreement. To me that is not an ethical way to discuss the issues. Now, I have no problems coming down to your level if you demand to drag it down that way. But too often people use such insulting tactics as a crutch.

                    • “I don’t want them to be true but the evidence from the 911 phone call makes them true.”

                      That statement is objectively false, and an example of what I was just asserting. Not one word on the 911 call suggests racism or an intent to kill, and the FACT of a 911 call cuts against the latter decisively. Unless you mean the NBC deceptively edited 911 call, which was made to make Zimmerman sound racist, and continues to be cited to this day.

          • Response to ARGH 1: I wasn’t rationalizing it. I am saying one person is not proof that “equating” the two cases is a problem.

            Response to ARGH 2: I would question your understanding of the justice system. There are people who are factually guilty who are not legally found guilty. That is GOOD because it is better to let 100 people go free than lock up one innocent man. But that doesn’t mean we have to be happy when people we believe are guilty as sin go free.

            Response to ARGH 3: When she is talking about her feelings, she was being honest. Notice, she didn’t say that she was speaking for anyone other than herself. She didn’t say that in Liberal Dan’s mind it is the same thing or that in your mind it is the same thing. She just said that in her mind it is the same thing. Other people are free to disagree with her. I point to the disagreement between her and Jay Z (another influential person in the black community) on the use o the N word.

            Response to ARGH 4: What?

            Response to ARGH 5: We disagree on how the statements and actions of Zimmerman during his 911 call imply his guilt. You do not believe the actions of Zimmerman to be racist. I believe the use of the home invasion by the defense PROVES them racist. You don’t believe his words show intent. I do.

            I believe that the aftermath of the Till killing and the Martin killing both proves that we have multiple systems of justice in this country. The only thing Martin was guilty of was walking while black. I will stand by that until my dying day.

            Response to the ultra mega ARGHHHHHHH: No, people don’t have the right to their own facts. However, people do get to view the world through their own experiences. When they see something that has happened to them, their loved ones, or their friends and see it happening to someone else, they are going to have a different perspective than you or I.

            People should absolutely attack lies by hate mongers. But far too often what is called a lie or hate mongering is not so. And the overuse of those terms tend to make those words have less meaning, just like the overuse of literally and the overuse of equate.

            • You are beyond help, I think. Now I am wondering what benighted combination of mind-warping teachers and radicalizing trauma made you this way. Because it has rendered you incapable of comprehending reality, and that’s even sadder than it is annoying.

              • The common tactic of someone who has lost an argument is to resort to insults such as yours. Thanks for conceding the argument by resorting to such tactics.

                • Not an insult if it is true.

                  To espouse such obviously ignorant ideas as yours means that Jack’s words are calling it like it is. If that is insulting to you, perhaps it should be a wake up call.

                • No, Dan. There was no argument. Simply refusing to fairly acknowledge undisputed facts before you and sticking to an ideological position without any grounding in reality does not constitute an opposing position in an argument. It constitutes being loyal to cant, and the entire Martin-Zimmerman episode has been a low point in the Left’s use of that strategy—if you can call it a strategy. It undermines all credibility and trust in good faith, and as I suggested, sincerely, it seems closer to a malady or disorder.

                  There is no good way to debate with bigot, a six-year-old, an idiot, or a crazy person, and when I have encountered the phenomenon your verbiage on this topic constitutes, I eventually have three options. (The phenomenon is repeating the same absurd factual fallacy with “I believe ” attached to it, as in “I believe blacks are inferior,” “I believe the Earth was created 10,000 years ago,” or “I believe the Constitution guarantees me the right to say whatever I want in public and not get fired for it.”) I can ignore the commenter, which just allows him to lower the IQ of the blog (and silence implied agreement or consent.) I can ban the commenter for making screeds rather than engaging in open-minded debate. Or, in the case of smart, articulate commenters like you, I can try to get them to see the worm that is eating into their brain and making them support irresponsible and ignorant people (like Oprah) and sound dumb, when they or not.

                  That was no insult–that was a compliment. Still, the refusal to accept facts that undermine one’s political biases has caused endless misery in this country and every other…it is a condition that has to be pointed out and condemned, and I do. It also is important to know what happened to people like you to make it so important to you to see America as irredeemably racist that you are willing to ignore facts, call a fair and courageous jury racist by implication (Emmett Till had a racist jury), and to say that, for example, Zimmerman’s worries about home invasions prove he’s a racist in your mind, outweighing his associations, statements, testimony of his neighbors, lineage and prior conduct.

                  • If you would listen to my last show, I would think you would see that I am not the kind of person to allow what others on my side of the aisle say dictate my personal opinions.

                    I don’t believe American is irredeemably racist. If I did, I wouldn’t bother fighting it because there would be no hope. There are racial injustices (which you, thankfully, agree exist). I also will point out times where the left acts completely stupid when it comes to claims of raism (i.e. the rodeo clown who made fun of Obama, the response from te left on that was stupid).

                    Zimmerman’s worries about home invasions is not what proves his actions to be racially motivated. The fact that he lumped in Martin with all those “assholes” who get away and then the defense use of the black home invader as an example of who he was speaking of does prove his actions to be racially motivated. Zimmerman saw a black guy walking down the street and assumed he was a criminal. He assumed he was one of the guys who always get away. What example did the defense use? A black guy. Connect the dots. He assumed Martin was a criminal because of his appearance… i.e. because he was black. He had no other information. That is racism, pure and simple. And not only did he make a racist conclusion, he spoke of him with such malice in his voice. You don’t call a stranger an asshole because you think he might be a good guy.

            • To clarify what seems to have confused you:
              ARRRGH! #4 I personally don’t believe the cases to be equal “I personally don’t believe the President was born in Kenya but…” Both are examples of deceitful equivocations, as was and is done by disgraceful politicians and pundits on the birther issue, giving credibility to an outrageous claim by refusing to reject it while superficially denying that you agree with it: “No w I personally don’t think the President is a Muslim, BUT…”
              The cases AREN’T equal. The President WASN’T born in Kenya.

  7. I’m still reeling from some of the descriptions of the the panelists.
    Seriously.
    A Quaker-Buddhist ally?
    20 years of professional organizing?
    Educator of Hip Hop culture?
    Hip Hop Womanist?

    I can’t read anymore.

  8. “Oprah is one perosn.”

    Oprah is one person with access to millions of devoted followers who believe whatever she says, no questions asked. Her every word makes the press. Deserved or not, she is a Person of Note and she is given much more attention instantly than the usual ‘one person’ on the street.

  9. “I am also not a black person and have never had to deal with the problems that black people have to deal with in our country to this day.”

    So, any underhanded tactic is good if the cause is just?

    I am so, so dismayed about this whole issue. I worked in the US in 2000-2001 and race relations didn’t seem bad… it was my first prolonged visit back to the Boston area since 1980 longer than the usual two weeks for a vacation to see the family , which is not enough to get the pulse of things in general. I noticed a change on that trip. I thought, from what I saw on TV, in my interactions with people at my job, and suppliers all over Boston while I was setting up a small business that things were pretty good. When did all this polarization start again? Were there campaigns like the Trayvon train wreck in 2000, that I was too busy to notice? Or are we in a brand new hand basket on our way to hell this time?

  10. Jack,

    I worry that you will have trouble making the case you wish to make if you hold those who disagree with you in such contempt. I would suggest ethical engagement means beginning from a place of curiosity, not judgement. You are entitled to your interpretation of Trayvon’s death and Zimmerman’s acquittal, but acting as if they are the only reasonable interpretation, and slandering other viewpoints as a “malady” or “disorder”, makes me fear you are not really interested in ethical engagement, but in demagoguery. Those you call “race-baiters” and “hucksters” are organizing a free event to foster community dialogue about these painful events, which seems to me a truly ethical position. You are welcome to disagree with the framing, and I encourage you to bring those opinions to the event, along with an openness to consider the validity of opinions other than your own. Otherwise, aren’t you behaving in the very same “uncritical, low information, passionate knee-jerk” way of which you accuse liberals and theatre artists of acting?

    • Sorry–there is only one reasonable interpretation. There are few issues that I take this position on, but this is clearly a necessary example. Not every issue has two sides. The Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman fiasco has been one ethical botch after another, and the results have been horrible for the nation and race relations, not to mention Martin, who is dead, and Zimmerman, whose life is ruined. There have been no informed, objective observers who question the correctness of the Zimmerman verdict in light of the available evidence. On that basis alone, equating the Till case and the Martin killing is tantamount to slander.

      If you believe otherwise, again, I ask for a factual, rather than a speculative, comparison between the Emmitt Till case and the Martin killing, and the fact that “many believe” they are similar doesn’t qualify.

    • “I would suggest ethical engagement means beginning from a place of curiosity, not judgement.”

      That ‘place of curiosity’ occurred a very long time ago. It became one of ‘judgement’ after many hours of discourse and demonstration that showed this whole scenario to be blatantly one-answered. The judgement is fair, the other ‘side’ has shown it relies wholly on emotion, speculation, and ‘everyone just knows’ arguments. All facts and reason presented to that side are ignored, shrugged off or spun into non-fact.

      It may bother you that Jack’s immediate responses in this specific discussion thread are quick to the “you’re wrong” and “you’re ignorant” assertions, but that’s because he’s already gotten there from many discussions long before these posts.

      I don’t think he’s obligated to restart every single discussion from the same “place of curiosity”.

  11. Jack, my name is Michael and I wanted to respond on behalf of Woolly Mammoth. For some reason, your post did not hit our Facebook page–perhaps you would like to continue this discussion there?

    To be clear, the goal of our Town Hall meeting is to provide a safe space for members of the community to share their thoughts and feelings on the issues that the Zimmerman verdict has highlighted (more so than to discuss the verdict or the nuances of the trial). Whatever the rights and wrongs of the case, people’s feelings of anger, injustice, and fear in the wake of the verdict are very real. That is the conversation we want to facilitate.

    As a theatre artist yourself, your assertion that “theater types, actually—artists tend to be uncritical, low information, passionate knee-jerk liberals who are sitting ducks for this crap…” is disappointing. As theatre artists, we are actually uniquely positioned to tee-up a deeper conversation, in the same way that you use art to engage in conversations about ethics.

    We would love to invite you to attend the Town Hall Meeting and hear how this tragic event is affecting people’s everyday lives. You could engage in an exchange of ideas and open your mind to different views, informed by individual experiences. However, if being open is something that you’re not interested in, then it would be best if you didn’t attend.

    • Thanks for your comment, Michael. I have spent over 40 years in the theater, and my observation about the depth of knowledge and consideration regarding complex social and political issues exhibited by most, not all (as I said) of those engaged as theater professionals is based on long experience. As a result, I believe that the theater community’s direct focus on critical issues needs to be undertaken carefully, and with unbiased research and expertise from objective sources, lest political theater become agitprop.

      Let me point you to the Post’s quote from your staffer who apparently conceived and arranged this program:

      “The plays we produce . . . are about the human experience, everyday life, dealing with issues such as race and class, issues that affect our society,” Prince said. “I’m an African American woman and was particularly horrified by the verdict” in the trial of George Zimmerman in the death of the Florida youth. “I was horrified by the fact that Trayvon Martin was killed and that there was no justice for his death.”

      That assertion “that there was no justice for his death,” is neither informed, factual or supportable, and speaks directly to the bias that your title: “From Emmett Till to Trayvon Martin: A Town Hall Meeting on Black Bodies and American Racism” expressly conveys. There is no factual evidence supporting the presumption that Martin’s death was the result of racism. The implied equivalence of Martin shooting with the torture/lynching of a young black boy is either irresponsibly, negligently or intentionally inflammatory. The panel, assembled by someone who asserts as fact that there was no justice (a fair trial is all the justice any system can aspire to, and it was achieved in this case), and as you will have to concede, filled by advocates who will not present anything approaching balance on this issue, is not going to achieve the admirable goals your comment here would suggest.

      I am a former prosecutor, a nationally known professional ethicist, a lawyer who trains local and nationally in legal ethics, an artistic director of a professional theater, as well as a professional speaker. I am also very well-informed on every aspect of the Zimmerman-Martin event. I have a degree in American Government from Harvard, and in law from Georgetown. I guarantee that my participation will enhance the program. If Woolly would like to invite me to join the panel and provide the balance to the discussion that it cannot possibly achieve with the current panelist line-up, I will volunteer my services, gladly. Otherwise, it will be obvious to me, and others, that balance and open-mindedness have nothing to do with this event but rather promotion of the upcoming season (which is fine) and pandering to local sentiment…which is not.

        • Yeah, that’s about it, or in other words, I’m at least as qualified to bring some perspective to the topic as the packed, ideologically homogenous panel you selected, so put if you really want an open forum, put your money where your mouth is, here I am, my treat.
          You have a problem with that? I don’t. I’m usually paid for stuff like that.

  12. Jack and texagg04,

    I appreciate you both taking the time to reply. I don’t believe there are only two sides to this; rather, we each have our personal responses that are governed by our own biases and experiences. As I am not a juror, I don’t feel bound to contain my shifting reactions to a binary “innocent vs gulity” verdict. However, if you believe that the diverse and complex responses to this tragedy, and the cultural contexts that inform them, can be reduced (or to pick a more positive word, clarified) to a right side and wrong side–and that you have already reached that right side and need engage no further in dialogue and self-reflection–than it doesn’t seem fruitful for me to say anything further here. I am currently on my own journey of dialogue and self-reflection as to the meanings of this tragedy and the subsequent reactions to it, and I find the further down that path I go, the more difficult it is to find any settled ground. That said, I would encourage you to consider attending the forum, in spite–in fact, because–of the framing that you find so problematic. The Internet is often an empathy-free zone, but it is much harder to devalue different opinions when they are attached to a person breathing in front of you. You may find people that are more open to your arguments than you expect, and even if you don’t reconsider your right side, maybe you’ll understand better why those “uncritical, low-information” theatre artists think differently.

  13. Somebody, please send Jack a video – or at least, a clear and complete audio – of the upcoming meeting. If I were an advisor to Jack, I would advise that he not attend, on the basis that he would likely intend to attend to discuss facts regardless of feelings, while the apparent primary aim of the event is to give air to persons’ feelings as the facts of primary interest, with less emphasis on whatever facts provoke whatever feelings there are. I am sure that Jack and many who follow his blog will have plenty of interest in – and, feelings about – what is said at the meeting if, on the part of the event’s organizers, there is/are (1) enough interest to promote further thought and dialogue beyond those in attendance, and (2) enough confidence to share that audio or video beyond the walls of the meeting place. It makes eminent sense to share such a product (audio or video), because there can be little doubt that whatever is discussed Friday will pertain to matters of nationwide interest, and because Jack’s blog following comprises persons from across the country, including persons outside the country.

  14. I am currently on my own journey of dialogue and self-reflection as to the meanings of this tragedy and the subsequent reactions to it,
    ***********.
    Yes, I am doing the same.
    I’m trying to wrap my brain around the fact that two black animals beat an 88 year old man to death with flashlights.
    I’m trying to understand my reaction to that news, but sadly, it doesn’t seem as though Wooly Mammoth is having a town hall about that.

    • Finlay,

      The murder of Delbert Belton is a terrible crime, and if he was also someone you knew personally, my sincere condolences. I too feel anger towards his murderers and hope they are both brought to justice.

      However, your use of the words “black animals” is profoundly dehumanizing and racist. I can only assume that you know that and are being deliberately provocative.

      If you want to talk about these cases, I would welcome that dialogue. If such a dialogue occurred, I might point out to you the differences in police response. One of the murderers in the Belton case has already been arrested. Compare that to the time it took Zimmerman to be brought in on charges, and you’ll have the first of many reasons why these cases are different.

      But in order to have that dialogue, you’ll need to sincerely apologize for the use of the words “black animals”. Otherwise, I’ll have to assume you’re just a wanna-be internet troll, and I have better things to do than feed you.

      • 1. Zimmerman wasn’t charged initially because the police and prosecutor made the judgment, proven correct at trial, that there wasn’t sufficient evidence to find the commission of a crime. THAT’s the difference.
        2. Re: black animals. I presume your objection is to “black.” The metaphorical use of “animals’ to describe a person commits a vicious, unthinking, violent crime is not improper or offensive. I agree that using the adjective evokes racist rhetoric of the past, with the racist implication that blacks are less than human. Is your offense based on a genuine belief that this was Finley’s meaning, or just a “gotcha!” in which he is being held responsible for a meaning he clearly didn’t intend or mean but that would be unacceptable in other contexts?

        Because I understood exactly what he meant, and I didn’t see anything racist in his intent, because I assumed he was suggesting this was a hate crime, in which the race of the assailants was relevant. Otherwise, yes, “black” would be gratuitous and offensive.

        • Oh, Jack. You lost me on this one. I can’t stick around a place where the use of “black animals” is defended as ethical. That’s too great a distance for me to cross online. Peace.

  15. I am getting extremely disingenuous protests from the theater community about my criticism the program’s title. Oh, no, the Till -Martin dichotomy only refers to points in time, not equivalent racist incidents! But the title is too cute by half: “A Town Hall Meeting on Black BODIES and American Racism” —get it? Till and Martin, two corpses, and two acquittals—what’s changed, really? That’s the message, and it is completely intended.

    My colleagues and friends are also upset with my suggestion that public affairs literacy and expertise do not flourish in the theater arts. Come on. The Woolly program is an example of what I was referring to. It is irresponsible to have the town meeting cover what it purports to without a legal expert, or an objective historian, or a respectable journalist, to help keep the facts straight. I’ve TALKED about the case with theater colleagues. “It’s about that law in Florida, right?” “Didn’t Zimmerman call Martin a racial epithet on the 911 call?” “How do you shoot someone for carrying Skittles and tea?” They, most of them, haven’t followed the case, not sufficiently to filter out all the bull—especially THIS case. Then the Woolly staffer who sets up the program talks about her outrage that the justice system failed—when in fact, objectively, it succeeded spectacularly, and against all odds. I think I could explain why..I know a lot of people who could. If the organizers at Woolly don’t understand why, then they shouldn’t be holding an event.

    I will be posting on this soon, but do you know who I think may be the best analogy to George Zimmerman?

    Leo Frank.

    • Funny that is the theater’s take on it. That’s in fact how I read the ad — as points in time. Hence, my examples of George Washington to Barack Obama and Benedict Arnold to Bradley Manning. You might have reached a little too far on this one Jack. Go to the event before you bash it!

      • Bodies, Beth. And if it was points in time, so what? The two episodes are unrelated, and one has nothing to do with racism, on the facts. AND the organizer flagged her own bias in the Post, making the meaning of the title very clear. Hell—what more do I need? I haven’t even mentioned the dubious stunt of using the death of a teen and the resulting national controversy to sell a season of plays.

        How about Benedict Arnold to Barack Obama? That’s the analogy I used before. You think that would be a fair title for a balanced, open town meeting?

        • They are both young black men who died before their time. Your question sounds like an essay question in Freshman PolSci. Benedict is considered a traitor just because the British lost. Otherwise, it would be “Paul Revere — that traitor!” Who knows how history will treat Obama? I think both our Presidents since 9/11 have been destroying our Constitution, but sadly, our country doesn’t care. So yes, I guess I could have a panel on that topic, but your link is a bit more tenuous.

          • Yes, and they are both bideds, non-midgets, and mammals. One was deliberately murdered out of pure racial animus, with the law enforcement establishment complicit in allowing his killers to go free. The other was killed in a tragic series on mistakes and misunderstandings, without demonstrable racial hate, in an exercise of self-defense, with the shooter tried in a fair trial and acquitted by a courageous jury. To use that dichotomy after newspapers, Oprah, the family’s lawyer, numerous leftist fools on MSNBC and others have asserted that the two incidents were like two peas in a pod cannot be just glossed over by finding some innocent justification—the event is in the context of the news and the controversy surrounding it. Comparing the two deaths suggests similarities other than “young black men who died before their time” and is intended to…please don’t insult my intelligence. Comparing them is exactly like specious comparisons of minor tragedies to “the Holocaust”–it’s an insult to the victims, and also to the wrongdoers being compared to monsters.

            I find this particularity offensive because a courageous jury that should be cheered is placed in the position of being compared to the racists who released Till’s murderers. It is unfair, unjust, dishonest and horribly wrong.

  16. “I will be posting on this soon, but do you know who I think may be the best analogy to George Zimmerman?

    Leo Frank.”

    You can’t be serious…

    • I’m not sure, I might be. Obviously the difference is that Zimmerman really was responsible for Martin’s death, and Frank didn’t kill Mary Phagen. But both were pariahs, created by a hostile social and media situation, where their presumed guilt of a heinous crime was part of a social narrative constructed for political motives—the evil Jew business owner, defiling and killing our white children; the evil white bigot, stalking and killing our black children. In both cases, the narrative overcame the facts. If Zimmerman gets killed by a vigilante mob, and he might yet, the comparison will be complete.

      I’m thinking about it.

      • “part of a social narrative constructed for political motives”

        What do you mean by this. I mean, too often people use such terms as an easy out to villianize those who disagree with them about controversial issues.

        If you are suggesting that people see problems in the law because of what happened in the case and the verdict and hope to see those laws change then yes that is what they are doing and no there is nothing wrong with using an example of why you feel a law is wrong in order to change that law.

        However, if you are suggesting that there are more nefarious reasons for the actions of certain people then would have to lump you into that category of people who I described earlier who typically use such terms.

        • That was too convoluted for me, Dan.

          I mean that cynical people and activists have made Zimmerman into a racist white man who stalked and killed an unarmed black teen because they 1) accepted original, inaccurate, sloppily reported versions of the story that fit that description and 2) refused to abandon it when the facts no longer fit the narrative, and insisted that things that were not true (or that could not be shown to be true), were.

          And that is 100% accurate. And it is nefarious, because it involves intentionally ignoring truth, demonizing a man, risking the lives of his family, and impugning a jury that did its job.

          Meanwhile, the law being attacked is irrelevant to the facts in the case. You can feel it is wrong all you want—you have to wait for a real case that proves it (and it’s a terrible law) rather than pretend the facts in this case what you need.

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