The killing of a black teen named Trayvon Martin on Feb. 26, 2012, at the hands of a neighborhood watchman who thought the youth looked suspicious has proven to be one of the most shocking cases in recent memory. While Americans of all racial backgrounds have expressed outrage at George Zimmerman’s fatal shooting of the unarmed youth in a gated community in Sanford, Fla., the case has heightened racial and political tensions. Concerned citizens and civil rights groups have demanded the immediate arrest of Zimmerman, who evaded criminal charges in the months after the shooting by claiming that he killed the teen in self-defense, although Zimmerman’s actions before the killing—including trailing the 17-year-old throughout the area—suggests that he precipitated a confrontation. While many concerned citizens have expressed their dismay with the Trayvon Martin case by taking appropriate measures such as signing petitions and participating in marches, others have lashed out in highly objectionable ways that have only added to the controversy. White supremacist groups, a black radical organization, a white conservative writer, and a black filmmaker arguably exhibited the five most appalling reactions to Trayvon Martin’s murder.
Twitter has been the downfall of so many in the public eye. Now you can add filmmaker Spike Lee to the list. After Trayvon Martin’s murder, Lee tweeted an address in March 2012 he thought belonged to killer George Zimmerman to his more than 240,000 followers. In fact, the address he sent out was wrong and belonged to a couple in their 70s forced to abandon their home after being threatened and harassed by people who thought Zimmerman lived there. “I Deeply Apologize To The McClain Family For Retweeting Their Address. It Was A Mistake. Please Leave The McClain's In Peace,” Lee tweeted after the mix-up. He also paid the couple, David and Elaine McClain, an undisclosed sum of money for their trouble. How did Lee come by the couple’s address? Yahoo! News reported that he retweeted information that Los Angeles resident Marcus Davonne Higgins sent out to a number of celebrities, encouraging them and others to “REACH OUT & TOUCH” Zimmerman.
While thousands of Americans have taken to the streets to demand George Zimmerman’s arrest, they wouldn’t dare take the law into their own hands to get justice for Trayvon. The New Black Panther Party (NBPP) is an exception, however. The radical group, which is unaffiliated with the historic Black Panthers, offered a $10,000 bounty for the capture of Zimmerman during a March protest. When an Orlando Sentinel reporter asked if the bounty would incite violence, NBPP representative Mikhail Muhammad replied, “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.” Trayvon Martin’s parents, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, have said that they won’t a peaceful investigation into their son’s death.
“the talk” black parents have with their children about interactions with law enforcement and others in authority. John Derbyshire, a columnist for the National Review, decided to put his spin on the issue. He wrote a piece for Taki’s Magazine in April 2012 about the talk parents of white and Asian children should give them. His advice included a series of the most offensive stereotypes about African Americans. Stay away from large groups of blacks, he warned repeatedly. He also wrote that blacks have lower IQs than other groups and are more antisocial than others. He rounded these stereotypes out by advising his children to befriend the rare African American (in his mind, anyway) who’s actually intelligent. He said that these blacks help whites elude accusations of racial prejudice. His advice not only sparked large public outcry but also led the National Review to fire him.
A white supremacist computer hacker who goes by the name Klanklannon decided to capitalize on Trayvon Martin’s death in March 2012 by hacking into the late teen’s email and social networking accounts and changing the logins and passwords to racial slurs. He posted alleged messages from the youth on the 4chan message board. The messages Klanklannon selected supposedly show that Trayvon smoked marijuana, as if that somehow gave George Zimmerman the license to kill him. According to the gossip website Gawker, Klanklannon neglected the number of messages in Trayvon’s account related to his interest in applying to college and studying aeronautics.
A Neo-Nazi group called the National Socialist Movement (NSM) declared in April 2012 that it was coming to the aid of whites in Sanford, Fla., the town where Zimmerman took Trayvon Martin’s life. Jeff Schoep, a commander in the group, said that armed NSM members were patrolling neighborhoods in Sanford to keep whites safe in case a race riot broke out. “We are not advocating any type of violence or attacks on anybody, but we are prepared for it,” Schoep told the Miami New Times. “We are not the type of white people who are going to be walked all over.” It’s unclear which party in the Trayvon Martin case is trying to walk all over white people. The slain youth’s supporters, which include members of all races, have simply asked that his killer be arrested. Moreover, Schoep acknowledged that murderer George Zimmerman is a person of color with a white American father and a Peruvian mother, so it’s unclear exactly why Neo-Nazis decide to arrive in Florida other than to use the tragic killing of a black teen to draw attention to themselves.