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Duly Noted

Tuesday, Apr 3, 2012, 10:57 am

The Demonization of Trayvon Martin

By Lindsay Beyerstein

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Chris Hayes of MSNBC had a great segment on his Sunday show about the posthumous demonization of Trayvon Martin. Initially, it seemed like Martin's killing was remarkably non-polarizing. Pretty much everyone agreed that an unarmed 17-year-old boy had been gunned down by a vigilante, and that's all there was to say about it. It seemed odd to everyone that the cops let the shooter walk. Then, what Hayes calls the "Great American Polarization Machine" swung into action.

Right-wing news outlets have been obsessing about Martin's school suspension for an empty marijuana baggie and his Twitter feed, as if any of this had any bearing on whether he deserved to get shot. Remember: Martin was walking down the street with a bag of Skittles and an iced tea when George Zimmerman started following him. He didn't have his tweets embroidered on his hoodie and he wasn't brandishing an empty ziplock. Zimmerman didn't know anything about this boy when he dialed 911, the latest in a history of frivolous calls about "suspicious" young black men.

Hayes' guests are Kai Wright, editorial director of Colorlines.com, Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., Rich Benjamin of Demos and John McWhorter of Columbia University. This segment is an oasis of thoughtful discussion in a media landscape blighted by sensationalism and bigotry.

Addendum: Congratulations to Colorlines.com on winning the 2012 Hillman Prize for Web journalism.

Lindsay Beyerstein is an award-winning investigative journalist and In These Times staff writer who writes the blog Duly Noted. Her stories have appeared in Newsweek, Salon, Slate, The Nation, Ms. Magazine, and other publications. Her photographs have been published in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times' City Room. She also blogs at The Hillman Blog (http://www.hillmanfoundation.org/hillmanblog), a publication of the Sidney Hillman Foundation, a non-profit that honors journalism in the public interest.

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