Carol Swain, professor of law and political science at Vanderbilt University, said black political leaders like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are using the death of Trayvon Martin to stir racial division for political gain.
Swain says she believes most Americans wanted an investigation into the Feb. 26 incident in which George Zimmmerman, 28, shot and killed Martin, 17, while on neighborhood watch. Martin was unarmed and walking to his father’s fiance’s house. Zimmerman claims he was attacked by Martin and shot Martin in self-defense after having his head beat against the pavement.
Swain, who is an expert on race relations, immigration, black leadership and evangelical politics says today’s black leaders “don’t put forth ideas and solutions that advance the cause of black people. Rather, they prefer to heat up the solution.”
Her latest book is called, “Be the People: a Call to Reclaim America’s Faith and Promise.”
Swain says black leaders like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson benefit from depicting the incident as racially motivated so they can use it for voter mobilization. Swain noted there have been voter registration drives at many of the rallies supporting Martin.
In the days following the shooting, the media did everything it could to portray the shooting as a white on black crime, even going so far as to refer to Zimmerman as a white Hispanic.
Zimmerman claims he was following Martin because there been several break-ins in the area lately. Zimmerman claimed Martin confronted him while he was returning to his car and began to assault him. During the assault Zimmerman’s head was repeatedly beat against the sidewalk prompting him to shoot Martin under Florida’s stand-your-ground law.
Under the law, a person in Fl who feels threatened is justified to take self-defense steps rather than be required to run away as is the case in many states without such laws.
NBC took steps to depict Zimmerman as a racist by deliberately doctoring a 911 tape to suggest that the basis for following Martin was because Martin was black.
The New Black Panther Party even put a $10,000 bounty on Zimmerman’s head, an event which received no condemnation or action by President Obama and his Justice Department. Supporters of the President’s actions have defended it saying the bounty was simply a free speech issue.
Swain says attempts by Sharpton and Jackson to inflame the fires of racism could prove to be a deadly game. “We all lose if we have a race war in America. … We’re playing with fire. Once you stir up the emotion, anger and hatred, you can’t just turn it off when convenient.”
Swain said while she does not know whether Zimmerman was motivated by racist attitude when he followed and shot Martin, she does believe black communities would be better served if black leaders were to focus on issues causing the black youths to “head in the wrong direction,” such as drugs, violence and out of wedlock births.
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