Not Paying Tribute to Trayvon Martin Doesn’t Make You Racist

Rachel Décoste, one of my fellow Huffington Post bloggers, generally writes very thoughtful, perceptive and insightful columns for Huffington Post.

The fact that I rarely agree with her points of view is quite irrelevant. I enjoy her style and passion. And I always look forward to reading her opinions.

But I have to take issue with her recent Huffington Post blog, “Racism is Front Page News at the Ottawa Sun,” because she unfairly labels the Ottawa Sun’s handling of Trayvon Martin’s death as racist.

In her article, Décoste says, “In the Sunday edition of the Ottawa Sun, the juxtaposition between the untimely death of two young men and the dismissive commentary on Trayvon Martin serve as yet another example of inequality in our multicultural society.”

Décoste alleges that the Ottawa Sun paid tribute to the deaths of two young Canadian white men (both who died accidentally of drug overdoses) while they denounced the worldwide tribute to the death of an unarmed Trayvon Martin (a young American black man), who died as a result of being shot by George Zimmerman, a self-appointed community security guard, in Florida.

This seems like a pretty damning indictment against our Canadian multicultural society.

Fortunately, for Canada, and unfortunately for Décoste, the evidence she cites does not support this rather sweeping conclusion.

Let us look at the meagre evidence upon which Décoste bases her argument.

Decoste cites as one example the fact that “the Ottawa Sun features an article about a ‘tribute’ to a heroin addict. Canadian-born actor Corey Monteith, famous for his role on the TV show Glee, suffered a drug overdose in a Vancouver hotel last week.”

Décoste’s use of this example in which to criticize the Ottawa Sun for its alleged “racism,” fails for the following reasons.

First, the actual article she cites, called “Glee to Memorialize Monteith in “Tribute” Episode,” is the straight reporting in the Entertainment section of the Ottawa Sun. The article reports on how the popular television show “Glee” will be responding to the untimely death of one of its stars, Corey Monteith, with a special tribute show, dealing with his recent death.

The Ottawa Sun is not paying tribute to the death of Monteith, as opposed to the death of Trayvon Martin. It is just reporting in its Entertainment Section on a “tribute” show to be performed on the popular “Glee” show. The article is in the entertainment section — not in the political or editorial/opinion sections of the Ottawa Sun.

The content of this entertainment report (of which similar content has been circulated in most North American newspapers) cannot and should not be used as an example that allegedly reflects the Ottawa Sun’s alleged racist or discriminatory view towards black people.

How does this objective reporting on a “tribute show” relate to the Ottawa Sun’s alleged dismissive treatment of Trayvon Martin’s death? It doesn’t.

Décoste is comparing apples to oranges, straight objective reporting to opinion pieces.

She is alleging double standards that do not exist.

The second Ottawa Sun article Décoste cites as indicative of the Ottawa Sun’s unequal treatment of black people is titled, “Vicious Drug Cycle Haunts Ottawa Family.”

In this case, Décoste incorrectly alleges that the Ottawa Sun is once again paying tribute to the death of a young white man who accidentally dies from a drug overdose.

In fact, the Ottawa Sun is neither paying tribute or honoring the death of this unfortunate young Ottawa man.

This article rather sadly tells the story of a young man, Nick Cody, 18, whose father died of a drug overdose when Nick was just nine months old. Although Nick vowed to break the cycle, he too became addicted to drugs at the age of 15. And though he went to rehab last year, once out of rehab, Nick reverted to doing drugs again. Which led to his demise.

Once again, this article is not evidence of the Ottawa Sun’s preference for honoring young white men over the black Trayvon Martin.

It is interesting to note that though Décoste argues that the Ottawa Sun is guilty of publishing an editorial about the Zimmerman case which denounces worldwide tributes to Trayvon Martin, including President Obama’s remarks on this matter, she does not provide a link to this crucial article to support her claim.

I am not sure if that was inadvertent or intentional.

But I invite you to look at this very thoughtful and nuanced opinion piece by John Robson Parliamentary bureau reporter, (which is not an Ottawa Sun editorial, but an opinion piece by one columnist) entitled “Why Honour Trayvon Martin?”

The writer legitimately questions why the Trayvon Martin/Zimmerman case has been looked upon as some historic event in American race relations. He also questions how the media and the American black community has come to see this case as representative of America’s still troubled black/white divide in American society today.

Robson points out that “George Zimmerman is not America’s racial history. He’s just one guy unlikely, without this incident, to have achieved distinction of any sort. He’s certainly not Birmingham’s infamous 1960s white supremacist Public Safety Commissioner Bull Connor risen from the grave. Zimmerman’s not even white. He’s Hispanic.”

In other words, he is also non-white as his mother is Peruvian.

In fact, Zimmerman was raised in a racially integrated household and he has black roots through an Afro-Peruvian great-grandfather — the father of the maternal grandmother who helped raise him.

In addition, Zimmerman’s gated community is not an exclusive white enclave, but is inhabited by a diverse multicultural community including Afro-Americans as neighbors.

Similarly, as the Ottawa Sun writer Robson points out, “Trayvon Martin was just one person. He wasn’t black America. He wasn’t Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. II or Kunta Kinte. He certainly wasn’t Barack Obama 35 years ago, as the president just irresponsibly suggested. He was one more teenager acting tough but in his case the game got way too real.”

Robson also argues:

“Martin may once have been a sweet kid. Had he not tried to kill Zimmerman on Feb. 26, 2012 he might one day have become an admirable adult. But as a teen he was in the grip of a highly dysfunctional rap-hip-hop-ghetto chic culture too prevalent in black America.
His twitter handle was NO_LIMIT_NIGGA, for goodness sake. Some limits on his temper might have saved his life last February.

Instead of pointing this out, the president (Obama) initially spoke of how to ‘honour’ Martin. Excuse me?

I’m sorry he got himself shot. But the evidence strongly suggests he was on top of Zimmerman trying to bash his brains out on a cement pavement when Zimmerman fired in self-defence. I didn’t know we honoured things like that.”

As noted above, the Ottawa Sun did not pay tribute or honor the deaths of two young white men. Nor did the Ottawa Sun denounce the worldwide tribute to Trayvon Martin, although one Ottawa Sun columnist, Robson, did legitimately call into question the assumptions underlying the tributes being bestowed on Trayvon Martin.

There is no evidence that the Ottawa Sun acted in a racist manner and prejudicial manner. And there is no evidence that as a result of such treatment of the Martin matter, the Ottawa Sun is perpetuating inequality in our Canadian society.

Unfortunately, by playing the “race” card in her article — based on no evidence of discrimination or inequality — Rachel Décoste trivialized the real issue of racism in our society and undermines the very cause that she is advocating.

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