Sunday, March 18, 2012

Ta-Nehisi Coates and the Coverage of Trayvon Martin

Last week, Ta-Nehisi Coates (TNC) wrote a series of blog entries about Trayvon Martin, assisting in bringing the incident to the attention of more people. TNC's contribution to the boarder coverage revealed how a high-profile blogger/journalist can deepen and expand consciousness concerning the vulnerability of black boys and men and the troubling implications of some laws.    

In his first entry, Florida's Self-Defense Laws and the Killing of Trayvon Martin, on March 13, Coates noted that he hadn't "blogged about the shooting of Trayvon Martin by a neighborhood watch captain, George Zimmerman, because I've found the killing depressingly familiar." Among other incidents, Coates was likely referring to an incident that occurred in September 2000, when his friend Prince Jones, who was unarmed, was killed by a policeman. As noted by The Washington Post, "the highly publicized shooting was the catalyst for a broad Justice Department investigation into allegations of brutality and racism by the county police department."

The killing of Jones was, as TNC has noted, one reason he became a writer. Early in his career as a journalist, Coates produced an extensive article, "Black and Blue: Why does America's richest black suburb have some of the country's most brutal cops?" for the Washington Monthly in 2001 about Jones. Whereas Coates produced an expansive article on Jones, he ended up producing a series of entries on Trayvon Martin, which made it possible for his readers to chime in over the course of a few days.

TNC and the commenters have been especially engaged in discussions about the "castle doctrine" also known as "Stand Your Ground" laws. In a March 14 entry, "More on the Killing of Trayvon Martin," TNC advised potential new readers that "for more on the legalities," they might consult the comments of a previous thread "Stand Your Ground and Trayvon Martin." And Coates added: "My sense is that the law in Florida really opens the door for vigilantism."

Coates's decision to produce a series of entries on the killing of Trayvon Martin reveals an interest in facilitating an expansive interconnected discussion about how vulnerable black boys and men can be to those who carry guns and view random black males as suspicious. The prevalent attention in the entries on how laws--not only the actions of an individual shooter--create and nurture environments that can be harmful indicates an interest on Coates's part of taking a penetrating look at the roles institutions play in threatening the livelihood and lives of black boys and men.

A Notebook on the Trayvon Martin Case

No comments: