Saturday August 3, 2013

The readers deserve better

Editor of the Reformer:

Across the United States there has been a surge of protest over the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Florida. Now that Trayvon’s assailant has been acquitted after a trail, the demonstrations condemning the incident and the verdict have spread to more cities.

In the past number of years, Brattleboro has had numerous issues involving racism. Let’s review them. A Ku Klux Klan group spread leaflets in the area of Washington Street. A white supremacist club was uncovered at the high school, and a vigorous debate took place over the school mascot, which is a Kentucky-colonel type, emblematic of the slaveholding South.

The incident of the Klan leaflets sparked a campaign called Hate Has No Home Here. In spite of a growing awareness in our town of racism, the Reformer chose to print a Washington Post editorial "The Zimmerman Case: A Touch Of Sanity." In the column, Charles Krauthammer condemns the nationwide protests. He describes the reaction to Zimmerman’s acquittal as "frenzied." This stance denies the right of free speech and freedom of assembly. It is a familiar response to social protest by fundamentally undemocratic people.

Comparison to the Emmett Till case are called a "disgrace." Why so? Till, a 14-year-old Chicago boy was killed while visiting family in Mississippi. He had whistled at a white woman. Trayvon was killed for the crime of walking while black and eating skittles.

The author describes the confrontation between Martin and Zimmerman as one between two frightened men. Trayvon Martin was a 17 year-old-boy. He would have had good reason to be scared when confronted by an aggressive stranger. Was Zimmerman scared? Why didn’t the armed man retreat as instructed by the police?

"A jury has spoken," is the final self-righteous comment by the writer in regards to the case. When I read this I pictured the iconic photo of the defendants in the murder of three civil right workers in Mississippi in 1964. They are laughing and jovial as they dipped into their bags of chewing tobacco. They too were acquitted by a jury.

Of all the commentary on the Florida case, the Reformer has chosen the Krauthammer column to reprint, while so many critical thinkers analyses were ignored. One of these commentators was Ohio State University professor Michelle Alexander, author of the book "The New Jim Crow." Her conclusion is succinct. Trayvon Martin wouldn’t be dead if he had been white and walking where Zimmerman was patrolling.

The Reformer has demonstrated a profound and willful disregard for the disparities which exist in the United States; as well as an insensitivity to the way racism manifests itself in subtle and not so subtle ways. We deserves much better as readers of our local newspaper.

Jon King,

Spofford, N.H., July 25

Editor’s note: Actually, in addition to the piece you reference, we ran several more on the topic, including our own editorial (July 16), one by columnist Rebecca Balint (also July 16), Arlo Mudgett (July 20) and Shanta Crowley (July 24).

Responsibility
and blame

Editor of the Reformer:

In his letter ("Before sex, ask for ID," July 30), Roger Andrews manages to blame the victim while simultaneously missing the point regarding "responsibility" in the case of underage sexual conduct between three men and one girl. In terms of the child’s alleged responsibility, it matters not whether she knew she was legally underage, whether there was alcohol involved, nor whether "she shouldn’t have been there in the first place." She is legally a child, and we have laws that protect children in this society. The "advice" Mr. Andrews leaves young men about to engage in sex with a consensual partner, "Check their ID ... You are only protecting yourself," is most alarming. What ever happened to the notion of protecting one’s partner, Mr. Andrews?

Ken Brautigam,

Westminster West, July 31