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he left loves to rail against the notion that America is post-racial and we are correct in denouncing that myth. But the supportive response of several Republican leaders to Trayvon Martin’s killing also suggests shifting racial fault lines in American politics. It could be a temporary, opportunistic shift in light of the upcoming presidential election. But who would have thought that Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich — the arch-nemesis of blackness — would call for a better investigation of Martin’s killing last week? And who would have thought that Zimmerman, the confessed killer, would have actual black friends and supporters?
Those of you who are more politically shrewd than I might have seen this coming. But in the past few days, black people have been stepping forward to say Zimmerman was not a racist or the killing was not a crime — or both.
Yesterday, Raw Story reported that Zimmerman’s black friend doubts he made the racial slur many believe they hear on one of the 911 tapes. The He believes the killer muttered “Fucking goons” not “Fucking coons,” the friend said.
“And ‘goon’ is apparently a term of endearment in the high schools these days,” he added. “I don’t know of anyone younger than 40 who uses ‘coon’ as a racial epithet.”
Another black friend of Zimmerman’s, Joe Oliver, is a 53-year-old former TV news reporter and anchor in Orlando who has known Zimmerman for several years, according to Reuters. Oliver told Reuters Zimmerman was distraught over the killing.
“He couldn’t stop crying. He’s a caring human being,” Oliver told Reuters in a telephone interview. “I’m a black male and all that I know is that George has never given me any reason whatsoever to believe he has anything against people of color,” Oliver said.
Oliver and Sonner aren’t the only blacks making pro-Zimmerman statements. Black conservative Larry Elder is another Zimmerman supporter. During an interview with “Good Day LA,” he said, “The issue … is not whether this is a good shooting. It’s a bad shooting. I’m not defending it. I think this guy is in real serious trouble civilly. The question is did he commit a crime by shooting this guy when he thought that his life was in jeopardy.” When the white hosts argued that Trayvon was carrying Skittles, Elder retorted: “You keep saying Skittles. From what I can tell, it’s not as if the guy was running down the street throwing Skittles. So he had Skittles, turned around, and as far as this neighborhood watch guy was concerned, he could have been armed.” When the white hosts said, but Zimmerman followed Martin, Elder replied: “You want people not to follow people if they’re in neighborhood watch? You want a bad guy going around?”
Do you think these kind of cross-racial alliance are what Dr. King had in mind when he said he had a dream?
UPDATE: Joe Oliver has emerged as a sort of black spokesperson for Zimmerman, doing a full round of cable news programs in which he repeats that Zimmerman is not a racist and increasingly asserts Zimmerman’s innocence. Yesterday, when he appeared on MSNBC’s the Lawrence O’Donald show, the host and his guest, New York Times columnist Charles Blow, raked Oliver over hot coals. They undermined his assertion that he’s good friends with Zimmerman by pointing out that he hasn’t seen Zimmerman since before the shooting and doesn’t know where he is.
Joe Oliver says he knows Zimmerman is innocent because he feels it in his gut. He also says, “If we weren’t sitting here talking about George Zimmerman shooting Trayvon Martin, we’d be sitting here talking about Trayvon Martin shooting George Zimmerman.” Is he trying to say that Trayvon grabbed the gun and planned to shoot Zimmerman? We don’t know because Oliver declined to elaborate on Zimmerman’s side of the story, which he says he learned from Zimmerman during a recent phone conversation. Instead, he promised that the truth will be revealed in time. It looks like Zimmernan’s strategy is, “We reserve the right to test public response to various defense strategies and add new ones in search of more public sympathy.”