I AM TRAYVON MARTIN . . . Examining the history of negatively profiling black males

Posted on March 24, 2012

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Trayvon Martin.

Trayvon Martin, dead at age 17

Emmet Till.

Emmet Till, murdered at age 14

Though their stories are not the same, they have a few things in common. Both were young, African American males who never reached adulthood. There are other similarities, such as both were unarmed. And both were victims of someone else’s decision to be their judge, jury and executioner.

But they are not alone. America has a shameful and sad history of acting first, then asking questions later. As in decades later.

Read the Look Magazine account of Emmet Till, his killers confessions and their acquittal

A lynching in Marion, Indiana 1930. The ultimate price black men paid during segregation

 

 

While there can and will be debate on the motive in the Trayvon Martin case,  and whether Martin’s untimely passing was murder, one thing cannot be disputed. Teenager  Trayvon Martin is dead. And his life was taken by a man named George Zimmerman. And, the point that I’d like to address  is that no arrest has been made, even though experts and even the person who helped frame the STAND YOUR GROUND law states it does not apply in this case.

So why has there still been no arrest? Why has George Zimmerman been allowed to remain free?

And yes, I’m well aware of the counter argument of black on black crime. But that’s not the issue here, and its offensive to pull that rationale out to deflect the outrage in this particular case,  when the discussion has to to with whether this young man’s confessed assailant has not even been ARRESTED.

A young man is DEAD for no other reason than he was targeted as being a suspicious person, which is a historical norm in America. Instead of following the instructions of the 911 operator, Zimmerman chose to behave as if he were an officer of the law, following Martin as the teen attempted to flee, until it resulted in a life changing event for both of them and their loved ones. A physical confrontation. It’s also important to note that Zimmerman was armed with a 9mm  handgun. Trayvon Martin had a bag of Skittles and a bottle of Iced Tea.

 

 

Cartoon by Signe Wilkinson

But the larger narrative is how African American males are viewed in this nation. Or negatively profiled.

Troubled Heritage showing the black brute character on its cover

“Color still determines whether, by men, a man shall be dealt with as a man or a beast.” – Jeremy Bentham, Colonies, Commerce, and Constitutional Law: rid Yourselves of Ultramaria and Other Writings on Spain and Spanish America, ed. Philip Schofield (Oxford: Clarendon, 1995, Pg 130)

 

Betty Page surrounded by the Brute stereotype

Intra-racism with the Black Brute Stereotype

Van Heusen Ad

Controversial feminist book, which divided black and white bloggers. Notice the white male is saved from the black brute stereotype

For more on the controversial book see this post:

http://acriticalreviewofthehelp.wordpress.com/2011/10/13/dear-white-feminists-same-excuses-used-for-the-hel/

 

 

 

ACLU of New Jersey Files Turnpike Racial Profiling Lawsuit

July 10, 2007

” NEWARK, NJ – The American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey today filed a lawsuit on behalf of Willie Nevius, an African American driver who was improperly stopped by police and searched on the New Jersey Turnpike . . .

. . . The rate of stops of African American drivers on portions of the New Jersey Turnpike are as high now as they were when New Jersey’s attorney general first admitted that racial profiling was ‘real, not imagined,'” said noted civil rights lawyer William Buckman of Moorestown, who represents Nevius pro bono for the ACLU of New Jersey.”

Link: http://www.aclu.org/racial-justice/aclu-new-jersey-files-turnpike-racial-profiling-lawsuit

 

 

 

Negative Profiling can be done by any race, and intra-racism is also common. The Nivea ad below was reportedly created by a minority, yet the sad history of advertising in America, which routinely portrays black males as violent, or uncivilized brutes may not have registered with its creator.

Controversial "Civilize Yourself" Ad

And  what also must be noted is how the benefit of the doubt, and empathy usually does not go in favor of a black male. But in the Trayvon Martin case, it seems there finally has been a change.  **UPDATE**

“Blaming the victim” has already started:

The website Twitchy apologized for this erroneous photo that they claimed was Trayvon:

Twitchy media issues apology to Martin family for this erroneous photo. They'd initially claimed it was Trayvon.
Red and black wording is mine

Link:http://twitchy.com/2012/03/25/why-teamdueprocess-is-important-for-justice/

Media articles:

” . . . Martin, 17, was suspended by Miami-Dade County schools after the residue was discovered in a plastic baggie in the book bag, spokesman Ryan Julison said.

“We maintain that regardless of the specific reason for the suspension, it’s got nothing to do with the events that unfolded on Feb. 26,” Julison said.

On that date an unarmed Martin was shot by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman. Martin was visiting this central Florida town with his father while he was suspended from school.

Also Monday, state Department of Juvenile Justice confirmed that Martin does not have a juvenile offender record. The information came after a public records request by The Associated Press. “

Link: Trayvon Martin suspension 

” . . . The Miami Herald reported that Martin was suspended two other times from school. The first time was for missing school or being late.

In October, Martin was suspended with friends for writing “W.T.F.” on a hallway locker, according to a school report obtained by the Herald. A security guard looking through his backpack for the graffiti marker and instead found women’s rings and earrings and a screwdriver, described by the staffer as a “burglary tool.”

Ben Crump, an attorney for Martin’s parents, told the Herald they had never heard about the bag of jewelry.

“And anyway, it’s completely irrelevant to what happened Feb. 26,” Crump told the Miami Herald. “They never heard this and don’t believe it’s true. If it were true, why wouldn’t they call the parents? Why wasn’t he arrested?”

Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, suggested in comments at a news conference that the marijuana residue report was aimed at smearing her dead child.

“They killed my son and now they’re trying to kill his reputation,” she said.

Toxicology test results were still pending on the body of Martin, 17, who was shot Feb. 26 inside a gated community in the central Florida city of Sanford by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman. Martin was visiting his father in Sanford while he was suspended by Miami-Dade schools. He was unarmed.

Zimmerman has not been charged in Martin’s death and claims self-defense.

He told police that Martin knocked him down with a single punch and slammed his head into the sidewalk several times before he shot him, according to The Orlando Sentinel.”

Link: Trayvon Martin was suspended three times from school


I will make every attempt to try to limit the hyperbole. Since this case is so tragic, its solid research that’s needed instead of spin. Especially to show why the stereotyping of African American males has a sad history in this country, and why even “beloved” novels like The Help, inadvertently though it may be, continue this trend.

I wasn’t going to wade into this, not until I read how Geraldo Rivera had inserted himself, as if somehow an item of clothing was the trigger in Trayvon Martin’s death, and not the man who admitted to pulling the trigger. There’s also the foot in mouth of Newt Gingrich, whose timing is truly off, as he blasted President Obama for answering a reporter’s question on the Trayvon Martin investigation hours before his own political party, in a rare show of solidarity came out with a statement that Newt has been strangely silent on. And here I was thinking I wouldn’t mind seeing Gingrich and Obama in a debate. It’s important to note that Gingrich had a major problem with Obama’s personal response of  “. . . if I had a son, he would look like Trayvon.”

However, since Gingrich had no opinion on the matter until the president did, his own comments warrant a HUH?

Transcript:

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  My main message is to the parents of Trayvon Martin.  You know, if I had a son he would look like Trayvon and, you know, I think they are right to expect that all of us as Americans are going to take this with the seriousness it deserves and that we’re going to get to the bottom of exactly what happened.

Link: http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1203/23/cnr.03.html

 

 

Miami Heat show solidarity for Trayvon Martin and his family

In an effort for full disclosure, I do wear a hoodie on occasion. I find them especially useful when its chilly or raining outside. And I fully intend to continue wearing one, even as a brown complexioned African American female.

Trayvon Martin was shot and killed on Feb. 26th in Sanford, Florida. His body sat in a morgue for three days, as his family attempted to search for their loved one (according to Martin’s father, in an interview with NBC). No arrest and detainment has been made, even though the self-admitted shooter was identified. His name is George Zimmerman.

George Zimmerman, age 28

Here’s the background on Zimmerman, per David Ovalle of The Miami Herald:

“. . . In 2005, according to an arrest report, a state agent arrested Zimmerman for battery on a law enforcement officer and obstructing justice. According to the report, agents with Florida’s Alcohol Beverage and Tobacco division were arresting several employees near the University of Central Florida.

Agent Paul Fleishman wrote that Zimmerman walked up to a pal under arrest and began chatting, refusing to leave. Zimmerman cursed him, Fleishman wrote, before pushing him and causing a “short struggle.”

The charge was later dropped when Zimmerman entered a “pre-trial diversion” program, which is not unusual for first-time offenders. The program usually entails paying fines and taking classes for anger management.

Zimmerman — in applying to enter the citizens’ police academy — later disputed the official version of the event, insisting that the agent never identified himself. “I hold law enforcement officers in the highest regaurd [sic] as I hope to one day become. I would never have touched a police officer,” Zimmerman wrote.

Before the case was resolved, he was also involved in a domestic dispute with his ex-fiancée, hair salon employee Veronica Zauzo.

Zauzo claimed Zimmerman was trolling her neighborhood to check on her. At her apartment, they spoke for about an hour when she asked him to leave. He asked for some photos and paperwork and she refused.

A pushing match ensued and her dog jumped up and bit him on the cheek, Zauzo claimed. Zimmerman, in a petition filed the next day, painted her as the aggressor, wanting him to stay the night.

“She accused me of going to another woman’s house or going to party,” wrote Zimmerman, who said Zauzo slapped, clawed and choked him.

In their petitions, both included previous allegations of violence. In the end, an Orange County circuit judge ordered them to stay away from each other for more than a year, according to court records. No charges were filed.

His domestic troubles continued in October 2007, when Zimmerman called police to report that the tires of his Dodge Durango were slashed and he suspected his girlfriend’s ex-boyfriend . . . “

So what caused Zimmerman to single out Martin?

There had been burglaries in the gated complex. Two young African American males had been arrested in connection with the rash of burglaries.

George Zimmerman was a self appointed “Watch Captain” in the community, living there with his father. On this rainy night, Trayvon Martin and his father were visiting someone in the gated community. They were watching an NBA game. At some point Martin goes to the store and purchases items (Skittles and Iced Tea) and as he’s making his way back, Zimmerman notices him and believes he looks suspicious. Here are a few compilations of his 911 call, along with links:

“This guy looks like he`s up to no good or he`s on drugs or something.”

The dispatcher immediately asks, “Is he white, black or Hispanic?”

George Zimmerman responds, “He looks black.”

Continue reading on Examiner.com Does George Zimmerman’s 911 call prove racial profiling, hate crime (videos) – National US Headlines | Examiner.com http://www.examiner.com/us-headlines-in-national/does-george-zimmerman-s-911-call-prove-racial-profiling-hate-crime-videos#ixzz1q2n52nzy

          

 

 

 

GEORGE ZIMMERMAN: This guy looks like he’s up to no good or he’s on drugs or something. It’s raining, and he’s just walking around, looking about.

911 DISPATCHER: OK. And this guy, is he white, black or Hispanic?

GEORGE ZIMMERMAN: He looks black.

911 DISPATCHER: Did you see what he was wearing?

GEORGE ZIMMERMAN: Yeah, a dark hoodie, like a grey hoodie, and either jeans or sweatpants and white tennis shoes.

911 DISPATCHER: Are you following him?

GEORGE ZIMMERMAN: Yeah.

911 DISPATCHER: OK, we don’t need you to do that.”

Link: http://www.democracynow.org/2012/3/20/walking_while_black_florida_police_resist

For the PDF Transcript of the call, click full-transcript-zimmerman (Please note, the controversial “F***ng Coons” is redacted in this version, as are other words which are debated as being inaudible.

 

 

 

Here’s a link to the statements of residents who called 911 reporting a male shouting for help, and their recording conversations with 911 operators:

Local affliliate FOX Station reports a different witness account:

. . .The shooting happened just after 7 p.m. Sunday evening on Twin Trees  Lane.  A man who witnessed part of the altercation contacted  authorities.

“The guy on the bottom, who had a red sweater on, was yelling to me, ‘Help!  Help!’ and I told him to stop, and I was calling 911,” said the witness, who  asked to be identified only by his first name, John.

John said he locked his patio door, ran upstairs and heard at least one gun  shot.

“And then, when I got upstairs and looked down, the guy who was on the top  beating up the other guy, was the one laying in the grass, and I believe he was  dead at that point.”

Read more: http://www.myfoxorlando.com/dpp/news/seminole_news/022712-man-shot-and-killed-in-neighborhood-altercation#ixzz1q2uHg3eR

 

 

 

And here’s what Trayvon Martin’s friend states, as this is the last known call he made before his death:

“He said this man was watching him, so he put his hoodie on. He said he  lost the man,” Martin’s friend said. “I asked Trayvon to run, and he  said he was going to walk fast. I told him to run but he said he was not  going to run.”

Eventually he would run, said the girl, thinking that he’d managed to  escape. But suddenly the strange man was back, cornering Martin.

“Trayvon said, ‘What, are you following me for,’ and the man said, ‘What  are you doing here.’ Next thing I hear is somebody pushing, and  somebody pushed Trayvon because the head set just fell. I called him  again and he didn’t answer the phone.”

Link: http://abcnews.go.com/US/trayvon-martin-death-friend-phone-teen-death-recounts/story?id=15959017#.T2iJ48zBp7w

 

 

 

From ABCnews.com:

On one call to a non-emergency dispatch number, according to Julison, Zimmerman says, “He’s checking me out,” and then, “This guy looks like he’s on drugs, he’s definitely messed up.”

“There’s a real suspicious guy. This guy looks like he’s up to no good, on drugs or something,” Zimmerman can be heard telling the dispatcher.

“These a**holes always get away,” he adds.

The dispatcher is heard trying to discourage Zimmerman, asking, “Are you following him?.. Okay, we don’t need you to do that.”

Within minutes, however, 911 calls are being made to police reporting the two are fighting.

“They’re wrestling right in the back of my porch,” one frantic caller says. “The guy’s yelling help and I’m not going out.”

On a second call someone’s screams for help can be heard and what sounds like two gunshots.

The caller’s boyfriend shouts, “Get down,” and after the second apparent gunshot  the shouts for help cease,  Julison told ABC News.

“There’s gun shots. Uh, I’m pretty sure the guy is dead out here, holy sh**,” a caller says into the phone.

One witness describes Zimmerman after the shooting.

“He’s out there with a flashlight. The guy is raising his hands up saying he shot the person,” the caller said.

Martin’s family listened to eight tapes, Julison said. At one point, Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon’s mother, ran out of the room screaming and crying, barely lasting through half the tapes.

The boy’s father, Tracey Martin, stoic and measured until then, erupted, Julison said.

“He killed my son,” Martin said, according to Julison. “He killed my son. He couldn’t control himself.”

The Sanford, Fla., Police Department, relenting to massive public pressure, plans to release parts of the 911 tapes pertaining to the shooting, multiple sources told ABC News.

But police wanted the boy’s family to hear the tapes before they were released to the public, a family source told ABC News.

A week after ABC News uncovered questionable police conduct in the investigation of the fatal shooting, including the alleged “correction” of at least one eyewitness’ account, outrage that the shooter remains free is intensifying.

“It’s surprising. It’s shocking,” said Tracy Martin, Trayvon’s father.  “It lets me know that justice is just not being served here. All we want is justice for our son. We’re not asking for anything out of the ordinary.”

In an interview with ABC News, Martin’s mother,  Fulton, tearfully said she only seeks an arrest.

“Let a judge and jury decide the rest,” she added.

 

Link: http://abcnews.go.com/US/treyvon-martin-neighborhood-watch-shooting-911-tapes-send/story?id=15937881

So many what if’s? None of which can change what happened, or bring back a life.


Here’s what the investigation will (hopefully) be able to determine:

Was Zimmerman’s weapon confiscated or is he still in possession of it?

Who was actually shouting for help? Zimmerman, Martin or at some point, BOTH?

Was Martin shot in the back, or front? And was he attempting to flee when Zimmerman pulled his weapon? When did Zimmerman pull his weapon? In the initial contact, or after Martin may have fought back?

 

 

Was the STAND YOUR GROUND law misapplied by both the police force of Sanford and George Zimmerman?

Under the law, couldn’t it also be applied to Trayvon Martin, who may have had a reasonable fear for his life after being accosted by Zimmerman?

Ironically, George Zimmerman is now fearful for his own life, after receiving death threats. His attorney states Zimmerman is in hiding.  Sort of like how Martin feared for his life and hid, though I suspect Zimmerman will get more than Martin got. A chance to tell his side of the story.

Six years ago in New York, Shawn Bell lost his life based on his “demeanor” as per his fiance Nicole Bell, who was a guest on MSNBC’s Melissa Harris Perry’s show. Police officers, some of whom were also African American, followed Bell and his friends based on their demeanor and a shooting occurred. Just this week the African American officer who fired the first shot was dismissed from the police force. Unlike what would have happened in the Trayvon Martin case had there not been such a public outcry, in the Bell case there was a trial. What can be learned from all this, is that taking one man’s word over a loss of life is far too simple and should, at the very least be investigated.

Yet that’s what would have happened, if not for Trayvon’s family demanding justice.

Time Magazine has an article which references the STAND YOUR GROUND LAW, The Trayvon Martin case and  a Tampa man (African American) who shot a white male and whether his arrest shows racial disparity in the law. The facts are different, however, there was an arrest made, and that is the point.

Link: http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2109511,00.html

 

 

Under the police department’s current enforcement  and interpretation of the law, police fail to detain for an investigation and possible trial an individual who invokes STAND YOUR GROUND.

The individual invokes the law, and the police make the decision, based on the information they get from the individual who did the shooting. So in this case, whether the shooting was justified or not was left up to a police force which has already has a questionable call in its history and allegations of racial profiling, as well as other complaints from those of color.

So there’s no wavering on Probable Cause. Zimmerman was granted the right to leave after taking a life, no questions asked, because he stated he felt threatened. In addition, it’s reported (though no hospital record or photo has been released)  Zimmerman sustained injuries in the altercation with Trayvon Martin. His injuries reportedly included a bloody nose (his lawyer states his nose was broken) and a head wound.

So now, how did Zimmerman get those wounds? Could it be in his pursuit and struggle with Martin?

After the 911 tapes were released, why is it that the police still chose not to pursue an arrest? That is part of the justice the family of Trayvon Martin is seeking.

So for all those bloggers and commentors claiming that this case has been blown out of proportion and “What about when that black guy shot and killed . . .”

What they fail to note is, “That black guy” was arrested and charged and rarely is released. Even if there were no STAND YOUR GROUND LAW, George Zimmerman may still have been released after an arrest and questioning, because in far too many cases, the black male is looked upon as the aggressor, simply because of who he is. A black male.

 

 

 

A Climate of Fear and Bias

In whatever respect the African differs from the European, the particularity brings him nearer to the ape” – quote from Charles White, from his text  Account of the Regular Gradation in Man and in Different Animals and Vegetables, From the former to the latter (London 1799 Pg 1-52, 63, 64, 67)

“This exodus of Negroes from the South, and their influx into the great metropolitan centers of other areas of the Nation, has been accompanied by a wave of crime . . . What has civil rights accomplished for these areas? . . . Segregation is the only answer as most Americans-not the politicians-have realized for hundreds of years” – quote of Representative John Bell Williams 1960 U. S. Hourse Congressional record  86th Congress, 2nd session 106,pt. 45062-63. Referenced in Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow Pg 41

 

I recall similar claims when some residents displaced by Hurricane Katrina resettled in other areas. There was an allegation of higher crime rates (though no firm statistics were presented).

This isn’t something new. From literature, to film, to television the face of crime is usually cast as black or brown (when directors need scenes of urban decay, they generally show stereotypical black and hispanic characters). And when its necessary to make the point of someone being even more sinister, darkening their skin color may be employed.

 

Controversy. The mug shot of OJ Simpson, over darkened for Time cover

Some well known cases where black males were stereotyped:

Rodney King. One of the excuses for his beating was that the officers were “afraid” or in fear for their lives dues to his erratic behavior. As a result he was beaten, tasered, beaten, tasered, beaten . . .

 


Susan Smith. Smith’s story of a black male carjacking her was given wide credence in 1994. Later it was determined that she in fact had murdered her two sons. She’s currently in jail.

 

Charles Stuart of Boston, Massachusettsin 1989 claimed that he, and his wife Carol (she was pregnant at the time) had been shot by an unknown black male. The city was in a grip of fear. Black males feared retribution and being wrongly accused, while the residents were in terror that the assailant would strike again. Stuart committed suicide once his brother revealed the mystery shooter was Charles himself.

The belief that if one African American male commits a crime, it means that all African American males commit crimes or at the very least, are more prone to is still prevalent. 

Ironically, Kathryn Stockett’s much beloved and lauded novel The Help contains black male characters that continue to feed into the notion that . . .

Let me stop there. I think its best to go right to the source. For while Dreamworks and Disney didn’t walk away with the best picture prize at The Oscars, one or both (not sure which) is still pimping The Help as if its something to be treasured. When in actuality, both the book and the film are guilty of fostering the very stereotypes African Americans have complained against for years. The fight not to be typecast, especially our fathers, brothers, husbands, and sons. Surely Stockett knew this, as the author made certain that her major white male characters were granted a “twist” as in “though they practiced segregation, they’re not really bad. It’s just how it was back then.”

Yet the author had no problem portraying several of the black males she created in a negative light. No redeeming “twists” for them.

 

From the novel:

How can I love a man who beats me raw? Why do I love a fool drinker? One time I asked him, Why? Why are you hitting me? He leaned down and looked me right in the eye.

“If I didn’t hit you, Minny, who knows what you become.” (Leroy explaining to Minny why he feels the need to beat her ass whenever it suits him. Pg 413)

 

I AM A MAN. The march meant to have America recognize that fact

 

 

The film wisely omitted many of the offending depictions, all except Leroy, the black brute stereotype. Imagine that in a state (Mississippi) which history shows was one of the most repressive and brutal during segregation (from lynchings, assaults on black males and females, to the imprisonment of African Americans) the character of Leroy is singled out to implement brutality, while the white male characters Kathryn Stockett created were marketed overseas as “Handsome Good Ole Boys” and “Southern Dreamboats.” And yet this motley crew won SAG awards, in an industry where there’s not a stereotype Hollywood doesn’t love.

Click images for a larger view:

"A Handsome Good Ole Boy" You've got to be kidding

That "Southern Gentleman" and "Dreamboat" Johnny Foote

 

 

 

While its true that not all southern males were card carrying members of the White Citizens Council, it was inexcusable for the author, her publisher and those behind the movie to focus on making the white males swoon worthy, while making the maids matronly, but more important, separating the black male from the black female, as if the black male was some sort of “burden” and they needed to be apart.

Think about it. Because just like in the movie, Aibileen is alone in the novel. And many readers (and moviegoers) are just fine with this absurd, Mammyish premise. But Stockett just doesn’t do this with one character. No, she does it with Constantine also. And by the end of the novel and the film Minny is also separated from her abusive mate Leroy (whose abusive storyline was a bust, since she behaves like a standup comedian in the book and the film. The end result is that all three maids are separated from a male. Let me state this again, because this is vital. It’s crucial to understanding how Stockett’s novel, for all the accolades thrown its way went terribly wrong, and some people were fine with what had been done.  ALL THREE MAIDS ARE SEPARATED FROM THE MALES IN THEIR LIVES.

Not just separated, but the males are insultingly labeled.
I’m not talking about Medgar Evers. I’m talking about the fictional black male characters paired with the maids. From Connor, the absentee father of Lulabelle and ex-lover of Constantine, (,mention of him is omitted in the film, and Lulabelle is renamed Rachel) to Clyde, the absentee father of Treelore and spouse of Aibileen, the wife he abandoned, to Leroy, the verbally and physically abusive mate of Mammy lite I mean Minny, the “sassy” maid.

The black male, in many writings by southern authors is devalued and demeaned. And in The Help, a novel that many loved so because it presented a rose colored sisterhood of sorts. The one thing many readers both white and black missed was just how badly the males paired with the maids were crafted, especially in light of how the white males paired with Skeeter  and her friends were given a “twist” or an excuse for their behavior.

From the novel, examples of how black males are singled out and negatively portrayed:

 

“Plenty of black men leave their families behind like trash in a dump. but that’s just not something the colored woman do. We’re got the kids to think about.” (Minny, Page 311, making a far reaching and offensive statement on black males. No white female character makes an assertion even close to what Stockett has Minny stating, as the author’s attempt to channel a black woman falls on stereotype)

As usual, Minny’s house be like a chicken coop on fire. Minny be hollering, things be flinging around, all the kids squawking. I see the first hint a Minny’s belly under her dress and I’m grateful she finally showing. Leroy, he don’t hit Minny when she pregnant. And Minny know this so I spec they’s gone be a lot more babies after this one. (Aibileen, Page 396)

We start calling his daddy Crisco cause you can’t fancy up a man done run off on his family. Plus he the greasiest no-count you ever known. (Aibileen, Pg 5)

Minny calls her father a drunk and “tells” the reader that he’s no good on Pg 38. Yet Skeeter gushes about her father, her suitor and just about every white male in the book, save for the naked pervert who’s only called a “fool” when he jacks off, punches Minny in the head and calls her a “fat black nigger.”

This scene was merged in the film, with Minny meeting and doing slap stick as she runs from Johnny Foote, who is an avid collector of Confederate Memorabilia.

Clyde. Leroy. Connor. Minny’s father. All these men are negatively labeled. Clyde and Connor are paired with Aibileen and Constantine respectively, and both abandon them. Stockett has the maids more than willing to live out the rest of their lives as asexual hermits, lavishing love on Mae Mobley and Skeeter. Aibileen calls Minny’s husband “a fool” but the biggest fool is Minny, who’s introduced in the novel this way:

I spot Minny in the back center seat,. Minny short and big, got shiny black curls. She setting with her legs splayed, her thick arms crossed.  . . Minny could probably lift this bus up over her head if she wanted to. (Aibileen describing Minny, Pg 13)

So the reader is introduced to Minny as a short, fat woman sitting on a bus with her legs wide open.

And some wonder why these characters are considered offensive.

 

Yet Stockett does not label the white males she creates in the novel this broadly. On the contrary, the author paints the segregationist white males in the book favoriably, with Skeeter telling the reader this about her father on Pg 82: He is too honest a man to hide things

 

Of Stuart, the man who eventually dumps her and is just fine with segregation like most of the characters in the novel He is a good man, Stuart (speaking of Stuart Whitworth her beau on Pg 382)

 

Constantine’s father (whose white) never marries her mother yet has a number of bi-racial children that he can’t take care of. Yet when he cries and apologizes to Constantine for her plight, he’s given a pass of sorts (words in bold are my doing):

 

“Oh my daddy looooved me. Always said I was his favorite.” She leaned back in her chair. “He used to come over to the house ever Saturday afternoon, and one time, he give me a set of ten hair ribbons, ten different colors . . . one time I was boo-hooing over hard feelings, I reckon I had a list of things to be upset about, being poor, cold baths, rotten tooth, I don’t know. But he held me by the head, hugged me to him for the longest time. When I looked up he was crying too and he . . . did that thing I do to you so you know I mean it. Press his thumb up in my hand and he say . . . he sorry.” (Constantine, Pg 67)

 

Stockett even decides to tell the reader that Senator “Stoolie” Whitworth is a trapped man. Deep inside he really doesn’t agree with the out spoken pro-segregation Governor, though Stockett has Stoolie standing shoulder to shoulder with Governor Ross Barnett as they block James Meredith from entering Ole Miss. No, Stoolie is only doing the will of his constituents by being so hardlined against integration. Here’s what Stuart says to Skeeter (Skeeter speaks first as Stuart responds):

“But your father, at the table. He said he thought Ross Barnett was wrong.”

“You know that’s not the way it works. It doesn’t matter what he believes. It’s what Missisippi believes. He’s running for the U. S. Senate this fall and I’m unfortunate enough to know that.” (Skeeter and Stuart, Pg 273)

The above sections are from a prior post on this site:

http://acriticalreviewofthehelp.wordpress.com/2011/03/07/the-help-useless-to-african-americans/


During the period Stockett has her novel set in, integration was vehemently opposed by those in the Southern states. But it wasn’t simply because of bigotry. Keep in mind that retaining African Americans in subservient roles and jobs, thereby limiting their upward progress resulted in retaining laborers who were paid little to nothing and who worked long hours without hope of a pension in their waning years. For as Stockett readily admits, though her beloved Demetrie cooked and looked after Stockett and her siblings she was still performing her duties under the oppression of Jim Crow.

And there’s also this admission in a UK interview with Jessamy Calkin of the Telegraph:

. . . Stockett is telling me about her grandparents, who played a big part in her life when she was a child. Her grandmother Caroline grew up in Shanghai in a family of missionaries (‘Grandmother went over there with her family to save the souls of the heathens’), returning to Mississippi when war broke out. ‘She came back to settle down and start a family with a very strict idea of how things should be between people of colour, coming from Shanghai, where there was no middle class. And of course that is exactly how Mississippi did things, so she fitted right in.’

She married Kathryn’s grandfather, Robert Stockett Sr, and employed a maid called Demetrie to bring up their two sons, one of whom was Kathryn’s father, Robert Jr. (‘We call them maids,’ Kathryn says. ‘I’m told that’s not PC now; we should call them housekeepers.’) Robert Stockett Sr was an equestrian and he ran a stable, with retired horses given to him by the Southern Cavalry. Everyone in Mississippi knew about Stockett’s Stables. ‘It was a place where people gathered; a lot of older men came there to sit on the porch and talk; people would say that there were more laws made on the porch of Stockett Stables than in the state capital.’

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/5844739/The-maids-tale-Kathryn-Stockett-examines-slavery-and-racism-in-Americas-Deep-South.html

 

Newspaper editor Alex Wilson being attacked by group of bigots

The kick seen 'round the world. Alex Wilson is attacked by mob and the world finally sees what African Americans subjected to.

Interview by Lonnae O’Neal Parker for the Washington Post.com

“ ‘People say, ‘Oh, my God, I can’t believe she would try to represent black women that way.’ Demetrie didn’t go past sixth grade. She lived in a shack. I wasn’t trying to represent a whole race or people,’ she says.”

” ‘I have a Hispanic housekeeper now, and I don’t speak Spanish, so there’s not a whole lot of intimacy there. I have a nanny from Georgia, and she’s white and she brings her daughter.’  They are great friends and work well together, but neither relationship exists in the same fraught cocoon as those ‘help’ relationships in the Old South.’ “

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/08/12/AR2010081206721_2.html?sid=ST2010081302928

 
“Demetrie lived in a shack”

Hmm . . . . to which I reply, Stockett’s grandparents were well off, so there was no need for such a valued member of her “family” to receive so little compensation. However the author is candid in admitting her grandparents practiced segregation well after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was enacted. Readers should be aware that Kathryn Stockett was born in 1969 and the author was quoted in public interviews and at the end of her book revealing this:

“But my older and brother and sister and I weren’t allowed to bother Demetrie during her own lunch break. Grandmother wanted Demetrie to rest so she could finish her work, not to mention, white people didn’t sit at the table while a colored person was eating.

That was just a normal part of life., the rules between blacks and whites. As a little girl, seeing black people in the colored part of town, even if they were dressed up or doing fine, I remember pitying them, I am so embarassed to admit that now.

I didn’t pity Demetrie, though. There were several years when I thought she was immensely lucky to have us. A secure job in a nice house, cleaning up after Christian people. But also because Demetrie had no babies of her own, and we felt like we were filling a void in her life.”  Pg 448 of The Help hardcover, Too Little Too Late

Here are her additional words in the interview during 2009 with Jessamy Calkin of the UK site The Telegraph.com (words in bold are my doing):

“The Stockett family went to Demetrie’s funeral, it was the first time Stockett had been to a black church. ‘I’d never had any interaction with black people except those who worked for our family. And I couldn’t believe how overt their emotions were. There were people speaking out during the sermon, joining in, agreeing with the eulogy, singing loud solos impromptu… but what really struck me as heartbreaking was how Demetrie’s husband was carrying on.’

‘Demetrie’s husband was called Plunk, and he was drunk and abusive, so much so that she slept with a pistol underneath her pillow. ‘As I understand it he beat the crap out of her, but at the funeral this man was wandering the aisles, screaming, fainting from heartbreak that Demetrie was dead, calling out her name and throwing himself at the coffin – people were dragging him away, soothing him. It horrified our family. I was 16. I kept my eyes open and my mouth shut.’ “

Link: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/5844739/The-maids-tale-Kathryn-Stockett-examines-slavery-and-racism-in-Americas-Deep-South.html

 

Sorry, but imo Stockett’s upbringing seeped into her writing. So while some people (both black and white) lavished praise over the novel, even though it contains the antebellum myth of black folks just loving their white employers because that’s how Mammies and Uncle Tom’s do, no matter how they’re treated. Oh, and the “Sassy” funny maid is supposed to give a measure of payback because she’s just so sassy with her jokes about white people.

I highly doubt it’s any comfort or payback. In addition, there’s the Medgar Evers error in the novel and also the author’s own gaffe when asked about the time period, where she claims in not one, not tow, but three known audio interviews that Evers was “bludgeoned” to death. See more on this embarassing error here

Error on Evers in the Paperback version of The Help

Between Stockett and her good friend Tate Taylor (who wrote the screenplay and directed the film, and is also mentioned by first name in this offensive inner dialogue by the book’s resident asexual Mammy, Aibileen) the whitewashing of films and adding “humor” to a shameful period in American history rears its ugly head yet again:

Tate Forrest, one a my used to be babies long time ago, stop me on the way tot he jitney just last week . . . he start laughing and telling memoring how I’d do him when he was a boy.  . .  And how I told him don’t drink coffee or he gone turn colored. He say he still ain’t drunk a cup a coffee and he twenty-one years old. It’s always nice to see the kids grown  up fine. (Aibileen, Pg 91)


Some readers probably had a good chuckle over this scene, but this demeaning joke originated with bigoted whites. The taint of “turning colored” was a slur, so I guess its only fitting it come from the mouth of Aibileen, who lords over the white children she raises and seems to obsess over Mae Mobley, yet Stockett has her ignoring the violence Minny’s children go through on a daily basis with their bossy, sharp tongue mother Minny, and their violent father Leroy.

 

Aibileen and Mae Mobley

Cicely Tyson as Constantine in film version of The Help, coddling a young Skeeter

So just add the character of Minny to Disney’s ever growing list of once popular, stereotypical characters like:

Uncle Remus from Disney’s The Song of the South (Actor James Baskett won a special actor for the role, but its reported he was not able to attend the premiere or walk the red carpet because of his race).

Aibileen's folksy sayings and demeanor resemble Uncle Remus from Disney's Song of The Song

The dancing, jive talking crows from Dumbo

Crows from Dumbo. One was actually named Jim Crow

Sunflower, the bossy child centaurette who performed shoe shining and domestic duties for the white centaurettes (this character was deleted from later versions of the film, now on DVD)

Sunflower, the stereotypical centaurette from Disney's Fantasia. Kindra is another stereotypical depiction of a black child

And now there’s Minny, the updated Mammy for a new generation played by Octavia Spencer,  with her Oscar winning delivery of lines such as “Eat my Shit!” and “Frying chicken make you tend to feel better about life.”

 

Minny the Mammy, at the door with an apology and a shit pie for Hilly

For additional issues with The Help, see the post below:

http://acriticalreviewofthehelp.wordpress.com/ten-issues-that-tarnish-the-help/

**UPDATE **

Here’s a link to a copy of the Sanford police report. Of special note is that Zimmerman is described as a white male.

Link: http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2012/images/03/28/sanford_files/PoliceReports.pdf

**CNN has a video tape of George Zimmerman handcuffed and being escorted into the police station. As I watch the video, he doesn’t appear to have injuries consistent with a broken nose (as was his attorney’s assertion) or blood stains on his clothes from any injuries. The video isn’t crystal clear, but there’s enough clarity to show Zimmerman is walking and talking just fine, and seems no worse from a violent fight. This could be very damaging to his story, since the original police report states Zimmerman claimed he was punched by Martin, in an ambush from behind. Zimmerman also stated he sustained injuries as Martin slammed his head into the ground several times.

At some point I wonder what additional injuries Trayvon Martin suffered beyond the gunshot, and is it possible that the punch as well subsequent physical contact was initiated by Zimmerman, and not Martin? This is getting worse and worse, as George Zimmerman’s account comes under more scrutiny. Zimmerman stated he was in a life or death struggle with Martin, yet the video tape (imho) contradicts his earlier account.

Stay tuned for additional updates on this case.

 

 

 

Just read a very good article full of history. Please take a look at this informative and well written piece:

From Emmet Till to Trayvon Martin: How Black Women turn Grief into action

By Barbara McCaskill

 

” . . . Duke University professor Karla F. C. Holloway, has been a longstanding understanding of “the nexus between a black family’s grief and African America’s national experience.” In her 2002 book Passed On: African American Mourning Stories:A Memorial, she describes “African Americans’ particular vulnerability to an untimely death in the United States” and “how wedie a color-coded death—the residue of riots, executions, suicides and targeted medical neglect.” Holloway’s theme is personal: She mourns her own black son’s death by homicide.

In these charged public responses to the private “residue” of death, I’m reminded of another way in which grief and national experience have intersected with black women’s lives. In the late 19th and early 20th century United States, lynch mobs in the South murdered African American men on a weekly basis. As the essays of Gender and Lynching: The Politics of Memory, edited by political scientist Evelyn M. Simien, tell us, African American women and children were also victims of these brutalities.”

 

 

Link: http://msmagazine.com/blog/blog/2012/04/03/from-emmett-till-to-trayvon-martin-how-black-women-turn-grief-into-action/

 

 

Next:

Who will speak up for all the other Trayvons?

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