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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Historian Says Beware Of ‘Violence Card’

You’ve probably heard the expression, “the race card.”

But Khalil Gibran Muhammad says there’s also something called “the violence card,” and it’s being played by some media figures in portraying the shooting of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman.

Muhammad says “the violence card” is the idea that violence is mainly a problem for the black community.

“The sense is that… [violence] is really black people’s problem and they have to fix it on their own.”
– Khalil Gibran Muhammad, historian

He says that in the case of Trayvon Martin, instead of having a debate about why the shooting occurred, people cast aside the death of Martin (who is black) at the hands of Zimmerman (who is a white Hispanic) and turn their focus to violence that happens between black people.

“The sense is that… [violence] is really black people’s problem and they have to fix it on their own,” he told Here & Now‘s Robin Young.

Muhammad said that commentators George Will and Juan Williams both responded to the killing of Trayvon Martin by bringing up the number of black people who kill each other.

Williams writes in the Wall Street Journal:

“The shooting death of Trayvon Martin in Florida has sparked national outrage, with civil rights leaders from San Francisco to Baltimore leading protests calling for a new investigation and the arrest of the shooter. But what about all the other young black murder victims? Nationally, nearly half of all murder victims are black. And the overwhelming majority of those black people are killed by other black people. Where is the march for them?”

Muhammad says that so-called “black on black” crime is certainly a “grave reality.” But the focus on it makes it seem that it is exceptional.

“Interracial murder is true of every single community everywhere in the world,” he said. “Most people die at the hands of people who are categorized as ‘like them.’ And indeed, the vast majority of people die at the hands of people who they know.”

He says the fact that “white on white” violence is not discussed “stigmatizes black people.”

“It associates blackness with violence and/or criminality — rather than it being a social problem of homicide, which exists in all communities,” he said.

Fatigue Over Race Issues

Muhammad also addressed the idea that there is a racial fatigue among white Americans who have been hearing about the poor treatment of black Americans post Civil War.

He said the fatigue and pessimism has been there for almost a century and we need to move past it.

“We’ve got to get past the pessimism. We’ve gotta buck up and say ‘We’ve gotta get this right.’ Because every generation has grown tired of having to deal with the race problem,” he said.


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  • Aria

     When Zimmerman shot Martin he was shooting someone he assumed was poor enough to steal his stuff;  when police officer-black or white pulls over a young black man he’s pulling over someone he assumes is poor enough to steal, that’s his job. Violence, and the cloak of racism, as the guest and interviewer point out,  has been pervasive in American for generations.  The real question is not why the elites won’t give the poor more money so they’ll stop killing each other; the question is why we on the left, and the speakers on this program can not or will not frame this debate as a class issue and whose interests that frame serves?

    • http://twitter.com/cynamilli C. G. Caban

      The real problem is your assertion that Treyvon looked poor enough to steal. If any black boy looks like he is poor to you or anyone else that is concerning to me. White people steal also right? Does any white person look “poor enough to steal”

  • Mark M.

    For me it’s not a race issue AS MUCH AS a problem with trigger-happy people with the ability to carry firearms and hide behind the “castle laws” or “stand your ground” laws.

  • Sewslowny

    What  is a white-hispanic? Since when does that term apply to ANYONE? This appears to be a way to blame  the white race for the murder of T. Martin. It doesn’t matter the race of either one. A young man was murdered buy another man. Can we call each other Americans first and foremost? Hyphenated Americans only breeds prejudice and separatism. We are not a melting pot but a crazy quilt, mix pieces of the same cloth.

    • Robin

      Hello Sewslowny,
      Obviously this is upsetting to you and others.  We’ve  also in the past heard from listeners who were upset when George Zimmerman was refered to by Sanford police as white, and by others as solely hispanic (his father was white, his mother peruvian).

      Here is some reading that may be of interest: 

                 Explanation of Race and Hispanic Origin CategoriesSource:  U.S. Census BureauInternet Release date:  September 15, 1999The race and Hispanic origin categories used by the Census Bureau are mandated by Office of Management and Budget Directive No. 15, which requires all federal record keeping and data presentation to use four race categories (White, Black, American Indian and Alaska Native, Asian and Pacific Islander) and two ethnicity categories (Hispanic, non-Hispanic).  These classifications are not intended to be scientific in nature, but are designed to promote consistency in federal record keeping and data presentation.It is important to recognize that this system treats race and ethnicity asseparate and independent categories.  This means that within the federal system everyone is classified as both a member of one of the four race groups and alsoas either Hispanic or non-Hispanic.  Consequently, there are a total of 8race-ethnicity categories, as illustrated by the table below:        U.S. Population by Race and Hispanic Origin, July 1, 1997                              (in thousands)                White      Black   American Indian   Asian & Pacific                                    & Alaska Native      Islandernon-Hispanic   194,571    32,324       1,977             9,532Hispanic        26,746     1,649         347               598

      AND HERE’S WIKIPEDIA (I know! Not the best news source, but succinct.) 

       White Hispanic and Latino Americans

      Jump to: navigation, searchFor the white population of Latin America, see White Latin American.White Hispanic and Latino Americans
      Estadounidenses hispanos y latinos blancosDavid Farragut[1] · Romualdo Pacheco[2] · Rita Hayworth[3] · Bob Martinez[4] · Martin Sheen[5] · Raquel Welch[6] · Kenny Ortega · Andy García[7] · Michael Lopez-Alegria[8] · Salma Hayek[9] · Christy Turlington[10] · Ricky Martin[11] · Cameron Diaz[12] · Joanna Garcia · Christina Aguilera[13] · Pitbull[14] · Alexis Bledel[7] · Paz de la HuertaTotal populationWhite Hispanic or Latino Americans26,735,713[15]8.7% of the United States population (2010)[15]53.0% of all Hispanic and Latino Americans (2010)[15]Regions with significant populationsAll areas of the United States California6,503,487[16] Texas5,398,738[16] Florida2,867,365[16]LanguagesPredominantly Spanish · English · SpanglishReligion Predominately Christian (Roman Catholic and Protestant) · Jewish and others.White Hispanic and Latino Americans are citizens and residents of the United States who are racially White and ethnically Hispanic or Latino.AND FINALLY, here’s a link to an interesting Washington Post blog on the debate.They spoke with a New York Times editor, who made another choice in word usage because of reader suspicion that there was something more to the choice of the words”white” and “hispanic” than the paper intended.  http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/erik-wemple/post/why-did-new-york-times-call-george-zimmerman-white-hispanic/2012/03/28/gIQAW6fngS_blog.html
      maybe we should do a story on this.But my intent was nothing more than being correct in race and ethnicity and George Zimmerman’s background. I look forward to hearing how he wants to be described.

      • It

        Sounds like a logical answer. So you have never used the ethnicity “Hispanic” without its race category prefix? Of course you have. That Census Bureau document you took parts from was prefaced with the statement “The racial categories included in the census questionnaire generally reflect a social definition of race recognized in this country and not an attempt to define race biologically, anthropologically, or genetically.”  Now using the “social definition” you can really still say that when you look at Zimmerman you see a white man? The classification of white helped the original premise of the story that this was race related so it was used.

    • Tlcmph

      it applies to my husband whose family is european and middle eastern but grew up in south america. hispanic does not mean brown. there are white, black, indigenous, asian people who grow up in countries that speak spanish…they are white hispanic, black hispanic, indigenous/mestizo hispanic, and asian hispanic accordingly. Just because you never or have never heard of something does not mean it does not exist!

      white black is redundant for obama because most black african-americans in america are both of african and european extraction. that’s why obama just looks “black” to most people because most blacks in america have white blood (and genes) but the strong african features. being multiracial is the normnot exception for african-americans.

  • Julio Cristian Rocha

    I disagree with the statement that immigrants were treated differently before. Sadly, 100 years ago “white” immigrants were equally hated by the established race/religion. Italians were treated like property and treated as such, the Irish were flat out hated by the powerful elite, and pretty much every other race (example Chinese) were barely considered worth helping. So I respectfully disagree.

    Also, I do now what a white Hispanic is, but I’m unaware of why this applies to Mr. Zimmerman, or why it is relevant. If it is relevant, then the correct statement is a young hispanic man shot a young black man. And for the record, I am hispanic.

    • It

      Robin continues to use the term “White Hispanic”. Do you think she will ever use the term “White Black” for Obama?

  • Anonymous

    Psalms 11:5

  • Sue

    To Aria,
    As more and more formerly middle class people become marginalized the discussion will start to change! Those at the top have no motivation to solve any problems be they:
    gun violence

  • It

    One of the most bias stories I have ever heard on Here and Now.  Once again Robin plays the race card with the “White Hispanic” profiling.

  • it

    The guest makes that comment that he wouldn’t want to “try to get into the mind” of Juan Williams but this whole interview was saying that the people who don’t see it as Robin and the Guest did they have an agenda against blacks. This was disgusting!

  • Tom Paul

    What is a white Hispanic? Would you refer to President Obama as a white African American? We have enough racial tensions with out Robin Young adding fuel to the fire. Shame on her and NPR.

  • Mmuhammad95

    Black on black murder is worst. And we must deal with it.

  • Amyrosenberg

    “Interracial murder is true of every single community everywhere in the world,” he said. “Most people die at the hands of people who are categorized as ‘like them.’ And indeed, the vast majority of people die at the hands of people who they know.”  I am confused…. did he mean “intra-racial” or am I missing the meaning of this first sentence?

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