Cruelty

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As noted below, the attack on the memory of Trayvon Martin began with the exposure of his twitter feed, proceeded apace to the selective posting of pictures, moved with great energy to the faking of pictures, and has now found its natural terminus in unbridled white supremacy:

In addition to the Facebook messages, Klanklannon posted a list of usernames and passwords for Martin's social media and email accounts as proof of his exploits. All of the passwords had been changed to racist slurs. (Gmail: "niggerniggernigger" Twitter: "coontrayvonnigger")
No one should be surprised by this. Necromancy never ends well. 

Among the many reasons I hoped Barack Obama would not weigh in on Martin's death, was the sense that for racists--closeted and otherwise--it would represent an escalation. By making the obvious plain--that the president is black, and that the days of small town justice are at an end--I thought he would invite the full brunt of racist bile to be heaped, not upon the president, but upon the parents of Trayvon Martin. What I forgot was that racists need no reason to justify themselves. They are what they their actions say they are. 

I would not withhold the life of Trayvon Martin from scrutiny and investigation. When someone claims a vicious assault upon their person--as George Zimmerman has--it is only intelligent to investigate the relevant background of the alleged assailant. It certainly is relevant to ask what, precisely, Martin was suspended for. It surely is important to ask if Martin had a history of violence.Whether or not Martin had a criminal record, most certainly is pertinent.

But what, precisely, is the relevance of wearing gold grills? What, specifically, is the pertinence of having once given an obscene gesture? Why, exactly, does it matter that Martin's imagination sometimes ranged into profane thoughts of sex and violence?  How does any of this help us understand his killing at the hands of by George Zimmerman?

It does not--unless you believe that the fact that Martin once gave a middle finger to a camera somehow proves that he is the sort of person who would saunter up to a man who outweighs by nearly 100 pounds, summon the powers of Thor, deck the man with one-shot, and stove him against concrete. We do not draw such conclusions from most teenagers, or even most people. That those who see nothing wrong with labeling a black man as a "Food Stamp President," would draw them in the case of young black boy cannot be dismissed as coincidental. 

The Daily Caller is published by Tucker Carlson. Tucker Carlson is a man who once informed us, on national television, that he'd assaulted a gay man for subjecting him to the sort of treatment which nearly all of women-kind experiences hourly. This is not the assumption of a violent handle, or the quotation of rap lyrics it is the admitted commission of actual violence. Moreover, it's the kind of violence that's routinely dismissed as pathological in black boys, as well as the kind that had it ever been committed by Trayvon Martin would immediately serve as irrefutable evidence that he deserved to slaughtered in the street. 

It's worth discerning the subtle differences between the  actions of The Daily Caller, Michelle Malkin and Stormfront. But it's also worth seeing their actions as they are--points on the continuum of racism delineating the cloaked and covert from the naked and profane. 

It is cruelty to sneer at the unguarded thoughts of dead children. But it is the specific cruelty of racism that prevents so many from ever seeing Martin as a child. 
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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