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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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Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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